At one point or another, many of us have thought about trying our hands at a little amateur bartending. There comes a point when we want to put down the PBR and add a little class, some sophistication, maybe even a touch of artistry to our drinking. When it comes to how to stock your bar, of course a lot of it is going to come down to personal preference. But there are a few key ingredients that can’t be overlooked – the liquor, liqueurs and mixers, and the equipment.

The Liquor

Stocking a bar can get expensive in a hurry. So in the beginning, stick to the basics: some decent bottles of gin, bourbon whiskey, vodka, tequila and rum (start with light rum). You can go crazy with the fancy scotch, schnapps, cachaça, etc. later. There’s also no need to go top shelf unless you’re flush with cash. Remember – you’ll probably be mixing these anyway. Half the fun of stocking a home bar is so you can invite your friends over and play bartender. You don’t want to wake up the next morning and resent them for drinking you into the poorhouse.

Liqueurs and Mixers

How to stock your bar with the right mixers depends a lot on what you like to drink. The problem is there are an almost limitless number of options, and it quickly becomes space and cost prohibitive. Blue curaçao? Creme de menthe? Grenadine? At this point when you’re just getting started, you’ll want to choose just a handful of common liqueurs you can use in multiple cocktails. Versatile liqueurs like Triple Sec and Vermouth are a good place to start.  Then as you go along you can slowly build up a more robust selection of liqueurs as you decide to try out new cocktails.

As far as soft drink mixers, it’s hard to go wrong with individual cans of cola, gingerale, club soda and tonic water. You won’t have to worry about them going flat, going to waste and flushing your hard earned money down the toilet. Throw in a few fruit juices like orange and cranberry, perhaps even a little pineapple or tomato and you should have all of your bases covered.

The Equipment

If you’re on a budget, here’s a place you can skimp a little bit. You really don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to make a badass cocktail, but on the other hand it never hurts to have the right tools for the job, plus it adds a certain amount of gravitas to your home bar set up. Let’s face it – you can make the best cocktail in the world, but it’s just not going to feel very classy if your drinking it out of a red solo cup.  Plus, it will be genuinely helpful in crafting killer cocktails if you have the key tools, including a shaker, a jigger, strainer, muddler, etc.  The good news is you really don’t need to break the bank to get some quality glasses and tools for your home bar.

For example, just check out this list of the Top 100 barware sets, and you’ll find everything is pretty affordable even on a limited budget.

Same deal here with the best selling bar glasses on Amazon, though these tend to be a little more skewed towards wine glasses.

Got any other tips on how to stock your bar? Let us know in the comments!