Last Updated:
November 28, 2022

Essential Liquors and Mixers to Stock at your bar

Find out what liquors, mixers, and other essential items you need in stock for a successful bar. This list also includes lesser known items to help you succeed!
Essential Liquors and Mixers to Stock at your bar
By
Angelo Esposito
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DISCLAIMER: Please note that this information is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or other professional advice. You're responsible to comply with all applicable laws in your state. Contact your attorney or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.
Table of Contents

A well-rounded bar is a key to any successful bar establishment - bartenders depend on having a wide array of liquors and mixers in stock. This includes not only the popular liquors and mixers but also some lesser-known items that can really add something special to a drink. Sure, you might have the go-to drinks that you always make, but it's important to be able to accommodate your bar customers' requests as well.

In this blog post, we'll provide a list of must-have liquors, mixers, and other essential items to stock at your bar. So, whether you're just starting out or are looking to update your inventory, read on for suggestions.

What to consider when stocking a bar

It can be tough to decide what exactly to stock in your bar and please customers while still making a profit, but we'll help break down the decision process into a couple of easy steps. To make the best decision possible when stocking your bar, research all of the factors involved.

1. Know your customers

Without question, you must study your target customers. If you're a neighborhood bar, you'll want to focus on stocking the most popular bar choices that will appeal to your regulars. If you're a club or lounge, you might want to focus on more high-end liquors. Either way, get to know what your customers like, and don't be afraid to ask for suggestions.

2. Consider your location

The climate and seasonality of your location are key when stocking your bar. In warm weather, for example, fruity cocktails will sell better than in cooler temperatures. Similarly, people tend to drink frozen drinks more often in the summer than in other seasons.

3. Determine your budget

Of course, your budget is a major consideration when stocking your bar. You'll want to find a balance between quality and quantity. When perfecting your cocktail recipes, it is better to have a smaller variety of high-quality liquors than a large number of lower-quality options.

Before you start shopping for your bar business, take some time to figure out how much you're willing to spend. Top-shelf alcohol and barware can get expensive quickly, but there are plenty of affordable options available if you know where to look. Setting a budget beforehand will help ensure that you only purchase items that fit within your price range.

4. Types of drinks and essentials

Who doesn't love a delicious cocktail? As you plan your cocktail recipes, consider what types of drinks would be most popular on your customers' list, and make sure to have the right ingredients, tools, and glassware on hand at your bar. This way, when it's time to make drinks, you'll have everything you need on hand.

A must-have mixed drinks list for stocking a bar

To operate a full bar and make cocktails like the pros, you'll need some essential liquors and mixers. With these ingredients on hand, you'll be able to create a wide variety of mixed drinks for your customers.

Consider your favorite cocktails and then stock alcohol and mixers accordingly. It's helpful to keep in mind what your usual bar customers drink so that you can be sure to have their preferred liquor on hand. For example, if most of your customers order whisky instead of vodka drinks, make sure there is an adequate supply of whiskey accessible. The same rule applies to liqueurs and nonalcoholic beverages - only buy what you know will get used often enough to justify the storage space it takes up. If you're looking to grow your personal collection of cocktails or spirits, mix things up by trying new recipes and products.

Most essential liquors

If you want to make your full bar the best it can be, you'll need more than just the basics. Keep a wide variety of liquor on hand so that your guests can find something they like. A well-stocked bar should have at least one bottle of each essential type of liquor. That way, you'll always be able to mix up any drink that your customers might want. Here's a list of the top liquors that every bar should have on hand:

Vodka

If you're looking for a distilled spirit with a crisp, unobtrusive taste, look no further than vodka. It's the primary alcohol in more mixed drinks than any other liquor.

When stocking alcohol for a party, it is best to have two to three bottles of vodka per category. If you are looking for a flavored vodka, citrus is usually chosen since it goes well with most mixers.

Tequila

Although tequila is commonly known for margaritas, there are other cocktails that can be made using it. Try to have one nice tequila bottle available at all times.

If you want to invest in only one type of tequila, make it a Blanco (silver) tequila. It's the most diverse and easily adaptable for mixing drinks. If you want to have two types available, also get a reposado tequila.

Gin

Gin is one of those liquor staples that every bar needs. Though some people don't love the taste, it's a versatile drink that can be used in many cocktails. A London dry gin is the best starting point since it can be used in a range of drinks, from martinis to gin and tonics. Discover what other combinations work well with your favorite brand by experimenting with different botanicals on the palate.

Rums

If your bar is missing rum, it's not truly stocked. Rum is an affordable liquor, so you can buy a high-quality bottle without breaking the bank. Sipping or drinking dark rum straight is more common because the flavor is stronger, while white rum is generally used for mixed drinks. Have at least two bottles of rum stocked at your bar.

Light rum will be key for most cocktails, including classics like the daiquiri and mojito. For your secondary rum, choose between aged, dark, or spiced – depending on what you prefer and what kinds of drinks you typically make. If tropical cocktails are your go-to, then dark rum is key.

Whiskey

Since every whiskey has its own unique flavor, it can be tough to choose which ones to stock. A safe bet is to have two bottles of different types available, and then you can always buy more later if needed. As a general rule, every bar should carry at least one bottle of each style of whiskey.

For the greatest range of drink options, keep bourbon and Canadian whisky in your liquor cabinet. The distinct flavor of bourbon whiskey cannot be beat, while Canadian blends are typically much smoother.

If you're somebody who likes classic liquors, then rye whiskey should be your go-to. It has a bit of spice to it that some drinkers enjoy and meshes well with other flavors. With so many different liquors out there, chances are high that you'll find at least one cocktail recipe that suits your taste buds perfectly.

While Irish whiskey and blended scotch may not be used as often as other styles of liquor, they make excellent drinks. So it's always good to have them at your bar.

Brandy

A bottle of brandy can be a nice addition to your bar, but it's not necessary. Some people don't drink it or mix with it, however, if you're interested in exploring classic liquors, brandy will come in handy.

The best option is to purchase a bottle of VS Cognac like Hennessy. This brandy is ideal for mixed drinks but also tastes amazing on its own. Double the pleasure, half the effort.

Wine

A bar is not fully stocked until you have wine. It's vital to buy the right amount of wine, so you don't end up with spoiled alcohol. Depending on your preference, make sure to grab a bottle or two of either white or red wine.

Not sure which wine to buy for your bar? Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are versatile choices. These wines can be enjoyed on their own or used in a variety of cocktails. Pinot noir is a light-bodied red wine that is typically medium dry and fruit-forward. When tasting, you will notice an earthy, herbal, and spicy nose. For sparkling wine, purchase a bottle of prosecco. Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine that is fruity, light, and refreshing – perfect for any occasion.

Draft Beer

If you want your bar to be fully stocked, don't forget the draft beer! You might not need a keg, but it's always good to have several bottles or cans of various types of beer. Be sure to include both light and dark beers so you can please everyone. If you're unsure which brands of beer to buy, ask your local liquor store for suggestions.

Essential Liqueurs

Bars need liqueurs to create interesting and delicious cocktails. They act as flavoring agents to give definition and character to cocktails. Sometimes, liqueurs are the only distilled spirits in a cocktail. Plus, they come in every flavor under the sun! A single bottle can last you quite some time too. Start small and work your way up. This will allow you to customize your choices as you go.

Basic Liqueurs you'll need

The following liqueurs are used most frequently in cocktails:

  • Amaretto can be used to make both casual and sophisticated cocktails due to its almond flavor.
  • If you're a fan of White Russians or other coffee-based cocktails, then you'll need to keep a bottle of Kahlúa in your home bar.
  • Don't forget the vermouth when making your martinis - both dry vermouth and sweet varieties are essential.
  • If you're looking for an Irish Cream Liqueur, Baileys is typically a pretty popular brand. However, if you want to explore other options, there are plenty of other cream liqueurs out there worth checking out - like RumChata, for example.
  • You can't go wrong with the orange liqueur in your cocktails. Some popular options include curaçao, triple sec, Cointreau, and Grand Marnier. Many bars keep several bottles on hand so that they can mix up any cocktail you could want.

In addition to the primary liqueurs, there are also a few secondary ones that can be sipped on their own or added to cocktails. Find some of our favorites below.

  • If you're looking for a minty liqueur, crème de menthe is your best bet. It comes in either white (clear) or green varieties, and peppermint schnapps makes a good substitute if you can't find it.
  • Frangelico is the most well-recognized hazelnut liqueur, and its monk-like bottle makes it a welcomed addition to any liquor shelf.
  • If you're looking for a delicious and unique liqueur to add to your collection, we highly recommend St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. It's perfect for making cocktails that are sure to impress your guests!

Mixers

Having a well-stocked bar isn't just about the liquor. You also need to have the essential mixers on hand to create your favorite cocktails. From juices to sodas and everything in between, make sure you have these key mixers so you're always prepared.

Juices

Cocktails often require bottled or fresh juice as a mixer. Small bottles or cartons are usually sufficient, but feel free to buy in bulk if you find yourself using a lot of juice for your bar. The following juices are used most frequently in a cocktail.

  • Cranberry Juice
  • Grapefruit Juice
  • Lemon Juice
  • Lime Juice
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Orange Juice
  • Tomato Juice

Other Mixers You'll Need

In addition to fruit juices, you'll also need some other mixers on hand for your bar. These include:

  • Bitters (Aromatic or orange bitters)
  • Simple Syrup
  • Sour mix
  • Grenadine
  • Milk, Half-and-Half, or Cream
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Tabasco Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce

Sodas

  • Club Soda
  • Tonic Water
  • Ginger Ale
  • Cola and Diet Cola
  • Lemon-Lime Soda

Fresh Ice

While all ice appears similar, bartenders (and casual drinkers alike) know that using clean, fresh ice is crucial - especially if you're planning on making a cocktail. The type of ice you use - cubes, crushed, or chips - can change your drink's flavor and consistency.

Garnishes

The right garnish can make any cocktail special. While they may not be essential to the taste of a cocktail, garnishes serve an important role in adding flavor and visual appeal. Full bars usually keep a few key garnishes on hand that can be used as a final touch. Here's a list of common garnishes that you'll find in most bars.

  • Citrus fruits are some of the most popular garnishes because they can be used in a wide variety of cocktails. A lemon and lime wedge or a slice of cucumber is essential but don't be afraid to experiment with other citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruits.
  • If you're looking for something a little more out-of-the-box, try using fresh herbs as garnishes. Fresh mint, rosemary, and thyme sprigs all make great additions to cocktails.

 

Other garnishes to consider stocking in your bar includes:

  • Olives
  • Cherries
  • Cucumber
  • Pickled onions or peppers
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chocolate shavings or curls
  • Whipped cream

Essential Glassware and Bar Tools

No bar is complete without the proper tools to make sure your cocktails are mixed to perfection. While you don't need every gadget on the market, it's important to have a few key items on hand for your bar.

Glassware

  • rocks glasses
  • collins glasses
  • coupe glasses
  • martini glasses
  • old fashioned glasses

Assorted Bar Tools

  • ‍Bar spoon
  • Bottle openers
  • Corkscrew
  • Citrus juicer
  • Cutting boars
  • Ice cube molds
  • Ice tongs
  • Ice buckets
  • Jigger
  • Mesh strainer
  • Muddler
  • Shakers

Enjoy a well-stocked home bar

Stocking a home bar is a great way to personalize your space. Home bars are a perfect place to entertain guests or relax after a long day. Whether you're a casual drinker or a seasoned mixologist, having a well-stocked home bar makes it easy to whip up your favorite drinks. It doesn't have to be expensive or complicated to stock. All you need is a few choices of favorite liquors, some mixers, and a few common garnishes to stock a home bar. Without a doubt, you'll love indulging in your favorite drinks and being prepared for any occasion!

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