You can find lists upon lists of the 10 to 50 items you need to stock a home bar: essential liquors, shakers, glasses, etc. But what if you want to design the perfect overall drink station, both the ingredients and the bar itself?
A home bar doesn't have to be fancy, says Matt Bond, but it should be intentional. "You want to tell a story about what you're doing. You don't have to have the most pricey things — what is the story you're trying to tell?"
Bond, 30, and Nathan Bosshardt, 31, both began bartending for extra cash in college, but have since turned that side gig into a profession. Earlier this year, the two launched BarCart, a Chattanooga-based bartending staffing service that connects bartenders to event planners across the city. BarCart has about 25 bartenders in its network, including Bond and Bosshardt, who are passionate about crafting cocktails for weddings, private events and, of course, themselves.
When it comes to your home bar, Bond recommends stocking spirits you tend to favor, paying attention to the seasonality of each. His own home bar rotates, but Bond says he tries to stock cabernet and malbec wines, which he and his wife both enjoy. Up until recently, they displayed bottles of wines they'd picked up while traveling in Peru and Argentina, but drank them for an anniversary. In the fall and winter months, Bond tends to move toward spiced warm ciders and rums rather than stocking up for margaritas or tequila as he does in the summer.
"Build something over time," Bosshardt says. "You don't have to buy it all at once."
Don’t know where to start or haven’t perfected your palate? Bond and Bosshardt recommend the following:
Wines — Meiomi. You can get it for under $20, and the brand offers a pinot noir, Chardonnay and rose.
Vodka — Tito’s, made in Texas, is affordable and mixes well, the business partners say.
Gin — Their go-to gin is Beefeater. If you want to spend a little more, they like Hendrick’s.
Tennessee whiskey — Bond and Bosshardt say you can’t go wrong with the old classics: Jack Daniel’s or George Dickel. If you want to spend a little more, they’d splurge on Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey.
Bourbon — Chattanooga Whiskey 91 and Chattanooga Whiskey 111, both locally made.
Mixers — Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Blenheim Ginger Ale, club soda, tonic water, cranberry juice, orange juice and pineapple juice.
As a general rule, he recommends having a bourbon, a Tennessee whiskey, a gin and a vodka — versatile spirits. "Maybe your thing is having $100 bottles of liquor, but you could also have $20 bottles of what you like," Bosshardt adds. Spirits with lower ABV should be drunk quicker, he notes, while those with higher ABV can sit a little longer.
For the physical bar, Bosshardt suggests using a unique structure. "Anything can be repurposed," he says. His bar sits on an antique piece of furniture his wife found while shopping one day.
In addition to standard tools like a strainer and stirrer, Bosshardt says incorporating "heirloom" items can make your bar unique. Featured on Bond's brother's bar is his grandfather's antique decanter, for example.
Finding the perfect spot for your bar is just as personal, though Bosshardt notes that liquor should be kept out of direct sunlight. The worst thing you can do, he says, is build your bar in an out-of-the-way back corner that guests have to trek to find. Your personality should determine where your bar is. For those who are frequent partiers, a setup in a living room may be more convenient, but for those who want a more formal tasting, a commanding cabinet in the dining room may be better suited.
"There's no hard and fast way to do it," Bosshardt says. "Your bar should be a reflection of the type of person you are. Don't force it."