Searching for help in setting up a bar, I found this site. I’ve stripped out the pretty pictures (another topic deserving of study) for my (and your) ease of reference.
By Colleen Graham Updated 01/16/17
The liquor you choose to stock in your bar will depend on which cocktails you plan to serve. This list of essential spirits is a good place to begin as it includes the ingredients needed for the most popular cocktails.
Once you have a solid base, you can then build your stock based on other drinks you may want to make. Look through the *recipe collection for ideas and specific recipes you may want to experiment with. Use your personal judgment to decide if you are going to stock everything in these lists or only the essentials to fit your individual taste and budget.
Another topic unto itself — glassware and essential bar tools.
Essential Liquors to Stock in a Bar
You will want to keep the majority of these base liquors stocked in your bar all the time. Having at least one bottle of each will ensure that you can mix up almost any cocktail you want because these are the foundations for many cocktail recipes.
Keep in mind that one bottle of whiskey will not be sufficient for all cocktails that call for whiskey because each variety has their own distinct characteristics and using the wrong one will ruin an otherwise great cocktail.
* Gin * Tequila * Vodka * Dark or Spiced Rum * Light Rum * Bourbon * Brandy * Canadian Whiskey * Irish Whiskey * Rye Whiskey * Scotch
Essential Liqueurs and Cordials to Stock in a Bar
Liqueurs are often used in addition to the base spirits as flavoring agents that contain alcohol, though on occasion they are the only distilled spirits used (see liqueur only recipes). The great thing about liqueurs is that a bottle can last quite a long time so you can gradually add to your stock as you see fit.
The first list are the most common liqueurs that you should consider absolutely essential when stocking your bar.
* Amaretto * Coffee Liqueur (e.g. Kahlua) * Dry and Sweet Vermouth * Irish Cream (or other cream liqueur such as RumChata) * Maraschino Liqueur * Orange Liqueur (e.g. triple sec, Cointreau, Curacao)
A secondary list of essential liqueurs includes those below. Your drinking style is going to determine if these should be stocked in your bar as well.
* Benedictine * Chambord (or other raspberry liqueur) * Creme de Cacao (or another chocolate liqueur) * Creme de Menthe * Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur (or other ginger liqueur) * Drambuie * Frangelico * Galliano L’Autentico * St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Essential Cocktail Mixers to Stock in a Bar
Upgrade your soda as well for the best mixed drinks. If everything else in your drink is quality, shouldn’t your soda be? Mixers are the non-alcoholic liquids that add flavor and volume to cocktails. The majority of these will be in your kitchen anyway and are easily found anywhere.
Many mixers will keep in your bar for a long period of time but do remember to keep checking their freshness and pay attention to expiration dates.
It should also go without saying that ice is absolutely the most essential ingredient needed for cocktails. You will use ice in 98% of your drinks, either while mixing or in the glass itself. All ice is not created equal, however, and it is important for you to treat your ice with some respect and know the difference between the different forms of ice.
* Cranberry Juice * Grapefruit Juice * Lemon Juice * Lime Juice * Orange Juice * Pineapple Juice * Tomato Juice
* Bitters * Coffee * Grenadine * Half & Half * Milk * Simple Syrup * Sour Mix * Tabasco Sauce * Tea * Water (not just tap water, but distilled or filtered) * Worcestershire Sauce
* Club soda * Tonic * Cola and Diet Cola * Lemon-Lime Soda * Ginger Ale
There are many pre-bottled mixes that allow you add a base spirit to like Bloody Mary Mix and Pina Colada Mix that are available at any store that stocks liquor. These are alternatives to mixing your own cocktails from scratch and, while they are okay, they tend to leave something to be desired in the taste department.
Realistically, the “homemade” version of a Margarita, Bloody Mary, and Pina Colada are not that difficult to make and have a freshness the pre-mixed version cannot duplicate.
That said, I do not think that it’s a bad idea to mix up your own Bloody Mary mix from scratch and have that on hand if you drink them often or are hosting a brunch.
Essential Cocktail Garnishes to Stock in a Bar
Garnishes are that finishing touch that add visual appeal and a splash of flavor to the finished cocktail. Again, it depends on what you plan to make, but this will prepare you for the majority of cocktails.
Sugar and salt are necessary if you like the effect of rimmed glasses for drinks like the Margaritas.
* Lemons * Limes * Maraschino Cherries * Oranges
Nice to Have Around:
* Celery * Cinnamon * Cocktail Onions * Mint * Nutmeg * Olives * Salt * Sugar * Whipped Cream