At-Home Bar Essentials

No one appreciates the comforts of a beautiful bar more than we do. After all, we're firm supporters of playing bartender. Whether it's whipping up the most refreshing frozen drinks or creating new riffs on traditional mint juleps, there's nothing like entertaining in your own abode — and it all starts with a solid at home bar.

For an expert's opinion, we turned to Paul McGee — mixologist and partner at Bub City, RPM Italian, and the upcoming Three Dots and a Dash — who gave us his rundown of the most important bar essentials, starting with the booze:

"I find the most versatile spirits to use at home are a London dry style gin (Beefeater or Tanqueray), a light rum (Eldorado three-year white), a blanco tequila (Siete Leguas), a high-proof rye whiskey (Rittenhouse 100 proof), and a sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula or Dolin Rouge)," he says. These spirits serve as the perfect building blocks for many classic cocktails — as well as the basis of a larger liquor collection. As you grow your bar, remember to keep your commonly used spirits front and center, he adds.

Next in line are the essential tools of the trade: A jigger for proper measuring — "balance is everything in a cocktail," he says, a Boston shaker, a Hawthorne strainer, a citrus reamer, a bar spoon for stirring cocktails, and a large ice bucket if your bar cart won't be near the freezer. "I'd make sure the bar cart is where you are going to do the most drinking and entertaining," he says. "Your guests will want to see what's going on and maybe even make some of their own drinks."

Lastly, he offers a couple insider tips for all at-home bartenders to keep in mind, including keeping opened vermouth refrigerated and using fresh juices. "Stay away from the bottled stuff or the small plastic lemon or lime bottles with 'real' juice in them," he says.

But if you're looking to really take it up a notch, follow this golden rule: Stir cocktails that are all spirit-based — like an old-fashioned, Manhattan, or negroni — and shake cocktails that contain juices — such as a daiquiri, Tom Collins, or margarita. This method ensures all of your drinks have the right texture and are incorporated properly, he explains.

With a little extra inspiration from McGee's favorite resources — including PDT Cocktail Book, Food and Wine Cocktails 2013, and Imbibe magazine — now you're all ready to get mixing.

Check out the LIfestyle Mirror gallery here for all your at home bar needs and check back regularly for cocktail ideas straight from our favorite bartenders around the country.

— Sasha Levine, Lifestyle Mirror

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