Want a home bar? These are the essentials

Want a home bar? These are the essentials
Photo Courtesy of D34n on Flickr

I was never really meant to bartend. I bitterly became one because the real one never showed up to work. The real animosity comes from having to make ten lemon drops for a bunch of high-fiving babe magnets. To avoid displays of idiotic behavior such as this (the dudes and/or the lemon drops), here are some must-have starters for your home bar:

- Don’t bother with tonic water -- nobody wants a Quinine cocktail. The flavor of tonic is over-powering, especially with a good gin or vodka. Instead, a little sugar and fresh lime with seltzer water will do the trick. You can also use the limes and lemons as extravagant garnishes to make it look like you know what you’re doing.

- You can’t make a Dirty Martini without dry Vermouth or a Manhattan without sweet Vermouth and if you can’t make these two drinks, you don’t have a bar.

- Angostura can thank Mad Men for the reincarnation of bitters. Whatever or whoever actually brought them back, they are essential for Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and the like.

- You’ve got some competition when it comes to the Bloody Mary -- many bars in town know how to do ‘em right. Worcestershire sauce and horseradish are your only chance at staying in competition.

- No morning is complete without a screwdriver. Vodka is an obvious choice for stocking your bar but stay away from the bottom of the barrel brands. If you can get half a gallon of vodka for under twelve dollars, it will probably still taste like rotten eggs even without a considerable amount of mixers.

- More expensive tequilas like Patron aren’t necessary for margaritas; save the top-notch stuff for the body shots.

- You’ll want to have Triple Sec in your speakeasy. May I suggest Cointreau or Grand Marnier? When all else fails, you’ve still got booze -- just like when you used to find it in the back of Grandpa’s liquor cabinet.

- Dark rum is good for rum and Coke as well as coffee drinks and grab some white rum while you’re at it.

Whiskey, bourbon and brandy are needed to make Mad Men-inspired drinks such as some of the above and whiskey sours. If you will be sipping on whiskey, bourbon or brandy as if it’s Suntory and you’re Bill Murray, you’ll want to move up from the bottom shelf.

Like pour-over brewers in coffee houses, there are sure to be trends but if you stick to the basics you’ll be on the road to palatable libations in your own home. Plus, you don't have to go home -- you can just stay there.