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Making Happy Hour at Home

Cocktail 101: How to stock your home bar

Article by Krista Carpenter-Beasley

Photography by Krista Carpenter-Beasley

Originally published in Gilbert City Lifestyle

Creating a carefully curated home bar provides the perfect setting for hosting gatherings and honing your mixology skills. The rise of craft cocktails has undoubtedly revolutionized the home bar, turning it into a realm of experimentation and innovation. It grants individuals the chance to explore a myriad of flavors, ingredients, and techniques, allowing them to craft their own unique and personalized beverages, thus enhancing the social experience. 

To infuse a local flavor into your bar, consider exploring the brands that have deep connections to our community right here in Arizona. Whether you have a preference for small-batch whiskey, gin infused with locally sourced botanicals, vodka, tequila, liqueurs, or even bitters, you'll discover a local rendition on the shelves that will elevate your gin and tonics and espresso martinis to new heights.


Creating your own home bar doesn't have to be a daunting task. With just a few key items, you'll be ready to kick off any party with ease. But don't be afraid to let your imagination run wild when it comes to selecting bar tools - they can be a fantastic way to express yourself.

1. Invest in a top-notch ice bucket that can keep your ice chilled for hours, and don't forget a handy ice pick for easy cube retrieval.

2. A shaker is an absolute must-have for mixing and shaking up delicious cocktails. Look for one with a built-in strainer or invest in a separate strainer to ensure your drinks are poured smoothly, without any unwanted bits.

3. A jigger is a handy measuring tool that guarantees precise measurements for your cocktails.

4. A long-handled spoon is perfect for gently stirring and blending ingredients in your cocktails.

5. Don't forget to have bottle openers and corkscrews on hand for effortlessly opening cans and bottles.


Enhancing the drinking experience with the right glassware for your cocktails can be a delightful touch, but you don't need to have a specific glass for every type of cocktail. However, having a few essential glasses in your collection can cater to a wide range of cocktails:

1. Crafted for savoring spirits neat, Whisky glasses feature a tulip shape that concentrates the aromas, allowing you to fully appreciate the flavors of the spirit, making them ideal for sipping whiskey or other fine spirits.

2. Iconic and timeless with their long stem and wide, shallow bowl, Martini glasses are perfect for serving classic cocktails like espresso martinis and cosmopolitans and can add an elegant touch to your drink.

3. Versatile and adaptable, Highball glasses are suitable for a variety of cocktails. Their tall and narrow design, with a capacity of around 10 to 12 ounces, makes them perfect for mixed drinks with a higher ratio of mixer to alcohol, like Mojitos, gin and tonics, and Tom Collins.

4. Also referred to as Rocks glasses or Lowball glasses, these sturdy glasses are ideal for whiskey-based cocktails such as an old fashioned, whiskey sours and other spirit-forward cocktails.

When searching for unique and affordable glassware, consider exploring secondhand stores and thrift shops. These places often have one-of-a-kind pieces that can add character to your home bar without breaking the bank. Additionally, for locally unique options, you can visit urBana at the Epicenter, where elegant glassware is available to help you create those Instagram-worthy cocktails. Enjoy the process of experimenting with different glasses and finding the ones that align with your style and preferences. Remember, the most important thing is to savor your cocktails in whatever glassware you have at hand!


To truly impress your guests with a variety of delicious cocktails, it is crucial to have a well-stocked collection of mixers. While there are numerous options available, here are some exceptional mixers that will elevate your cocktail game to new heights.

1. Sparkling club soda is a versatile mixer that adds a refreshing effervescence to countless cocktails. Its bubbly nature pairs perfectly with various spirits and flavors, making it an essential addition to any home bar.

2. If you're a fan of gin-based drinks like the classic Gin and Tonic, tonic water is a must-have mixer. Its distinct flavor beautifully complements the botanicals in gin, creating a harmonious balance of flavors that will truly tantalize your taste buds.

3. Vermouth is an indispensable ingredient for classic cocktails such as the Martini and Manhattan. Available in both sweet and dry varieties, vermouth adds depth and complexity to your drinks. Make sure to refrigerate it once opened to prevent spoilage.

4. Although not technically mixers, bitters play a crucial role in many cocktails. These concentrated flavor extracts, derived from botanicals, fruits, spices, bark, and roots, impart unique flavors and aromas to drinks like the Old Fashioned. Consider trying locally made bitters from San Tan Spirits to take your cocktail creations to the next level.

5. Simple syrup is another essential ingredient that should always be on hand. Made by combining equal parts sugar and water, it adds a touch of sweetness to a wide range of cocktails. For an exciting twist, substitute the water with flavorful teas like chamomile, jasmine, or lavender.

6. Canned juices and mixers such as orange, lemon, cranberry, pineapple, and tomato are excellent additions to your bar. If you're on the lookout for exceptional and flavorful mixers, I highly recommend checking out Iconic Cocktail at the Gilbert Farmers Market, and their unique and delicious range of mixers that will inspire you to experiment with different flavors and create the perfect cocktail.


It's crucial to curate a collection of beverages that genuinely excite you. Take the time to delve into the world of spirits, researching and experimenting with various cocktail recipes and techniques to discover what tickles your taste buds. Share captivating stories and anecdotes about the drinks you serve, whether it's the rich history behind a specific spirit or a memorable moment you had while enjoying it.

1. When it comes to embarking on a spirits journey, whisk(e)y is an exceptional choice due to its incredible diversity. Regardless of your preference for Scotch, Irish, Bourbon, Rye, or Japanese, whisky offers a versatile range of flavors and styles. For those seeking intriguing whiskies to explore, we recommend the dynamic Del Bac Dorado, which surprises with mesquite smoke notes that add a unique twist to its profile. 

2. While "gin" may not rhyme with "tonic," they do indeed complement each other splendidly. The world of gin has undergone a remarkable evolution, now offering a plethora of options to suit every palate. If the traditional juniper-forward profile doesn't appeal to you, fear not, for there are gins that emphasize alternative spices or botanicals, like the delicate elegance of locally crafted Suncliffe Gin.

3. Rum, once the libation of choice for buccaneers and seafarers, has now become a beloved tropical indulgence. Allow yourself to venture into the realm of possibilities with the delightful Papago Dark Rum, crafted by the adventurous souls at Adventurous Stills.

4. Vodka, the suave maestro of the spirits realm, effortlessly harmonizes with any cocktail creation and can be savored on its own. Its adaptability knows no bounds, making it a staple in countless libations. For those who revel in the bold allure of an espresso martini, look no further than O.H.S.O. Brewery's Coffee Vodka, boasting tantalizing notes of caramel and toasted sugar.

5. Tequila and Mezcal embody the vibrant essence of Mexico's spirit. Tequila, the quintessential ingredient for Margaritas, captivates with its smooth flavor, while Mezcal, embraced by Scotch enthusiasts, has earned its own devoted following. Locally driven Tequila Corrido's additive-free Blanco, which hails from the heart of Arizona, allows you to savor the ultimate Margarita experience, free from the lingering reminders of college days' excess.

6. And let's not forget to explore locally crafted unique spirits that can elevate your cocktail creations, like Chelly Limoncello, a liquid sunshine that adds a fresh and local twist to a Summer Spritz.


When it comes to garnishes, the world of imagination knows no bounds. From the timeless elegance of cocktail olives and onions to the vibrant zest of lemons, limes, and oranges, and even the fiery kick of hot sauces, the options are truly limitless. Alongside the essential elements of salt and sugar, any edible ingredient can be skillfully transformed into a captivating cocktail embellishment. Take, for example, Timbos Smoked Brown Sugar, a remarkable addition that can elevate a whisky drink to unprecedented heights. These adornments not only enhance the visual appeal of beverages, but also add that extra touch of perfection.

When it comes to tequila-based cocktails, the perfect companions are citrus garnishes like lime or lemon. On the other hand, gin-based tonics can be taken to new heights with the addition of olives, cucumbers, or even onions. And with Agritopia Farms in our backyard, you can enhance the experience by handpicking your own citrus fruits, infusing your cocktails with the freshness and flavor of carefully selected garnishes.

And let’s not forget the delightful burst of freshness that herbs like thyme, basil, and rosemary bring to the table. Not only do they provide a delightful texture, but they also infuse cocktails with captivating flavors. And the best part? These herbs can flourish beautifully in a pot right on your countertop, adding an instant touch of greenery to your mixology endeavors. 

So, raise a glass to the exciting journey ahead and the opportunity to express your own passions through cocktail curation and cheers to building your dream home bar!

To infuse a local flavor into your bar, consider exploring the brands that have deep connections to our community right here in Arizona.

  • Adventurous Stills
  • Blue Clover Distillery
  • O.H.S.O Brewery - Gilbert
  • One Handsome Bastard
  • San Tan Gardens
  • Senor Rio Tequila - Gilbert
  • Wild Hare Distillery