Everything You Need to Set Up Your Own Beginners’ Bar

Creating an at-home bar can be a great way to experiment with new cocktail recipes, entertain guests (when you’re not using our mobile bar, of course!) or simply unwind after a long day. Setting up a bar can seem overwhelming, with so many different types of alcohol, mixers, and equipment to choose from. In this blog, we will provide a list of the essential items you need to to set up a basic bar.

Get this list in a downloadable, printable form from our bartending partners MBD Marketing & Events!

A well-stocked at-home bar is shown in dim lighting with a bar light illuminating the bottles. Decorative signs hang on the wooden wall behind the bar.


The foundation of any bar is, of course, the alcohol. When starting your own bar, begin with the basics: gin, vodka, flavored vodka, light rum, dark rum, bourbon, scotch, rye whiskey, Irish whiskey, tequila, and brandy/cognac. These spirits will allow you to create a wide variety of cocktails, and they include those most commonly used in classic cocktails.


A Colorado bar is nothing without craft beer! We recommend including the following types to appeal to all beer connoisseurs: lager, ale, pilsner, IPA, and wheat beer. Popular additions are ginger beer, and hard seltzers for non-beer drinkers.


You don’t need to be a wine expert to have a well-stocked bar. Visit your local liquor store and ask for recommendations for: a light-bodied red, a medium-bodied red, a full-bodied red, a light-bodied white, a medium-bodied white, a full-bodied white, and champagne.


The list here is long but covers the necessities for almost any popular cocktail. Of course, you can narrow it down to suit your personal favorites. Here’s are our recommendations:

  • Amaretto
  • Blue curacao
  • Campari
  • Champord
  • Créme de cacao
  • Créme de menthe
  • Kahlua
  • Red/sweet vermouth
  • White/dry vermouth
  • Galliano
  • Grand Marnier
  • Jägermeister
  • Midori
  • Sambuca
  • Schnapps
  • Triple sec
  • Southern Comfort
  • Frangelico
  • Fireball


Fruits double as a garnish and an ingredient in many cocktail recipes. Before your next party, raid the fridge for: lemons, limes, oranges, pineapples, strawberries, and apples.


Mixers are non-alcoholic beverages that are often paired with alcoholic ones to create tasty drinks. In the Colorado mobile bar business, these are our most common mixer requests:

  • Apple juice
  • Cranberry juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Lemon juice
  • Orange juice
  • Lime juice (especially Rose’s)
  • Pineapple juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Club soda
  • Tonic water
  • Topo Chico
  • Coke
  • Diet cola
  • Sprite
  • Lemonade
  • Grenadine
  • Margarita mix
  • Bitters
  • Simple syrup
A group of women gathers around a charcuterie board filled with olives, figs, cheeses, and meats, surrounded by open wine bottles. Each of the women has a wine glass in her hand.


Garnishes are the finishing touches that make cocktails look and taste great. Basic garnishes include citrus fruits, olives, cherries, some vegetables, and certain condiments. Common garnishes include:

  • Cherries
  • Olives
  • Rim salt
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Lemon twists
  • Orange twists
  • Cocktail onions
  • Celery stalks


To make great cocktails, you need the right tools. Here are some of the essential bar tools you’ll need to get started:

  • Shaker: A cocktail shaker is essential for mixing and chilling cocktails.
  • Jigger: A jigger is a small measuring cup used to measure alcohol and other recipe ingredients.
  • Strainer: A strainer is used to remove ice or other solids from a cocktail.
  • Bar spoon: A long-handled spoon used to stir cocktails.
  • Muddler: A muddler is used to mash fruits, herbs, or spices to release their flavors.
  • Ice bucket: Keep your ice close in a stylish bucket.
  • Wine and beer bottle openers
  • Knives and cutting boards, to prepare garnishes
  • Bar napkins
  • Peeler, for citrus garnishes
  • Toothpicks, for serving garnishes like olives
  • Wine stoppers
  • Hand-held juicer
  • Bartending book, for reference
  • Pitchers, to prepare and serve large-batch cocktails


The type of glassware you need will depend on the cocktails you plan to make, but here are some basic pieces you should have:

  • Martini glasses: Martini glasses are used for serving classic martinis and other gin-based cocktails.
  • Highball glasses: Highball glasses are used for cocktails that are mixed with soda, juice, or other mixers.
  • Rocks glasses: Rocks glasses are used for serving cocktails that are served over ice, such as an Old Fashioned.

Setting up your own bar may seem daunting, but you can always start with a few essentials and build over time. If you’re serving a crowd, don’t know where to start, or just want to give your guests the best experience, Contact Us to reserve our mobile bar and TIPS-certified bartenders for your next gathering.

For nonprofit, corporate, wedding, and private party news and tips, follow On the Rocks on Facebook and Instagram. You can also find bar decor and drink ideas on our Pinterest board.

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