How to Set Up Your Home Bar – in Any Home

You don’t need a house with loads of room to set up a beautiful, functional home bar. There are so many ways to do this, and all you need to know is how.

Setting up a home bar can be an exciting and rewarding project. Having a well-stocked and equipped bar makes life easier, whether you’re just making cocktails for yourself or entertaining guests.

Home bar with counter and shelves of bottles

In this post, we’ll show you how to do it, no matter your space or budget constraints.

Planning Your Bar

Ask yourself a few questions before you get started. Are you wanting to create an impressive home bar space for hosting parties and impressing guests, complete with a mini-fridge and a countertop ice machine?

Or do you just want a cozy corner where you can unwind and enjoy a drink after a long day? Or maybe you don’t even room for a nice bar cart, and you feel like it’s not even possible, and you’re looking for ideas. (We have some!)

Answering these questions first will help you make further decisions on your bar space. You can do any of these things. So consider the following possibilities:

  • A bar cart that holds bottles, glasses, etc., and can be moved from room to room or even onto a balcony or deck (if you don’t have steps)
  • A big home bar setup that might need to be installed by remodeling contractors
  • Keeping your bar ware and bottles in the kitchen, but in a dedicated cabinet or counter area (good choice for a really small home)
  • Using another piece of furniture, like a sideboard or even a bookcase, as your bar (another good choice for small homes)

The Location

If you’re setting up a big bar installation, you need at least a corner in a decent sized room. You may even be considering remodeling your garage for this.

If your setup will be a bar cart, sideboard or small piece of furniture you assemble yourself, you can tuck that away in a corner somewhere.

Whatever you choose, you want a space that’s easy to get to and has enough surface space for you to get out a few bottles and glasses and shake some cocktails. One option is to put a book shelf next to the kitchen to hold bottles and glasses, and use kitchen counter space for cocktail prep.

Bar Furniture

If you’ve got room to set up even a small bar, you have the following options.

  • Bar Cart or Home Bar: Choose a bar cart, a dedicated home bar unit, or even repurpose existing furniture like a sideboard or a bookshelf.
  • Bar Stools: If you have space for seating, you can get some comfortable bar stools.

If you’ve got almost no room, you have a few other options.

  • Kitchen Cabinet: Turn one kitchen cabinet into the “bar”, with bottles and glassware. Keep your bartender kit on the counter or in another cabinet if it will fit.
  • Countertop Bar: Dedicate some counter space with a tray. On it, keep your most used bottles, glassware and tools. Anything that doesn’t fit can go elsewhere in the kitchen.
  • Repurposed Furniture: Turn a bookshelf or sideboard into a bar. Dedicate one shelf or the surface to cocktail preparation and use the rest for storage.

Essential Bar Tools and Equipment

No home bar is complete without the necessary tools and equipment. You can buy a compact bartender tool set that will hold shakers, jiggers, strainers, bar spoons, etc., all in one small space.

Beyond that, all you need is any of the following not included in your set to make up your essential bar tool set:

  • Citrus juicer: Essential for making cocktails with fresh citrus juice.
  • Muddler: Used for crushing ingredients like herbs and fruits to release their flavors.
  • Cocktail Glasses: Stock up on a variety of glassware such as martini glasses, highball glasses, and rocks glasses.
  • Ice Bucket and Tongs: Keep your ice at the ready with a stylish ice bucket.
  • Bar Towels: Have plenty of bar towels on hand for spills and cleanup.
  • Cutting Board and Knife: For slicing garnishes like citrus fruits or herbs.
  • Corkscrew and bottle opener: For opening beer and wine bottles.
  • Blender: A blender is essential for making frozen or blended cocktails.


If you don’t have room for all kinds of glasses, go for one set of martini glasses and one set of wine. You can use your regular kitchen tumblers for nearly any kind of drink.

In fact, if you’re not trying to impress people with your glassware, you can always use tall and short tumblers for any cocktail.

But if you want to have all the glasses, look for:

  • Highball glasses
  • Old-fashioned glasses
  • Martini glasses
  • Wine glasses
  • Shot glasses
  • Champagne flutes
  • Collins glasses
  • Parfait or Hurricane glasses

Stocking Your Home Bar

Here are some suggestions for getting started stocking your bar with cocktail ingredients. You may eventually go way beyond this list, but these are the basics.

Foundation Spirits

Start with a few versatile spirits such as vodka, gin, white rum, tequila, and whiskey. Add brandy or cognac if you like drinks like the Sidecar or Brandy Alexander.


For the non-alcoholic mixers, start with tonic water, soda water, cola, ginger beer or ale, grenadine, simple syrup (unless you make your own simple syrup) and some fruit juices like cranberry juice. Add tomato juice if you like Bloody Marys.


Liqueurs come in a variety of flavors and can be used to add sweetness and complexity to your cocktails. Consider stocking up on popular liqueurs such as triple sec or Cointreau (essential for margaritas), amaretto, and Kahlua.

Look at your favorite cocktail recipes, and buy any liqueurs they call for. Other common liqueurs include Irish cream, and blue curacao, if you like blue cocktails.


Bitters are called for in many cocktail recipes. You don’t need a big collection of these. Start with Angostura, orange and Peychaud’s. (Substituting a different bitters than what a recipe calls for will not usually change the flavor much.)


Stock up on garnishes like citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges), marasino cherries, olives, and cocktail onions, and maybe some herbs, if desired.

A note on garnishes: it’s perfectly okay to leave them out at home. In fact, bars are starting to leave out fruit garnishes because they contribute so much to food waste. This is part of sustainable cocktail culture.

You can just go with what you keep in your kitchen.

Recipes and Guides

If you want, get some cocktail recipe books or create a personal recipe binder with your favorite drink recipes.

Bar Decor and Personal Touches

Feel free to decorate your bar space to make it more fun and personal. Suggestions include:

  • Artwork: Hang up artwork or prints that showcase your favorite cocktails or vintage bar scenes.
  • Mirrors: Mirrors can create an illusion of space and add an elegant touch to your home bar.
  • Bar Signs: Add some personality with vintage-inspired bar signs or personalized signage.
  • Glassware Display: Showcase your collection of glassware on open shelves or in glass cabinets.
  • Lighting: Choose appropriate lighting fixtures that enhance the ambiance of your home bar.

Choose a theme or style that reflects your taste and looks good in your home. Whether you prefer a modern, rustic, or tropical vibe, make sure your bar decor aligns with your desired aesthetic.

Add decorative elements like artwork, mirrors, and lighting to enhance the ambiance. Consider hanging a framed print of your favorite cocktail recipe or using a mirror to create the illusion of a larger space.

You can display bar accessories like coasters, cocktail napkins, and drinkware that match your overall decor. Opt for high-quality glassware with unique designs and consider using personalized coasters or napkins to add a personalized touch.

Organizing your liquor collection

If you develop a sizeable collection of liquors and mixers over time, you’ll need to make sure your collection stays organized. Here are some suggestions:

Arrange by type or category

To make it easier to find specific bottles, arrange your liquor by type or category. For example, group all the vodkas together, followed by rums, gins, whiskeys, and tequilas.

This way, you can quickly locate the bottle you need when making a cocktail.

Use a bar cart or shelving system

A bar cart or a shelving system is a great way to store and display your liquor collection. It not only keeps everything organized but also adds a stylish touch to your home bar.

Choose a cart or shelves that fit the space and the overall design of your bar area.

Label your homemade bottles

If you make your own syrups or margarita mix, you need to label them by name and by date of preparation (so you know when they might start to expire).

This can be as simple as using small tags or stickers.

Keep an inventory

Maintaining an inventory of your liquor collection will help you keep track of what you have and what you need to restock. You can create a spreadsheet or use a mobile app to note down the name of the spirit, quantity, and any additional details you want to record.