Many of us host parties during Derby Season and from the entertaining front, the home bar is the center of attention.

Here is a guide to help you get that home bar up and running.

For beginning entertainers, the bar is a place to build upon as you start to entertain more often. Don’t worry about getting everything all at once. Build your tools, spirits and glass collection a little at a time.
I recommend you invest in the proper tools and buy the best. Quality tools will last you a lifetime and add to the elegance of your bar. For glassware, start with a nice Chardonnay glass. These glasses can multi-task as white, red and even sparkling glasses.
The bar is an important component to entertaining. There are a few must-have tools, spirits, mixers, condiments and glassware items that equip a home bar able to satisfy any guest. Start with the basics and build as you go. And always remember to be a responsible host and offer plenty of alcohol-free choices.

  • Vodka
  • Rum
  • Tequila
  • Gin
  • Tennessee whiskey
  • Bourbon
  • Brandy
  • Triple Sec or orange liqueur
  • Raspberry liqueurDJD_2098


  • Lemon juice (fresh)
  • Lime juice (fresh)
  • Sweetened lime juice
  • Lemon-lime soda
  • Cola
  • Club soda
  • Tonic water
  • Orange juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Cranberry juice


  • Bitters (regular and orange)
  • Grenadine syrup
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Superfine sugar
  • Cream (heavy and light)
  • Simple syrup


  • Cocktail olives
  • Cocktail onions
  • Limes
  • Lemons
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Fresh mint
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple

Three types will satisfy your needs for most cocktails. Look for glassware that is simple in shape, easy to handle and with a thin lip or rim.

  • Rocks or bucket glass
  • Collins or tall
  • Martini or cocktail


  • Good insulated ice bucket that doesn’t sweat when filled with ice
  • Ice scoop or tongs
  • Cobbler shaker (three pieces: tin, top with strainer and cap)
  • Boston shaker (two pieces: mixing glass and tin)
  • Mixing glass
  • Wine key or opener
  • Measuring cupsDJD_0825
  • Hawthorn and Julep strainers (Hawthorn holds back the ice and larger ingredients, the Julep will help with any pulp or other materials)
  • Microplane zester for zesting fruit
  • Sharp knife to cut fruit
  • Juicer
  • Channel knife for creating twists
  • Muddler


  • Cocktails are the life of the party. A well-made drink highlights the spirit, while balancing other flavors.
  • The original cocktails were quite simple. In 1806, a newspaper article described them as a spirit of any kind, water, sugar and bitters.
  • Many of the originals, like the Manhattan and Daiquiri, have stood the test of time.
  • The Manhattan is whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters.
  • The classic Daiquiri is rum, lime juice and simple syrup.
  • Today there are many recipes and new concoctions for cocktails with a vast array of flavors and ingredients. Bartenders are becoming bar chefs as they experiment with new ingredients, herbs and spices. I invite you to try new flavors and spirits at home as well. Here are a few tips on making and designing cocktails.


  • Always measure each ingredient.
  • Always use fresh ingredients when possible.
  • Unless a recipe calls for crushed ice, always use large cubes of fresh, solid ice so your cocktail will not become overly diluted.
  • If a recipe calls for crushed ice, place the large cubes in a clean bar towel, wrap, and crush by hammering with a rolling pin.
  • Never reuse ice in a cocktail shaker.
  • Fill ice cube trays with bottled or filtered water to avoid “off” flavors.
  • When serving a drink over ice, always fill the glass with ice all the way to the top, then fill with the chilled cocktail from the shaker or glass.
  • Always fill your shaker two-thirds full of ice and shake for a good 25 seconds. Never shake carbonated beverages.
  • Don’t forget to garnish.