Stocking a bar for a party? You’ll need more than just booze. After that big trip to the liquor store, it’s time to hit the grocery store, your home bar’s real best friend. Here’s how to stock a home bar for a holiday party.
When we were in college, we stocked a bar like we were in college. But now we are adults and it’s time to stock a bar like an adult—especially during the holiday season, when parties seem to just spring up out of the rug. Don’t be the host who only has straight vodka or Screwball to offer. Paired with the boozy bar staples (whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila, sweet and dry vermouth), you’ll be ready for any holiday party. Get out your grocery list and jot down everything you should buy when stocking a home bar for a holiday party.
Skip the bottled simple syrup. It’s just not as good as the real deal—which is so easy to make, BTW. Just mix equal parts hot water and sugar together. Ta da! Simple syrup. (I use standard granulated sugar, but you can get fancy with demerara sugar if you want.) Put it in a jar. Keep it in your fridge. You’ll look like a dagnab pro.
If you don’t feel like making simple syrup, maple syrup is a great alternative—especially during the holidays. Stir a bar spoon of good maple syrup (try a high-quality syrup like Escuminac Extra Rare Maple Syrup, number two in our best maple syrup ranking) with bourbon and a few dashes of bitters and you’ve got yourself a Maple Old Fashioned. Aren’t you fancy?
Limes + Lemons
Yes, you need the real fruits. No, you can’t use the stuff in the plastic fruit. End of discussion.
There’s nothing wrong with the 99-cent generic bottles of tonic water in a pinch, but if you’re planning ahead, go for the best tonic water. We like Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water. It’s so good you can drink it on its own.
Seltzer Water / Club Soda
If you have a sparkling water machine like a Sodastream, you’re good. But if you don’t, you need to stock up on quality seltzer water or club soda. Not only does it come in handy for a ton of drinks—tequila soda, vodka soda, Tom Collins, Mojito—but it’s also a good option for folks who are abstaining. We’re Topo Chico stans over at Sporked; it ranked number one in our best seltzer water tasting. And who are you to disagree?
There’s something about the holidays that has people tapping into their inner Mad Men character and ordering Martinis. That means that you not only need gin and/or vodka along with dry vermouth (which you need to keep in your FRIDGE, otherwise it will go bad), but also olives for garnishing and making Dirty Martinis. We’re fans of the Mezzetta Super Colossal Spanish Queen olives—but if you want something funky, try the Mezzetta Garlic Stuffed olives.
There’s always that one guest who wants a throwback Jack and Coke or the budding cocktailian who wants to show off that they know a rum and cola with lime is called a Cuba Libre. Be prepared with the best cola: Coca-Cola Classic. Looking for a more budget-friendly option? We also really like Sam’s Cola from Walmart.
You know (most of) your friends better than I do, so I’ll let you decide if they can handle spicy ginger beer or would be more inclined to mix with mellow ginger ale. But I will tell you that Dark N’ Stormys are (legally) made with Goslings ginger beer (which also happens to be our top ginger beer). So, if those are on the menu, you better pick up a six-pack or two.
Adding a splash of cranberry juice to almost any cocktail turns it into a holiday drink. Cranberry Cosmos, Cranberry Margaritas (see below), Cranberry Gin & Tonics—these are all very impressive-sounding cocktails that anyone can whip together. And all it takes is a spritz of the spray—Ocean Spray, that is. It’s a classic for a reason!
There’s nothing like a fresh, bespoke Margarita. But when you’re hosting the party, you don’t have the time to make individual Margs. Just make sure to pick up the best Margarita mix. We like Kirkland’s Premium Margarita Mix, but if you aren’t a Costco goer, Daily’s was our number two pick. It’s available on Amazon and you get a lot of it. Hot tip: As noted above, you can turn a standard Marg into a Holiday Marg with just a quick pour of cranberry juice. Signature holiday cocktail, made.
Along with that savory brunch drink, you also need some OJ-based offerings like Mimosas and Screwdrivers. Don’t worry about juicing five dozen oranges. Instead, just buy a bottle of our top-rated OJ: Simply Orange Pulp Free Juice. It has that fresh-OJ flavor without the tennis elbow.
Unless you have a freezer chest filled with cubed ice, you’re going to need ice. You can have a spirits selection that rivals the Ritz, but your drinks are going to absolutely suck if you don’t have ice. Buy ice. Say it with me: Buy ice. If you buy nothing else from this list, buy ice. Lots of it. After all, what kind of a winter wonderland would it be without ice?