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Bar Essentials Buying Guide

Is there anything so exciting, so delicious, so refreshing as a perfectly mixed drink? The layers of color, the multiple levels of flavor, the beautiful blend of recognizable tastes dancing with daring dashes of your favorite liquor, all of these things magically meld in a mixed drink to make memorable (or sometimes not so memorable) nights for your customers. If you're planning on starting a new bar, you should be familiar with the science of crafting drinks, also called "mixology". In this guide, we'll take a look at key bar necessities to help your bar staff become proficient professors in the field of mixology and craft the coolest cocktails in town.

How to Stock a Bar

Bar essentials encompass all the items you need to keep your bar running, including mixers and equipment. Keeping your bar stocked with these key bartender essentials allows your bartenders to mix a wide variety of drinks, from signature craft cocktails to tried and true classics. Whether you're starting a new bar or stocking your current bar, our guide to the most important bar essentials will help you to identify the items you need to streamline your beverage service.

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Bar Inventory List

Make sure your bar is properly stocked with the equipment and bartender tools your staff will need to pour liquor, blend drinks, and shake cocktails. These key pieces of bar equipment will help your bar staff quickly prepare almost every type of drink your customers can order.

  • Pourers: Liquor pourers are available in measured or standard varieties. Measured liquor pourers are sold based on the amount of liquid dispensed with each pour. They help you save money by controlling portion sizes and reducing spills, making them ideal for beginner bar staff. Professional bartenders often prefer standard liquor pourers because they provide a steady flow and help speed up service.
  • Shakers: The bar shaker provides a fast and easy way to both mix drink ingredients and chill cocktails with ice at the same time. To separate the ice from the drink while pouring, be sure to keep a number of bar strainers on hand.
  • Speed Rails: Speed rails keep popular drink mixes and spirits close to your bar staff at all times, which helps speed up service on busy nights and thus the name. They are normally made of stainless steel and have drain holes for quick cleaning.
  • Bar Blenders: Blended drinks are some of the most popular menu items, especially during the busy summer season. Our powerful bar blenders make preparing blended drinks fast, so your bar staff can get back to other customer orders. To find the bar blender that's right for you, you can quickly and easily compare a variety of units with our Blender Buying Guide or by checking out our commercial blender reviews.

Cocktail Ingredients

Bar Ingredients are the key to a well-balanced and memorable drink. They add flavor, depth, and color to your cocktails. By stocking the following cocktail ingredients, you'll have a great inventory base for making most any drink:

  • Triple Sec: Most commonly, triple sec is used as a generic term to refer to any orange-flavored liqueur. There are also non-alcoholic versions that add flavor without increasing the ABV percentage. Made with dried orange peels, triple sec has a very strong orange flavor that complements many drinks.
    Used in: Margaritas, Cosmopolitans, Long Island Iced Teas, Hurricanes, Grateful Deads, Mai Tais
  • Grenadine: Grenadine is a popular, non-alcoholic ingredient that's easily identified by its bright, red color. Aromatic and sweet, grenadine is made from pomegranate juice.
    Used in: Shirley Temples, Tequila Sunrises, Singapore Slings, Shark Bites, Roy Rogers, Bahama Mamas
  • Simple Syrup: Also called bar syrup, this non-alcoholic ingredient is used to sweeten cold drinks, where it is more difficult to dissolve sugar.
    Used in: Caipirinhas, Mojitos, Sloe Gin Fizzes, Iced tea, Lemonade
  • Lime Juice : This citrus juice can be fresh squeezed or concentrated. The acidity in the juice works well to balance out the bitter taste of alcohol in mixed drinks.
    Used in: Margaritas, Red Deaths, Tonic Drinks
  • Bitters: Bitters are flavor extracts infused in an alcohol base that are used to add subtle spice flavor and aroma to drinks.
    Used in: Old Fashioneds, Mojitos, Manhattans, Sazeracs, Bahamas Rum Punches, Island Breezes
  • Cream of Coconut: Cream of coconut is made from a blend of coconut cream and sugar. Its creamy consistency is perfect for tropical blended cocktails.
    Used in: Pina Coladas
  • Bar Juices: Also used in non-alcoholic beverages, bar juices are your typical flavor additives. Apple, lime, pineapple, and a variety of other juices add a sweet or sour bite to your beverages for a refreshing taste.
    Used in: A wide variety of mixed drinks

Pre-Made Cocktail Mixes

Bar drink mixes help your bar staff make popular drinks faster to maintain a consistent service time frame and taste, and to keep customers happy. Because they are premixed, bar drinks mixes also cut down on prep time. They are often available in value added, bulk 1 gallon bottles that will need to be transferred into smaller store and pour bottles, or smaller, ready to serve 1 liter bottles with convenient pourer tops. For more detailed information on cocktail mixes, be sure to check out our Cocktail Mix Buying Guide.

  • Sweet and Sour Mix: Sweet and sour mix, often just called sour mix, is a mixture of lemon or lime juice and simple syrup. It adds a sweet and citrus-y flavor to cocktails.
    Used in: Whiskey Sours, Midori Sours, Amaretto Sours, Long Island Iced Teas, Daiquiris, and Alabama Slammers
  • Margarita Mix: Margarita mix contains all the ingredients you need to make a margarita, except the tequila. Similar to sour mix, margarita mix has a higher concentration of lime juice and may also contain triple sec.
    Used in: Frozen Margaritas, Margaritas on the Rocks
  • Cosmopolitan Mix: Cosmopolitan mix is made with lime juice, cranberry juice, and triple sec. This fruity blend just requires the addition of alcohol to mix up a cocktail.
    Used in: Cosmopolitans
  • Daiquiri Mix: Often referred to as puree mixes, daiquiri mixes are normally a blend of one single fruit flavor. Daiquiris are traditionally blended drinks which are popular profit power-houses especially at bars with outside decks.
    Used in: Daiquiris, Margaritas
  • Tom Collins Mix: Pre-made Tom Collins mix contains a refreshing blend of lemon, lime, or grapefruit juice mixed with simple syrup. Use it to make any variation on the Collins cocktail.
    Used in: Tom Collins, John Collins, Vodka Collins
  • Mojito Mix: An unmistakable blend of fresh mint flavor and lime juice used to make another popular summer drink, the Mojito. Mojito mixes are also available with infused fruit flavors.
    Used in: Classic Mojitos, Strawberry Mojitos. Watermelon Mojitos
  • Smoothie Mix: Useful for frozen beverages, smoothie mixes are designed to add a creamy, fruity taste to blended cocktails. They come in fruit flavors like strawberry, mango, and banana.
    Used in: Margaritas, Daiquiris, Alcoholic Smoothies and Slushies

Cocktail Glasses

Using the right cocktail glass can actually make your drinks better and improve the experience for your guests. Instead of using the same rocks glass or pint glass for every drink, enhance your presentation with the following line up of cocktail glasses:

  • Highball Glass: The highball glass is a versatile glass to keep stocked at your bar. You can serve a variety of cocktails in the tall, straight-side glass. Try to stick with drinks that have a lot of ice and a high ratio of mixers.
    Serve: Rum and Coke, Dark and Stormy, Gin and Tonic
  • Collins Glass: Sometimes confused with the highball glass, the Collins glass is actually taller and more narrow than the highball. The cylindrical shape is ideal for drinks that are served with a lot ice.
    Serve: Tom Collins, John Collins, Gin Fizz
  • Zombie Glass: The zombie glass is the tallest of the straight-sided glasses and is meant to hold colorful drinks with a lot of ice, like its namesake, the Zombie cocktail.
    Serve: Zombie, Seabreeze, Mai Tai
  • Rocks Glass: The rocks glass is short and wide with a heavy bottom. Use it for spirits served neat or drinks with few mixers, like an Old Fashioned.
    Serve: White Russian, Old Fashioned, Sazerac
  • Coupe Glass: Sophisticated coupe glasses are reserved to show off strained cocktails. The shape of the glass highlights brightly colored drinks.
    Serve: Gimlet, Manhattan, Boulevardier
  • Martini Glass: Martini glasses are also used for strained, chilled cocktails. This recognizable cocktail glass features a v-shaped bowl designed for sipping.
    Serve: Martini, Cosmopolitan, Sidecar
  • Copper Mug: The copper mug is a stylish way to serve cocktails like the Moscow Mule, but it's also very functional. Copper keeps the drink cold and might also enhance the flavor of ginger beer and citrus.
    Serve: Moscow Mule, Mint Julep, Greyhound
  • Margarita Glass: Margarita glasses feature an iconic shape that's easy to hold and provides plenty of room for garnishes.
    Serve: Margarita, Daiquiri
  • Hurricane Glass: The hurricane glass has a unique tulip shape that highlights the colors of fruity, tropical drinks.
    Serve: Hurricane, Pina Colada, Singapore Sling

Cocktail Garnishes

Presentation is just as important as taste when it comes to mixed drinks. That is why the process of making incredible mixed drinks ends with selecting the ideal garnish for your glass, perfected with garnishing tools. Here are three drink garnishes that no successful bar can live without:

  • Rimming salts and rimming sugars are used to flavor and color the rims of margarita glasses and martini glasses. To store and apply rimming salts and sugars quickly and conveniently, pick up a few of our glass rimmers / margarita salters.
  • Cherries can be used to garnish any fruit based mixed drink. They are also used to garnish a variety of blended drinks and dessert drinks, like Mudslides.
  • Olives are a popular garnish for martinis. They are often skewered on a drink pick and placed along the side of the glass prior to service. Our drink olives are available in both Queen and Manz styles.

By keeping your bar stocked with these essential items, you can ensure that your bar staff will be able to make any drink that your customers request. Your beverage service will be efficient and streamlined so that you can serve guests quickly and optimize your alcohol sales.

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