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How to Set Up & Stock an At-Home Bar

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Rather than go stir crazy with the pandemic-induced cabin fever sweeping through our daily lives, mix a stiff drink at home to take the edge off with your next cigar. If all you’ve got is half a bottle of bourbon and a case of beer in your man cave, it’s time to branch out.

Setting up a bar at home has never been more essential. Because so many cigar bars and lounges have had to shut down or operate at a fraction of capacity, we’re smoking and drinking at home like never before. Make the place where you smoke complete with the perfect at-home bar. Before you take the credit card to the liquor store, consider some strategy.

Get in the Spirits

Start small. Pick a few of your favorite cocktails and build your bar around those. Think about the ingredients you need for iconic drinks like a Martini, Old Fashioned, Mojito, Moscow Mule, or a Sidecar. Cigars go great with lots of classic and seasonal cocktails.

Don’t buy a bunch of random bottles you think will impress your pals, and don’t load up on only one or two spirits. Trust us, an at-home bar for a cigar lover deserves an ample selection of whiskey to go with your cigars. But, ten or twenty different bottles of bourbon only go so far if you want to make drinks. Procure your spirits with a purpose. You can make a gazillion cocktails if you’ve got a good foundation with vodka, gin, scotch, bourbon, rum, and tequila. Spirits deteriorate over time, so buy booze you’ll use and store the bottles out of direct sunlight.

Make or Break Drinks with Great Mixers

Cover the bases with basic mixers like club soda, tonic water, Cola, Sprite or 7-up, orange juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters. For carbonated mixers, glass bottles are recommended over plastic because glass preserves carbonation better.

Vermouth, Cointreau, and Campari complete the package for dozens of classic drinks, including Manhattans, Margaritas, and Negronis. Rely on the right mixers for a splash of this or a splash of that.

Got Garnish?

Good garnish is critical. Follow your favorite recipes to a ‘T’ or get creative with your cocktails when you’ve got garnish. Fresh local ingredients always taste the best if you can get your hands on them. Get started with lemons, limes, oranges, mint, horseradish, tabasco sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper. You should already know a few obvious drinks that take stuffed olives, celery, and maraschino cherries. Garnish makes cocktails look cool and delivers the flavorful touches you need to complete the taste when you’re pairing them with cigars.

Glassware & Tools

You can go nuts outfitting your bar with glassware and professional bartending tools. Chances are good, you’ve already got the correct equipment in a kitchen cabinet. If you’re going by the book, you’ll need a mixing glass, bar spoon, jigger, shaker, and a cocktail strainer. A vegetable peeler is a pretty handy tool, too, for carving your limes into artwork.

Serve your guests impressive drinks in the right glassware. You’ll need rocks glasses, Collins glasses, and a couple coupes. While you’re shopping, add a set of pint glasses and wine glasses to your cabinet if you haven’t got them. An at-home bar should include good beer and wine to go with your cigars.

Consider some brandy snifters, too, for nights by the fireplace with a cigar and a vintage cognac. Everyone will take your Moscow mules much more seriously in a set of cold copper mugs and don’t forget some champagne glasses. If you need to celebrate a special occasion, cigars and champagne are non-negotiable when you’re stocking a cigar bar for your house.

Beauty Is in the ‘Ice’ of the Beholder

The cubes you drop in the glass impact your drink. Professional bartenders recommend making your ice in extra-thick (1.25 to 2-inch) silicone ice cube trays. And if you don’t have a dedicated freezer for your at-home bar, they suggest sealing your cubes in a Ziploc bag or some Tupperware so they won’t absorb the taste of your frozen pizzas. I never realized how special ice could be until I read that a cocktail bar called The Aviary hired a guy as their “ice chef” who curated over 30 kinds of ice for the drinks they make. I don’t know anyone who has an ice chef in his man cave, but you could be the first.

The Dog Drank My Homework

If after all this effort your cocktails aren’t turning out, get a good cocktail recipe book. Bestselling titles like The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan, The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart, and Cocktail Codex by Alex Day provide ample instructions for crafting perfect cocktails. There are dozens of other great titles to guide you. Get a ‘Masters in Mixology’ by studying what the pros do. A good read guarantees your cocktails will astound fellow cigar lovers who come over to smoke and drink with you in your at-home cigar bar.

Make Sure Your Humidor is Stocked

You can’t have a great cigar bar in your house without some essential cigar gear. Cigars, of course, come first. If you’re unsure what cigars to buy, start stocking your humidor with the top ten cigar brands. You can’t go wrong with top-rated cigars from Ashton, Arturo Fuente, La Aroma de Cuba, Padron, and Oliva. Begin with these classics as you narrow down our inventory of more than 550 premium brands.

Store your cigars in a reliable humidor. There are dozens of models out there. You can get a great humidor from Savoy in a wide variety of finishes and sizes that will make the cigar bar in your home stand out. The most important cigar accessories you’ll need when you’re entertaining fellow cigar-lovers include a good cigar lighter and a cigar cutter. Shop for sporty, durable, and stylish accessories from Xikar, JetLine, Visol, and more. The bar in your man cave will look especially classy with a beautiful ceramic or crystal cigar ashtray. Give everyone more space by setting out a few ashtrays.

Build Your Bar from the Ground Up

When you’re searching for the perfect look for an at-home bar, take a peek at some chic examples. Install some comfy barstools that match your man cave. Or simply pick up a vintage bar-cart you can roll in and out of the closet when you want to entertain.

If you’re building your at-home cigar bar from scratch, make sure the room is properly ventilated. Clean, adequate airflow is critical for relaxation in any room where you plan to smoke cigars. It’s way more comfortable to knock back drinks while you’re smoking with your buddies when no one’s eyes are burning. Install an exhaust fan or get a good air purifier.

Just make sure you stock your bar with enough cigars. Although we’re hanging out in smaller groups these days, once word gets out that your at-home cigar bar is open for business, your pals will be at your doorstep like thirsty moths to a flame.

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