This post is sponsored by San Pellegrino. Practice the Art of Fine Food, every time you can.

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There are few things that can equate to feeling more grown-up (and at times, glamorous, thank you Mad Men) than owning a well-stocked bar cart. While it’s fun to go out with friends to a favorite dive or local restaurant, there is something to be said about saving money, time, and energy by mixing a classic drink and entertaining at home.

Yet, it can be intimidating to know where to begin. What do you need? What don’t you need? From garnishes to Gran Marnier, we’ve put together an easy one-stop-shop guide to educate on the four main components to having a respectable home bar. Though this is by no means exhaustive, it’ll be a notable jumping off point to keep your holidays festive, merry (responsible!) and bright.

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The starting point for any bar cart is, of course, liquor. It’s the solid foundation to any cocktail and by having the following types on hand, you’ll be ready to serve up a wide variety of classic drinks on a moment’s notice.

  • Whiskey – Distilled from fermented grain mash, typically corn/barley, and aged in oak barrels. The type of depends on where it’s aged/made and there are five different kinds: Scotch, Irish, Canadian, Bourbon, Rye.
  • Dry Gin – Derives the majority of its flavor from juniper berries.
  • Vodka –  Made from the distillation of fermented grains or potatoes.
  • Tequila – Made from blue agave; there are three different kinds: Blanco, Reposado (aged in oak barrels for a short time), Anejo (aged in oak barrels for a longer time).
  • Rum – Distilled from sugarcane products such as molasses or sugarcane juice. There are three different kinds: Light (non-aged), Spiced, Dark (aged).
  • Brandy – Made from distilled wine and come from different regions in France, such as Cognac and Armagnac.

A liqueur is made from a distilled spirit that has been flavored with sweetener, fruit, herbs, spices, flowers or nuts. They aid in adding flavor, depth, and an increased alcohol content to many cocktails, though they themselves will have a lower alcohol content than liquor.

  • Vermouth – Sweet & Dry
  • Frangelico – Hazenut
  • Amaretto – Almond
  • Cointreau – Orange
  • Drambuie – Whiskey, Honey, Spices + Herbs
  • Absinthe – Wormwood
  • Gran Marnier – Orange Cognac
  • Triple Sec – Orange
  • Benedictine – Herbs
  • Kahlua – Coffee flavored rum
  • Irish Cream – Cream + Irish Whiskey

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Mixers + Garnishes
Mixers are used to fill the remaining volume of a cocktail, muting the taste of alcohol so that a drink is more palatable. Garnishes are added not just for presentation, but can also add to the aroma of a cocktail and bring out its unique flavor profile.

  • San Pellegrino sparking water
  • Tonic water
  • Cola
  • Ginger beer
  • Cranberry juice
  • Grenadine
  • Sugar cubes and/or simple syrup
  • Citrus – lemon, limes, oranges
  • Cherries
  • Olives
  • Mint 

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Though you can make do with many items you probably already have in your kitchen, having a proper set of tools that you designate for your bar cart will make things easier and more convenient. Plus, you’ll also ensure proper measurements and adequate mixing so that your drinks taste smooth on the very first try.

  • Cocktail shaker
  • Jigger
  • Strainer
  • Paring knife
  • Cutting board
  • Stirring spoon
  • Muddler
  • Zester
  • Ice pick
  • Corkscrew / bottle opener

With the new year approaching, it’ll be the perfect time to get started on this list and check it twice. Though, don’t feel rushed. Much like a gallery wall full of art, a great bar is built slowly, intentionally, and is filled with the items that you like best. Use nights you spend out on the town to decide what are some favorite concoctions, then figure out what you need to recreate those at home.

In no time at all you’ll be serving up delicious sips in the comfort of your own abode … looking mighty classic and chic while you’re at it.

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What’s your favorite cocktail to make for guests?

Images via Morgan Ashley Photography

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