Interested in starting a home bar or expanding the one you already have? Here's everything you need, including some bonus non-essentials. It's worth noting that the term "essential" should be taken with a grain of salt. Use this list as a guideline, keeping in mind that you'll want to cater it toward your own personal needs. Frequent wine drinkers should look more closely at stemware, glass charms and bottle sealers, while the cocktail enthusiast might want to consider a more wide array of tools geared toward specialty drinks.
The true essentials include red and white wine glasses, rocks glasses, and highball glasses. If you're not entertaining regularly and don't want to get fancy, you can honestly get away with using your standard kitchen glassware for cocktails that aren't typically served in specialty glasses, such as a Martini or Moscow Mule. If you're a fan of craft beers, you might want to also consider beer glasses. Planning on hosting a special celebration? Consider champagne glasses. Other considerations: shot glasses and cordial glasses.
Delve deeper into essential glassware, because as you know, presentation is important!
Cocktail Shaker, Jigger, and Bar Spoon
Cocktail shakers have tight-fitting tops covering a strainer. These are especially useful for mixing chilled beverages.
A jigger usually has two cones, one on either end. The smaller cone holds 3/4 or 1 ounce, while the larger cone will typically hold 1 1/2 ounces.
While a bar spoon isn't exactly essential, it looks classy and is perfect for stirring tall drinks. It also doubles as a tool for quickly grabbing garnishes from jars, such as olives.
Corkscrew, Vacuum Wine Bottle Sealer, Stem Charms
Corkscrews, used for pulling corks from wine bottles, are an essential tool for any home bar. Some are more foolproof than others, and they range from very basic to quite fancy and expensive.
If you're not always able to finish wine immediately, a vacuum wine bottle sealer is a useful tool to keep in your home bar. It will extend the shelf live of open wine bottles.
If you entertain guests, stem charms are always a good idea. Not a "tool," per se, but they'll take up no additional space in your home bar, and your guests will be happy when they remember which glass is theirs.
Muddler, Hawthorne Strainer, Julep Strainer
A Muddler is a thick stick-like tool that's used to mash ingredients in the bottom of a glass. For example: it's perfect for extract oils from fresh mint in a mojito.
A Hawthorne Strainer is a flat-topped, perforated metal tool with a coil of wire around its perimeter that catches ice and holds the strainer in place. If you own a cocktail shaker, that will accomplish the same task and both probably aren't needed.
The Julep Strainer was originally used for mint juleps, but can be used for an assortment of other cocktails as well. It has a more basic, spoon-like shape, making it easier to clean.