Ask a Bartender: What's In Your Home Bar?


A few weeks ago, we asked members of the Serious Eats community what's in their home bars. This week, we posed the same question to bartenders across the country. Here's what they had to say.

20130930-bartender-Mariena Mercer.jpg
Mariena Mercer of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

"My home bar is pretty extensive, it's definitely my playground. I collect antique bar tools, glassware, decanters and spirits. I also have collections of progressive tools, barware and spirits." — Mariena Mercer (The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)

"Not overly extensive but just enough to quench my desire for a cocktail or after dinner drink. Lots of amaro for after dinner, really good tequila and mezcal, sipping rum like Zacapa 23yr. or Zafra from Panama. Of course some bourbon, currently Willett and Elijah Craig 21yr. are doing the trick." — Pablo Kovacs (Tin Roof Bistro)

"Having been in the industry for a while now, my home bar has collected many of the knick-knacks of my real bar, as well as a decent collection of wine and spirits. Definitely a few whiskies at all times, a bottle of Hendrick's gin for when the parents are in town, and a bottle of Ketel One for the in-laws. It's always important to accommodate your guests as well as your own preferences." — George Reilly (The Twisted Tail)

"My bar at home has a handful of the necessary bottles but I've been focusing on building my bar tool collection. I can always grab a bottle of something at the store but tools like Teardrop Barspoons, professional ice ball makers, Japanese ice picks, and Koriko shakers can be a bit tricky to find." — Beau du Bois (The Corner Door)

"My home bar is simple. I try to have one or two bourbons, some anejo tequila and whatever is seasonal. I don't have much because I tend to change my vibe frequently. I like to see what others are doing and am constantly changing it up and experimenting with new ingredients." — Kenneth Gray (Fishing With Dynamite)

"When it comes to my home bar I have two mindsets: bottles for drinking, and bottles for reference. Bottles for drinking are things that I don't mind breaking out during a party and finishing. My bottles for reference are generally obscure cordials, expensive whiskeys, or strange vintages that are difficult to find. Those are the bottles that I keep to remind myself of flavor profiles or expressions of a particular distillery. As a result, I end up with a pretty large bottle collection." — John Henderson (Scholars, Tavern Road)

Richard Woodruff of Chambers Eat + Drink, San Francisco.

"My home bar goes through phases. This summer, for music festival season cocktails on-the-go, it was mostly Manhattan variations with different bourbons and ryes, home-made creole bitters, and Dolin sweet vermouth. There was one weekend of boat drinks too (yes, there were umbrellas and pinkies out). As far as my wine collection, it is all wine from Sonoma." — Richard Woodruff (Chambers Eat + Drink)

"Not much. I keep Stone IPA, Racer 5 beer, red wine, and Fernet around. No need for cocktails when in my abode." — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)

"It's pretty random, but I have a rare bottle of Michter's American whiskey from the original distillery that burned down in the 80's. I also have Old Overholt, and The Bruery's Saison Rue for beer." — Dave Kupchinsky (The Eveleigh)

"It's mostly just a bunch of bitters I want to try and whatever booze is on hand. Always whiskey though. When I want to try said bitters, an Old Fashioned is usually the first vehicle." — Keith Kenji Cochran (The Narrows,, King Noodle,)

"I have a few mid-range bottles that I drink on a weekly basis. I also have some higher end bottles like VEP and Dom to celebrate with!" — Kevin Peters (Bathtub Gin)

20130930-bartender-Jeff_faile shot.JPG
Jeff Faile of Fiola, DC.

"The home bar is lovingly referred to by a friend as my dollhouse. I bring home a couple of bottles a week and have to constantly rearrange them (hence, I play with my dolls). Most fall in to rye or bourbon with many of them being some hard to find bottles from Buffalo Trace and Willett. There's about the same amount of amari there as well, and I'll always keep a bottle of Plymouth and Beefeater for gin & tonics. I think I'm getting close to 100 bottles in my dollhouse at this point, but I try to drink, er, rotate them out as often as I can!" — Jeff Faile (Fiola)

"Cans of Coors light in the door of the fridge, and a bottle of Fernet maybe placed strategically on top of the fridge." — Kahil Nayton ( Larry Lawrence, Terminal 5 )

"I keep a small collection at home since it's mainly for visitors. Right now there's a bottle of Stetson (bourbon), Hibiki 12 (Japanese blended whiskey), Hendrick's (gin), Russian Standard (vodka), and 7 Leguas (tequila)." — Jason Lam (Sens)

"The home bar is a must. It's rare that you come home after a shift and really want to make a cocktail, but it is always nice to have some R & D readily available. I do have some fairly unique bottles as well, including a bottle of Yellow Chartreuse from the 70s, I think." — Nate Howell (Cusp Dining & Drinks)

Back Problems
Elizabeth Powell of Liberty Bar, Seattle.

"My home bar is, essentially, a collection of bitters, some extra special whiskies and mezcals, and modifiers. I have a bottle of citron, tequila and some gins for guests, but I don't keep a large bar at home." — Elizabeth Powell (Liberty Bar)

"I have a nice collection of agave spirits and a cute little home bar in the corner of my living room. Booze, for the most part, doesn't last long around here." — Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)

"My husband and I get into phases where we drink a lot of one thing for an extended period of time and then change it up. We always have a few vermouths, gin, bourbon for me and rye for him." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)

"I definitely keep a core of essentials, but have been able to collect a lot of great bottles over the years. No matter how extensive, I think the tools and ice we manage at home are the most important piece to a quality home bar." — Vincent Stipo (Vernick Food & Drink)

"I moved to Aspen a month ago, so my bar is pretty empty. I have a few favorites though. Fortaleza Reposado tequila, an amazing old-world crafted artisanal tequila with a deep rooted history. I have a bottle of Lanson White Label, again a product with great history. It is a very light and drinkable Champagne for any season. And finally I have a bottle of elit by Stolichnaya. It's an ultra-luxury vodka that is second to none in my book." — Anthony Bohlinger (Chefs Club by FOOD & WINE)

"The home bar gets turned pretty quickly. I have a handful of my own bitters that I hold onto, but other than that I pretty much just buy whatever I am in the mood for and consume it pretty quickly." — Ben Anderson (The Corner Office Restaurant)

So many drinks, so little time. Keep in the loop on Twitter, or sign up for our weekly newsletter.