Essentials for a well stocked bar

I’m having about 20 people over for cocktails and appetizers this coming Friday. I’m having a bit of trouble deciding what to get at the store. So what do you think are essential ingredients for a well-stocked bar?

Here is what I have so far:

Cranberry Juice
Various beer
Ginger Ale

Any help would be appreciated.


We need more information. What are the tastes of these people? Are they beer drinkers or cocktail people? Or maybe winos?

A *well-stocked *bar will cost you several hundred dollars and will mostly go to waste. What is the occasion for this little get together? A good plan is to theme it. Put out Mexican appetizers and serve margaritas and Mexican beer. that way you can limit your costs and everybody will still be happy.

Some sort of whiskey/whisky seems to be a necessity. I’d get some bourbon and some scotch.

IMHO, A really well stocked bar would also have some tequila, triple sec and brandy for magaritas and sidecars. Also, bitters so you can make an old fashioned.

Also, gin. You’re bound to have someone who wants a gin & tonic.

Oh yeah. Tonic.

Gin or I’m not coming! Tonic would also help.

See? Told you! If you want to try to satisfy everybody, then you might as well hold the gathering at a real bar, which will have everything to satisfy the picky people in the group.

Set a theme, make a few basic drinks that match the finger foods and let people deal with it.

Make a few pitchers of cocktails, stock some beer, and make sure to have some juice and fizzy options for the non-alcohol folks.

Trying to stock a bar for 20 folks is asking for nonsense to happen.

Simple syrup? And definitely (if you don’t want to make it yourself) a good Bloody Mary mix, like Major Peters.


We have a very well-stocked bar, given that one of Mr. Athena’s hobbies is making cocktails. Given that one of MY hobbies is drinking cocktails, it works out great!

That said, inevitably when we have guests, someone asks for something we don’t have. We pretty much only stock stuff that WE like drinking, so the minute someone asks for something normal-but-not-our-tastes - Rum & Coke is a good example (we never have cola in the house) - we’re out of luck.

I’m assuming that 1) you don’t want to drop several hundred (or more!) dollars on a bar, and 2) you want to have a good chance of having at least one option that each of your 20 guests will like, I’d do something like this:

  • A selection of beer. That would be something like at least one type of IPA, at least one type of standard American beer (Bud/Coors/whatever), and maybe 1-2 in betweens. Those could be anything from something from a local microbrew, a wheat beer, a red, a stout, whatever.

  • a couple bottles of both red and white wine. Chill the white.

  • Cocktails. This is where it gets tricky. I’m going to assume you’re not a cocktail hobbiest, so are looking for things that people can easily mix on their own.

I’d go for:

  • Gin & Tonic
  • Manhattan fixins’ - Bourbon, sweet & dry vermouths, bitters
  • All those other things you list in your OP
  • several fresh limes & lemons. I know you said lime. Get both, they’re cheap, and they add snap to lots of different drinks

That will cover most people. Is it fancy? Nope. Is it going to make people happy? Yep.

I’m going to concur with the group - if you’re starting from scratch for Friday you’re going to need either a lot of cash or to stick to a limited drink list.

One thing that would work well is to pick one signature cocktail and then have your basic beer/rum/whiskey/vodka/gin.

Okay, if I were stocking a bar from scratch:
Beer (Canned for parties, craft for personal)

Wine (Red and White)

A two-liter bottle each of:
Scotch (Johnnie Walker, red or black)
Bourbon (Jack Daniel’s or Jim Beam will be fine)
Vodka (Absolut)
Gin (Gordon’s or Beefeater)
Rum (Baccardi, white)

A fifth of Tequila (I hate the stuff, but I know women who will drink nothing else)

Mixers: Coke (NOT Pepsi), club soda, tonic, ginger ale, vermouth (which is technically a wine, but that’s not how we use it)

Ice, olives (Green w. pimento), pretzels, potato chips, lemons and limes

Tumblers, wine glasses, pub glasses, pint glasses (Plastic cups can likely replace all of these)

You can’t anticipate every appetite someone might have. There are a thousand gooey liqueurs out there (Southern Comfort, Schnapps), and brandies and whatnot, but the stuff mentioned above is reasonably able to cover most people’s expectations of a well-prepared party.

Thanks for the suggestions. I always have a lot of different wines, so I think I’m fine there. I’m not exactly starting from scratch because I always have Skyy Vodka, Crown Royal, and Bacardi light Rum on hand for friends and family. I also have Rumchata (for pudding shots), Kahlua and Baileys, but wanted to make sure I could make cover the most common mixed drinks. Scotch, gin and bourbon are definitely added to the list.

I’ve added Glenlivet (one of the attendees is from Scotland and this is his favorite), Bulleit Bourbon, Beefeater Gin and ?? Tequila to the list. Adding tonic and club soda, lemon, limes, and olives as well. And ice.

At least one single malt scotch. Glenlivet is a safe choice so good on ya there. If you wanted to go wild, add in the “gnarled glove” with a very peaty speyside single malt as well. Glenlivet would be “silk glove” yin to the “gnarled fist” yang of single malts. :wink:

Anyone who expects that from the average home bar can damn well BYOB.

Yes! When it comes to scotch, you should have one good blend (I recommend Famous Grouse) for mixing and one single-malt (I recommend Glenfiddich) for sipping neat.

Of all the scotch cocktails, my favorite is a Rusty Nail: blended scotch and Drambuie. (The latter can also be sipped, either neat or on ice. If you use ice, make it with spring water.)

White rum is best used for mixing, e.g., Cuba Libres and Mojitos. Gold and dark rum can be sipped neat or on the rocks. (Dark rum can also be mixed with black currant syrup or liqueur. Yum-O! :o )

You should have mint leaves and sugar cubes available for mixing Mint Juleps and Mojitos. And quartered limes and lemons.

Rye whiskey, orange slices, sugar cubes, and maraschino cherries should be available for making Old Fashioneds.

Tennessee sour mash whiskey (e.g., Jack Daniels) I find better than bourbon for sipping neat. Try mixing either with Southern Comfort for a Southern version of the Rusty Nail.

Small bottles of chilled spring water are also essential for mixing. So are soda and tonic water. These are best offered in single-serving cans, which chill better and don’t lose their carbonation like big bottles do once they’re opened.

You might want to offer hot cocktails in winter. All you need is hot spring water, gold or dark rum, sweet butter, and dark Muscovado sugar to make Hot Buttered Rum. Keep a small pot of this warm on the stove, adding the rum at the last minute.

Hot coffee, brown sugar, whipped cream and a good Irish whiskey can be used to make Irish Coffee.

Warm cream, honey, and scotch can be used to make Atholl Brose. Insert a sachet of milled oats into the pan with the cream for extra flavor.

Bourbon, rye scotch, gin, vodka, bitters, soda water, ginger ale, tonic, limes, lemons, Coke, and cranberry juice.

Bitters! Don’t forget to have a bottle of bitters on hand.

If you’re having Bloody Marys, you need horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, celery stalks, and celery salt. Lemon and wedges along with raw oysters and/or clam juice make nice additions.

Just a gratuitous post that the basics are One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.