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19 Ways To Make A Fancy AF Home Bar

Drink Don Draper-style.

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Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

Home bars are awesome.

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They save you money, let you make ~fancy~ drinks exactly how you like them, plus you'll feel like you're on the set of Mad Men all the time.

But where to start? We're not all Don Draper. Which booze should we buy first? Do we need a cocktail shaker? IS IT OK TO DRINK STRAIGHT FROM THE BOTTLE?

AMC

In this GIF, we are all Peggy.

We asked Richard Godwin, cocktail expert and author of The Spirits (100% recommend this book), for his tips:

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Teach us, Richard. We have gin and enthusiasm and we're ready to learn.

1. First, shop strategically for a good combination of bottles – you can make 40+ different cocktails with just six bottles of booze.

"When I first started getting into cocktails, I was on a budget," says Godwin. "Spirits are expensive, and you want to buy strategically so you can make all the classic cocktails and learn how it all fits together."He recommends starting with these six bottles (plus one miniature):– Gin (Hayman's)– American Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)– Red vermouth (Martini Rosso)– White vermouth (Noilly Prat)– Campari– Angostura Bitters– A mini bottle of absinthe (La Fee)(Total cost: £97)The tray we used came from Habitat and was £28, but if you want something bigger we also love this IKEA trolley."The six large bottles are the core constituents of all the really classic cocktails: the Manhattan, the Negroni, the Martini, etc," Godwin says. "Then you only need to add ordinary kitchen ingredients like lemons, eggs, sugar, or fizzy water to make all the sours and fizzes."The effect is kind of infinite. You can learn how to make cocktails with these, then it’s not that big of a deal to substitute light rum for the gin, or brandy for the bourbon. Every bottle has a function, and like in cooking, once you’ve learned the functions you can easily swap one for another."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"When I first started getting into cocktails, I was on a budget," says Godwin. "Spirits are expensive, and you want to buy strategically so you can make all the classic cocktails and learn how it all fits together."

He recommends starting with these six bottles (plus one miniature):

– Gin (Hayman's)

– American Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)

– Red vermouth (Martini Rosso)

– White vermouth (Noilly Prat)

Campari

Angostura Bitters

– A mini bottle of absinthe (La Fee)

(Total cost: £97)

The tray we used came from Habitat and was £28, but if you want something bigger we also love this IKEA trolley.

"The six large bottles are the core constituents of all the really classic cocktails: the Manhattan, the Negroni, the Martini, etc," Godwin says. "Then you only need to add ordinary kitchen ingredients like lemons, eggs, sugar, or fizzy water to make all the sours and fizzes.

"The effect is kind of infinite. You can learn how to make cocktails with these, then it’s not that big of a deal to substitute light rum for the gin, or brandy for the bourbon. Every bottle has a function, and like in cooking, once you’ve learned the functions you can easily swap one for another."

2. But at a push, you really only need two bottles to get started.

"If you're only using ordinary kitchen ingredients, then you really just need a single bottle of spirits to get started," Godwin says. "I'd say gin, because you can do a lot of things with gin. Then as a secondary bottle I'd get Angostura bitters. When I moved house and was starting my booze collection from scratch, those were the first two things I bought."You can have very cold gin aperitif-style, or you can lob in a load of Angostura and have Pink Gin, which works very well as a digestif."
Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

"If you're only using ordinary kitchen ingredients, then you really just need a single bottle of spirits to get started," Godwin says. "I'd say gin, because you can do a lot of things with gin. Then as a secondary bottle I'd get Angostura bitters. When I moved house and was starting my booze collection from scratch, those were the first two things I bought.

"You can have very cold gin aperitif-style, or you can lob in a load of Angostura and have Pink Gin, which works very well as a digestif."

3. Don't overthink your gin.

Godwin chose Hayman's gin, but tells us that "any gin will do, really. You can get really wanky about gin. The fact is, gin is one of the cheapest spirits you can get as it’s relatively simple to make. I think Hayman's, for it’s price point, is the best value. It’s like an elite gin but priced like a cheaper gin.""If you're looking for a delicious boutique gin at a higher price point, I love Hepple gin, which is new and mind-blowingly good. Sipsmith is also really great – they essentially led the micro-distilling revival.If you're really on a budget though? "Beefeater is much better than Gordon's, and is actually really good. But if you don't mind about brands, then frankly good supermarket ones are much better value – Sainsbury's has won all sorts of awards."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

Godwin chose Hayman's gin, but tells us that "any gin will do, really. You can get really wanky about gin. The fact is, gin is one of the cheapest spirits you can get as it’s relatively simple to make. I think Hayman's, for it’s price point, is the best value. It’s like an elite gin but priced like a cheaper gin."

"If you're looking for a delicious boutique gin at a higher price point, I love Hepple gin, which is new and mind-blowingly good. Sipsmith is also really great – they essentially led the micro-distilling revival.

If you're really on a budget though? "Beefeater is much better than Gordon's, and is actually really good. But if you don't mind about brands, then frankly good supermarket ones are much better value – Sainsbury's has won all sorts of awards."

4. But do be prepared to spend more on your whiskey.

"Bourbon is more expensive than gin, so that’s going to be the main expense," Godwin says, "but it is so crucial to classic cocktails, like the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan."Cocktails really evolved from America – it’s really an American pastime, making cocktails – so you want proper American whiskey. If you want a cheap brand, you can always get supermarket own. Jim Beam is the very cheapest, but it’s not great. I chose Buffalo Trace as it's regarded as one of the greatest distilleries there is. The product itself is very versatile, with a delicious nutty flavour."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"Bourbon is more expensive than gin, so that’s going to be the main expense," Godwin says, "but it is so crucial to classic cocktails, like the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan.

"Cocktails really evolved from America – it’s really an American pastime, making cocktails – so you want proper American whiskey. If you want a cheap brand, you can always get supermarket own. Jim Beam is the very cheapest, but it’s not great. I chose Buffalo Trace as it's regarded as one of the greatest distilleries there is. The product itself is very versatile, with a delicious nutty flavour."

5. Use Tupperware boxes to make lots and lots of ice. Don't worry about the cloudiness of it – you just need lots of it.

"A lot of the difference between delicious cocktails and rubbish cocktails is how cold they are, which is based on how much ice you have," Godwin says. "And considering water is free, you may as well make as much ice as you can. I make mine in big Tupperware boxes, so then you can hack it up and get big lumps of ice, which everyone is always really weirdly impressed by. Because big lumps of ice have a larger surface area, it melts slower, so you're putting more coldness in the drink but less dilution and that helps you to balance it better."Don't worry about cloudiness. The reason it goes cloudy is either because it's got bubbles in it or it's unfiltered. So, if you keep freezing it and re-thawing it, you'll end up with clear ice…but it won't be very tasty ice as it's made from water you've been pissing around with for ages. Or you could use Evian water. I'd just take the cloudy ice. You're not serving at the Savoy."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"A lot of the difference between delicious cocktails and rubbish cocktails is how cold they are, which is based on how much ice you have," Godwin says. "And considering water is free, you may as well make as much ice as you can. I make mine in big Tupperware boxes, so then you can hack it up and get big lumps of ice, which everyone is always really weirdly impressed by. Because big lumps of ice have a larger surface area, it melts slower, so you're putting more coldness in the drink but less dilution and that helps you to balance it better.

"Don't worry about cloudiness. The reason it goes cloudy is either because it's got bubbles in it or it's unfiltered. So, if you keep freezing it and re-thawing it, you'll end up with clear ice…but it won't be very tasty ice as it's made from water you've been pissing around with for ages. Or you could use Evian water. I'd just take the cloudy ice. You're not serving at the Savoy."

6. Get vermouth that can multitask.

Godwin's two chosen vermouths are "not the most-esteemed ones, but they’re the best for the price point", he says. "Martini Rosso is the basic Italian-style vermouth. People get really pretentious about it, but I actually think this is really good." He also notes that "they’re both also really good if you cook. Noilly Prat goes really well in a risotto, and it also works in carbonara. Martini Rosso works like red wine in pasta sauces, so they’re quite useful to have around for that reason too."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

Godwin's two chosen vermouths are "not the most-esteemed ones, but they’re the best for the price point", he says. "Martini Rosso is the basic Italian-style vermouth. People get really pretentious about it, but I actually think this is really good."

He also notes that "they’re both also really good if you cook. Noilly Prat goes really well in a risotto, and it also works in carbonara. Martini Rosso works like red wine in pasta sauces, so they’re quite useful to have around for that reason too."

7. Proper barware isn't essential, but a small measuring cup, a tea strainer, and a fruit juicer are very useful to have.

"As a general rule, you only really shake cocktails if they have fruit juice in them, so you don't necessarily need a shaker," Godwin says. "And even if you don't have a shaker, you can use a jam jar and strain the results with a sieve. Obviously it's not the most elegant way of doing it, but it does the trick. Then any kind of aromatic style drink, like a Martini or a Negroni, is made in a mixing glass rather than a shaker, and any glass will do – for instance a pint glass, or sometimes you can make it in the actual glass you serve it in."In terms of other speciality equipment, the only other things that are useful are a small measuring cup, a tea strainer to get out all the fine bits of ice, and a Mexican elbow to quickly juice a lot of fruit."
Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

"As a general rule, you only really shake cocktails if they have fruit juice in them, so you don't necessarily need a shaker," Godwin says. "And even if you don't have a shaker, you can use a jam jar and strain the results with a sieve. Obviously it's not the most elegant way of doing it, but it does the trick. Then any kind of aromatic style drink, like a Martini or a Negroni, is made in a mixing glass rather than a shaker, and any glass will do – for instance a pint glass, or sometimes you can make it in the actual glass you serve it in.

"In terms of other speciality equipment, the only other things that are useful are a small measuring cup, a tea strainer to get out all the fine bits of ice, and a Mexican elbow to quickly juice a lot of fruit."

8. Buy your glasses from charity shops.

"There are only really three kinds of glass you need to know about," Godwin says. "There’s the classic Martini cocktail glass, [plus] a short glass and a tall glass for fizzes. You can get pretty good ones in second-hand shops and charity shops. It’s quite nice to bring together a motley collection. When it comes to glasses, I think small is better – I prefer a coupe to the '90s Martini glass. It feels a bit naff now to have an enormous glass, and they’re so much easier to spill too."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"There are only really three kinds of glass you need to know about," Godwin says. "There’s the classic Martini cocktail glass, [plus] a short glass and a tall glass for fizzes. You can get pretty good ones in second-hand shops and charity shops. It’s quite nice to bring together a motley collection. When it comes to glasses, I think small is better – I prefer a coupe to the '90s Martini glass. It feels a bit naff now to have an enormous glass, and they’re so much easier to spill too."

9. Make your own sugar syrup with two parts sugar and one part boiling water.

"If you use regular sugar, it doesn't dissolve very well in cold cocktails," Godwin says. "The best thing is to make sugar syrup, which is essentially just pre-dissolving the sugar. I prefer using darker sugar, like golden caster sugar. It makes a very good old fashioned, plus raw cane sugar is a bit better for you."What I usually do is boil the water in the kettle, get a small measuring vessel, pour in two things of sugar, add on the water, and stir it until it's dissolved. It should then last in the fridge for about a month."
Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

"If you use regular sugar, it doesn't dissolve very well in cold cocktails," Godwin says. "The best thing is to make sugar syrup, which is essentially just pre-dissolving the sugar. I prefer using darker sugar, like golden caster sugar. It makes a very good old fashioned, plus raw cane sugar is a bit better for you.

"What I usually do is boil the water in the kettle, get a small measuring vessel, pour in two things of sugar, add on the water, and stir it until it's dissolved. It should then last in the fridge for about a month."

10. Expand your bar economically by buying miniatures instead of full sizes.

"Certain bottles of spirit are very expensive. But once you've learned to use a lot of them, you realise you only need a tiny bit at a time to make a cocktail. With something like absinthe, you often only use a single drop of it. It’s so strong in taste it can be used like bitters to just season a drink."So it makes much more sense to get one miniature bottle and put it into a dropper, or an old Angostura bottle or a diffuser. Then you can literally only use a drop at a time, and it will last you for ages – or at least until you have a party and someone nicks it. A spray bottle is also useful at parties, as you can mace unwanted guests."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"Certain bottles of spirit are very expensive. But once you've learned to use a lot of them, you realise you only need a tiny bit at a time to make a cocktail. With something like absinthe, you often only use a single drop of it. It’s so strong in taste it can be used like bitters to just season a drink.

"So it makes much more sense to get one miniature bottle and put it into a dropper, or an old Angostura bottle or a diffuser. Then you can literally only use a drop at a time, and it will last you for ages – or at least until you have a party and someone nicks it. A spray bottle is also useful at parties, as you can mace unwanted guests."

11. The essential fruit you need are lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, pomegranates, and raspberries.

"Lemons are the most useful cocktail ingredient, as you use the juice in sours, and the most common garnish is the lemon twist," Godwin says. "Limes are similar but more tropical. Oranges are less good for the juice but very good for garnishes – if you have orange bitters you don’t really need the skin, though. Then grapefruits are brilliant in cocktails if you like bitter flavours. You can make a really good sour with grapefruit juice and honey."Then I'd get pomegranates to make grenadine with. You squeeze them like an orange to get the juice, then mix one part of that with two parts sugar and you’ll have a better grenadine than you’ll get in any shop or that you’ll probably even get served in a swanky bar."Similarly, raspberry syrup is a very common ingredient – if you look in the old 19th-century bar books, every other cocktail seems to have raspberry syrup in it – but you don’t need raspberry syrup if you have fresh raspberries. Just use three fresh raspberries and a little sugar syrup in the cocktail."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"Lemons are the most useful cocktail ingredient, as you use the juice in sours, and the most common garnish is the lemon twist," Godwin says. "Limes are similar but more tropical. Oranges are less good for the juice but very good for garnishes – if you have orange bitters you don’t really need the skin, though. Then grapefruits are brilliant in cocktails if you like bitter flavours. You can make a really good sour with grapefruit juice and honey.

"Then I'd get pomegranates to make grenadine with. You squeeze them like an orange to get the juice, then mix one part of that with two parts sugar and you’ll have a better grenadine than you’ll get in any shop or that you’ll probably even get served in a swanky bar.

"Similarly, raspberry syrup is a very common ingredient – if you look in the old 19th-century bar books, every other cocktail seems to have raspberry syrup in it – but you don’t need raspberry syrup if you have fresh raspberries. Just use three fresh raspberries and a little sugar syrup in the cocktail."

12. Newbie cocktail makers should start with sours.

"The sour is a great drink to start with. You only need one bottle of spirits, and once you can balance all the components in a sour cocktail, you can make half the cocktails in existence, essentially.""You can make it with whiskey or gin, but the basic recipe is spirit, citrus juice, sugar, and ice. You have to balance the strength of the spirit, the sourness of the lemon or lime, and the sweetness of the sugar, and the dilution of the ice. Once you can balance that, then deliciousness ensues."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"The sour is a great drink to start with. You only need one bottle of spirits, and once you can balance all the components in a sour cocktail, you can make half the cocktails in existence, essentially."

"You can make it with whiskey or gin, but the basic recipe is spirit, citrus juice, sugar, and ice. You have to balance the strength of the spirit, the sourness of the lemon or lime, and the sweetness of the sugar, and the dilution of the ice. Once you can balance that, then deliciousness ensues."

13. Rum and liqueur is the next step.

"If you want to expand this selection to make even more cocktails, you'll want to get another light spirit and another dark spirit. The obvious omission here is rum, so I'd get a light rum and a dark rum, which opens up the whole world of tropical drinks.

"After that it just depends what you like. Brandy is good for serious, brooding after-dinner-style digestif drinks. The thing I always come back to is Pisco, which I think is really underrated. Then in terms of liqueurs, probably the two that you end up using most are Cointreau (orange liqueur) and maraschino, which are used as sweeteners. What I really like is apricot or peach brandy though, which works in loads of contexts."

14. A good home bar will save you a LOT of money and hangovers.

"In terms of brute economics," Godwin says, "a cocktail at a nice bar is normally about £9. But if you make a cocktail with these spirits, it works out at about £1.50 a drink. That's comparable to a tinny from the off-licence, or one-quarter of a shit bottle of wine, but you're drinking something totally delicious and supremely elegant. It makes sense money-wise."The other thing about spirits is that I got into them because I was sick of hangovers. While cocktails seem harder, I think they're much more conducive to sensible drinking. You have one nice drink before dinner, and you're not left with a bottle of pinot grigio to finish off that's going to give you a terrible headache."
Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

"In terms of brute economics," Godwin says, "a cocktail at a nice bar is normally about £9. But if you make a cocktail with these spirits, it works out at about £1.50 a drink. That's comparable to a tinny from the off-licence, or one-quarter of a shit bottle of wine, but you're drinking something totally delicious and supremely elegant. It makes sense money-wise.

"The other thing about spirits is that I got into them because I was sick of hangovers. While cocktails seem harder, I think they're much more conducive to sensible drinking. You have one nice drink before dinner, and you're not left with a bottle of pinot grigio to finish off that's going to give you a terrible headache."

15. Here's how to make a Boulevardier:

Ingredients:25ml bourbon25ml Campari25ml Italian vermouthMethod:"Stir all the ingredients together in an old fashioned glass with copious ice (preferably one large lump). Garnish with a slice of orange."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

Ingredients:

25ml bourbon

25ml Campari

25ml Italian vermouth

Method:

"Stir all the ingredients together in an old fashioned glass with copious ice (preferably one large lump). Garnish with a slice of orange."

16. A Martini:

Ingredients:50ml gin10–25ml French vermouth (to taste)Method:"Place a Martini-style glass in the freezer. Combine the gin and vermouth in a mixing vessel with plenty of ice – preferably one large cube. Stir patiently until the drink is sufficiently cold and the melting ice dilutes the cocktail enough to remove the gin burn. "You can leave it for a minute or so while you prepare your garnish too: either a length of lemon zest (use a peeler) or a briny green olive. Strain the mixture into the frozen glass and consume immediately."
Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

Ingredients:

50ml gin

10–25ml French vermouth (to taste)

Method:

"Place a Martini-style glass in the freezer. Combine the gin and vermouth in a mixing vessel with plenty of ice – preferably one large cube. Stir patiently until the drink is sufficiently cold and the melting ice dilutes the cocktail enough to remove the gin burn.

"You can leave it for a minute or so while you prepare your garnish too: either a length of lemon zest (use a peeler) or a briny green olive. Strain the mixture into the frozen glass and consume immediately."

17. An Old Fashioned:

Ingredients:50ml bourbon (or rye)5ml golden sugar syrupA dash of Angostura bittersMethod:"Pour half the bourbon in the glass and add the sugar syrup and bitters. Add two ice cubes and stir. Add the rest of the bourbon, add another two ice cubes, and stir again. Then, finally, add two more ice cubes, stirring some more. Garnish with orange peel, being sure to twist it over the top of the glass first to release the citrus oils."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

Ingredients:

50ml bourbon (or rye)

5ml golden sugar syrup

A dash of Angostura bitters

Method:

"Pour half the bourbon in the glass and add the sugar syrup and bitters. Add two ice cubes and stir. Add the rest of the bourbon, add another two ice cubes, and stir again. Then, finally, add two more ice cubes, stirring some more. Garnish with orange peel, being sure to twist it over the top of the glass first to release the citrus oils."

18. A Silver Fizz:

Ingredients:50ml gin15ml lemon juice10ml golden sugar syrup15ml egg whiteFizzy waterAngostura bitters (optional)Method:"Combine the gin, lemon, sugar syrup, and egg white in a shaker with lots of ice. Shake vigorously to cool. Fine-strain the mixture into a spare vessel (i.e. through a a tea-strainer or sieve), discard the ice from the shaker, then shake the cocktail again without ice. This is to froth up the egg white into a delicious lemony foam. "Pour this mixture into a tall glass filled with fresh ice cubes, top with a little fizzy water, and give it a quick stir in an up-and-down direction to combine. You can garnish with a lemon wedge and/or a sprig of mint. A drizzle of Angostura bitters staining the froth also looks cool."
Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

Ingredients:

50ml gin

15ml lemon juice

10ml golden sugar syrup

15ml egg white

Fizzy water

Angostura bitters (optional)

Method:

"Combine the gin, lemon, sugar syrup, and egg white in a shaker with lots of ice. Shake vigorously to cool. Fine-strain the mixture into a spare vessel (i.e. through a a tea-strainer or sieve), discard the ice from the shaker, then shake the cocktail again without ice. This is to froth up the egg white into a delicious lemony foam.

"Pour this mixture into a tall glass filled with fresh ice cubes, top with a little fizzy water, and give it a quick stir in an up-and-down direction to combine. You can garnish with a lemon wedge and/or a sprig of mint. A drizzle of Angostura bitters staining the froth also looks cool."

19. And the ultimate G&T:

Ingredients:GinTonic waterLemon, lime and grapefruit slicesMethod:"Be generous with the gin (fill your glass halfway up), top with tonic water, then garnish with lemon, lime, and grapefruit."
Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

Ingredients:

Gin

Tonic water

Lemon, lime and grapefruit slices

Method:

"Be generous with the gin (fill your glass halfway up), top with tonic water, then garnish with lemon, lime, and grapefruit."

CORRECTION

The Mad Men character referred to above is Peggy Olsen. A previous version of this article called her Penny.