How to Stock the Bar Like a Pro

Automatic Seafood & Oysters

Much like a well stocked pantry, every home needs a well-rounded bar equipped with the basics to craft a few classic cocktails. Build yours based on a few favorite cocktails that you enjoy and know how to make like a pro. Think classics such as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Martini, Margarita, Daiquiri, Whiskey Soda, Mint Julep, Bloody Mary, Whiskey Sour, Tom Collins, Gin & Tonic, Vodka & Soda, or Tequila & Tonic.

We caught up with Jose Medina Camacho, Lead Bartender of newly opened Automatic Seafood & Oysters in Lakeview to get his choice liquor recommendations. (If you haven’t been there yet, GO! Tonight!)

Old Forester 1920 or Old Forester 100 proof (Budget Choice)
“Old Forester as a brand has something for everyone, hits all price points and all palates.”

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask or Monkey Shoulders Blended Scotch (On A Budget)
“Monkey Shoulders is great for your everyday drinking and mixing and Balvenie is good when you want to treat yourself.”

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Rye Whiskey
Pikesville straight rye or George Dickel Rye (On A Budget)
“Again Dickel Rye is great for cocktails and Pikesville for when you want something neat.”

Beefeater gin (On A Budget) or Plymouth gin
“Plymouth Martinis are my jam. I don’t always drink cocktails, but when I do it’s a 50/50 martini equal parts dry Vermouth and Plymouth.”

Don Q Cristal (On A Budget) or Plantation 3 star
“These are best for Daiquiris.”

Cathead Vodka (On A Budget) or Absolut Elyx
“Cathead is a great choice for the everyday drinker. Absolut Elyx is just clean, almost like water.”

Vida Mezcal (On A Budget ) or Ilegal Joven
Lunazul Blanco (On A Budget ) or Siete Leguas Tequila Blanco
“Mezcal and tequila, both made from agave varieties, are some of my favorite libations. I love vegetal notes, funk and smoke, making agave my go to choice.”

Punt E Mes Italian Vermouth (for the Manhattan, Negroni, Americano)
Dolin Dry French Vermouth (for the Martini, Vermouth and Soda)


Bitters For the Home Bar
Peychaud’s Bitters

Mixers for the Bar
Fever Tree Tonic
Fever Tree Ginger Beer
Topo Chico Mineral Water
Charleston Bloody Mary mix
“Santa Cruz Lemon and Lime juice are great when you don’t have time to juice. At Automatic we squeeze juice daily. When it comes to syrups, I like to go by weight: Simple Syrup 1:1, Demerara Syrup 2:1”

If this list seems overwhelming, just start small and buy those items needed to make a few of your favorite drinks and then you can expand if you’d like to experiment with more trendy libations.

We suggest you build your bar one cocktail at a time or, even better, create a signature cocktail or two that you always have on hand to offer your guests, like the Moby Dick (recipe below), served at Automatic Seafood & Oysters.

Photo courtesy of Polished Pig Media

Moby Dick

1.5 oz George Dickel Rye
.75 oz Campari (*Infused with strawberry)
.5 Italian Vermouth
2 dash Rhubarb Bitters

Mix, shake it cold and pour into an ice cube-filled glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

Strawberry Infused Campari

1 bottle 750ml Campari
2 lbs fresh local strawberries, diced

Combine Campari and strawberries. Let sit for 24 hours. Then strain and refrigerate until use.

Once you have your bar items on hand, you’ll need to find a space to house them with the necessary glassware, gadgets and tools. (Jose recommends Cocktail Kingdom, which has all his favorite tools, like the Koriko Shaker Tins and the Kiruto Mixing Glass).

Here are a few of our favorite examples of home bars.

A pair of painted doors opens to reveal a built-in bar in this design by Jan Ware.

A steel framed cabinet in this Katrina Porter Designs home lends an industrial vibe to this bar.
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Beautiful, simple lines make the Fantome Bar Cart from Niermann Weeks an ideal bar cart for an elegant small bar. This bar cart is one of designer Iris Thorpe’s favorite pieces. Iris & Co is the exclusive Niermann Weeks dealer in Birmingham.
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A cocktail handbook is handy to have on hand if you are a novice bartender. A built-in bar anchoring one end of the kitchen offers floating shelves, backed by a mirror, to display a collection of vintage glasses and barware in this Chickadee designed home.
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An antique pine hutch-turned-bar fits in beautifully in Stephanie Lynton’s sophisticated pantry.
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Marianne Strong mixes glass vases and crystal decanters with black and white photography and a pop of color to create this lovely bar vignette.
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