It’s the 2020 Derby Week that wasn’t (see y’all on Labor Day weekend, we hope), and we’re dipping into past issues of Food & Dining Magazine. Tim and Lori Laird’s home bar setup advice gives you a leg up for the eventual return of gatherings. Until then, may it be a solace to our time of quarantine.

Many of us host parties during Derby Season and from the entertaining front, the home bar is the center of attention. Here is a guide to help you get that home bar up and running.

For beginning entertainers, the bar is a place to build upon as you start to entertain more often. Don’t worry about getting everything all at once. Build your tools, spirits and glass collection a little at a time.

I recommend you invest in the proper tools and buy the best. Quality tools will last you a lifetime and add to the elegance of your bar. For glassware, start with a nice Chardonnay glass. These glasses can multi-task as white, red and even sparkling glasses.

The bar is an important component to entertaining. There are a few must-have tools, spirits, mixers, condiments and glassware items that equip a home bar able to satisfy any guest. Start with the basics and build as you go. And always remember to be a responsible host and offer plenty of alcohol-free choices.

(Originally published in the Spring 2011 issue of Food & Dining)

Tennessee whiskey
Triple Sec or orange liqueur
Raspberry liqueur


Lemon juice (fresh)
Lime juice (fresh)
Sweetened lime juice
Lemon-lime soda
Club soda
Tonic water
Orange juice
Tomato juice
Pineapple juice
Grapefruit juice
Cranberry juice


Bitters (regular and orange)
Grenadine syrup
Tabasco sauce
Superfine sugar
Cream (heavy and light)
Simple syrup


Cocktail olives
Cocktail onions
Maraschino cherries
Fresh mint

Three types will satisfy your needs for most cocktails. Look for glassware that is simple in shape, easy to handle and with a thin lip or rim.

Rocks or bucket glass
Collins or tall
Martini or cocktail




Bar Tools

  • Good insulated ice bucket that doesn’t sweat when filled with ice
  • Ice scoop or tongs
  • Cobbler shaker (three pieces: tin, top with strainer and cap)
  • Boston shaker (two pieces: mixing glass and tin)
  • Mixing glass
  • Wine key or opener
  • Measuring cups
  • Hawthorn and Julep strainers (Hawthorn holds back the ice and larger ingredients, the Julep will help with any pulp or other materials)
  • Microplane zester for zesting fruit
  • Sharp knife to cut fruit
  • Juicer
  • Channel knife for creating twists
  • Muddler


  • Cocktails are the life of the party. A well-made drink highlights the spirit, while balancing other flavors.
  • The original cocktails were quite simple. In 1806, a newspaper article described them as a spirit of any kind, water, sugar and bitters.
  • Many of the originals, like the Manhattan and Daiquiri, have stood the test of time.
  • The Manhattan is whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters.
  • The classic Daiquiri is rum, lime juice and simple syrup.
  • Today there are many recipes and new concoctions for cocktails with a vast array of flavors and ingredients. Bartenders are becoming bar chefs as they experiment with new ingredients, herbs and spices. I invite you to try new flavors and spirits at home as well. Here are a few tips on making and designing cocktails.


  • Always measure each ingredient.
  • Always use fresh ingredients when possible.
  • Unless a recipe calls for crushed ice, always use large cubes of fresh, solid ice so your cocktail will not become overly diluted.
  • If a recipe calls for crushed ice, place the large cubes in a clean bar towel, wrap, and crush by hammering with a rolling pin.
  • Never reuse ice in a cocktail shaker.
  • Fill ice cube trays with bottled or filtered water to avoid “off” flavors.
  • When serving a drink over ice, always fill the glass with ice all the way to the top, then fill with the chilled cocktail from the shaker or glass.
  • Always fill your shaker two-thirds full of ice and shake for a good 25 seconds. Never shake carbonated beverages.
  • Don’t forget to garnish.