This post may need editing from time to time, as the way I stock my bar evolves as my tastes evolve.
The best way to build a home bar is drink by drink. You learn to make a drink by procuring that drink's ingredients. (If you like the drink a lot you will have to procure them again quickly, but you get the idea). Still, I thought it would be fun to give an idea of how my bar has evolved to this point, and lay down some basics. Part one of this post is a note on beer, wine, and straight liquor. In the second part I'll talk about tools, mixers, and so forth.
Beer and Wine
I am researching cellaring beer, but at this point my warm, dank, rowhome basement is not really suited to it. So I just keep a few styles on hand to suit my mood. I am just getting into pairing beer and food, so this may get more complicated. But in general I drink a lot of seasonal beers. Wheat beers in the summer, richer, stronger beers in the winter. I have recently been on a kick of high abv styles, like Belgian tripels. So maybe right now I have a bunch of stuff like that, then in a couple of weeks it will be Christmas brews, and so on. I also like to do comparisons, like I have two Brewdog bottles I am dying to crack, one is their regular IPA and one is that same beer aged in Islay scotch casks. Anyhow, I could write about beer all day, this post is really about cocktails but I thought I would say a word about the world's most versatile beverage. As far as wine, I don't have a wine fridge, and while I enjoy a decent red, wine isn't really my cup of tea, so to speak, and my wine stash consists of about 4-5 bottles for guests or if the mood strikes me. My wife sometimes drinks wine as a nightcap, but I much prefer my whisky.
Anything else you drink straight
You might like to sip gin, or brandy, or liqueur. I like to have a few different whiskies on hand. I am currently still on a big bourbon kick, but you never know when I'll get a craving to visit Islay, or have a spicy rye, save some money, or sip something special. Just to give you an idea of the type of range I mean, here is what I have right now:
Macallan 15 year Fine Oak Collection (sherried highland entry)
Springbank 10 (one of only 3 Campbelltown scotches)
Laphroaig 10 (smoky, peaty, seaweed, iodine, like no other)
Blanton's Single Barrel
Pappy Van Winkle 15 year (wheated)
Rock Hill Farms
High West Rye (Utah)
Tomorrow I'll get into the heart of stocking the home bar, but I couldn't begin without noting straight drinking, which is my favorite kind.