How to Stock a Bar: Tips From the World’s Best Bartender

We are all glad it's over. When it did end, in 1933, millions of Americans had to completely restock their barren bars. So on this anniversary, we thought we'd ask the best bartender in America, Dale DeGroff, how he would build his perfect bar from scratch.

If you've drank a cocktail in the U.S. in the past 20 years, the reason you're doing it is because of Dale. DeGroff is the man credited with bringing cocktails back in fashion, when he presided over the rebirth of New York City's Rainbow Room in the 1980s. Along the way, he earned the nickname King Cocktail and served drinks to everyone from John Gotti to Michael Bloomberg. DeGroff is also currently president of the Museum of the American Cocktail. The man knows booze. Here's how he would stock his bar, as well as some recipes for his take on classic drinks.


DeGroff says you only need to start with four good spirits: whiskey or bourbon, gin, vodka and tequila. And although not necessary, DeGroff is a big fan of having mezcal at home. To figure out what to purchase, DeGroff suggests polling your friends and seeing what they prefer. After all, they are the ones you'll be serving. But if they don't have preferences, don't push it. Decide for them.

Dale's a fan of value, and recommends Bulleit for bourbon, Tanqueray for gin and Ketel One for his vodka of choice.


You can't make drinks with alcohol alone. Bitters are essential to DeGroff, and not just because he's fashioning his own line. He routinely uses other types of bitters in his drinks, including Angostura and orange bitters. The only real way to find how they play off spirits is to try them all. Add a dash of different ones to a pour of whiskey. The contrast from bitter to bitter will be noticeable.

Also for your bar, you'll need sweet and dry vermouth for Manhattans and martinis, as well as Cointreau for margaritas and a bottle of Campari for Negronis, Boulevadiers and Americanos. From there you can make just about anything.

And always be sure to carry fresh fruit for slices and twists.


For mixing and shaking, DeGroff prefers the classic Boston shaker, metal on glass. That's the only way you can see what you are doing.

Dale also recommends heavy-bottomed shot glasses for your bar for two reasons. One, they are much harder to break and two, they are smaller than traditional shot glasses, which means you'll serve your friends a little less booze.

A paring knife for cutting fruit is a must, as well a peeler for getting good rinds. Two cocktail spoons are essential: A long one for stirring in the mixer and a short one for stirring in glasses.

As For Glasses

If you are only going to splurge on one, make it the double-old fashioned glass (also known as bucket glasses). It's big enough to handle cocktails but small enough to serve booze neat.

Along the way, you can splurge on Nick and Noras, traditional martini glasses, flutes, and an all-purpose wine glass.

And For Mixing Your First Drink…

It's no different than cooking DeGroff says. It's just as critical for an aspiring home bartender to learn their ingredients, as it is for a chef. And if you are going to master one drink first, DeGroff says to go with the Manhattan.

There you have it. From the man behind the American cocktail himself.

Click below for page two: Dale DeGroff's recipes for his favorite drinks


Dale's Holiday Old Fashioned


1.25 oz George Dickel No. 1
1 dash DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters
0.25 oz Dale’s Cherry Liqueur
0.5 oz Simple syrup
2 orange slices
2 cherries

Preparation: Muddle a cherry and orange slice with the syrup and liqueur and the dash of bitters in a bar mixing glass. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass add the whiskey and ice and stir Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry.

Bulleit Boulevardier (by Erskine Gwynne, editor of the Paris Boulevardier)


1.25 oz Bulleit Bourbon
1 oz Dolan Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Campari

Preparation: Pour ingredients into an Old Fashioned glass and stir with ice to chill. Garnish with orange zest.

Gin & IT (Amended from Frank Meier’s Recipe)


1.3 oz Tanqueray Gin
1.5 oz Punt e Mes

Preparation: Prepare in a pitcher 2 hours in advance and refrigerate covered. Serve in a small coup glass without ice or in a small bar glass with ice. Garnish with orange zest.

General Harrison's Eggnog


1.3 oz. George Dickel Rye
.75 oz. mixture of equal parts egg white, sugar and syrup
1 dash DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters
2 oz. apple cider

Preparation: Build in a glass or mug and dust the top with nutmeg.