white wine glass on letterpress coaster

Congratulations on obtaining a brand new liquor license! Whether you’re opening a new business, moving from BYOB to full bar service, or just expanding your menu to include beer and wine, you’re taking on the big task of starting a bar from scratch. There’s a lot to know, like what types of beer are most popular, what kind of glass you serve a Whiskey Sour in, and whether tonic and club soda the same thing.

We’re breaking down the beer and wine basics, throwing in some tips for mixed drinks, and rounding out all of the essentials you’ll need to stock your new bar.

Beer & Wine Basics

You don’t have to house hundreds of beers on tap to have a successful selection of beers. Even a small beer list will keep your customers happy, as long as you include a variety of the most common types of beer.

  • American ale (amber, brown, IPA, pale)
  • American stout or English-style brown porter
  • German-style pilsener or German-style Kolsch
  • Belgian-style Saison or farmhouse ale
  • American wheat or Belgian-style witbier

Same goes with wines — you don’t need an elaborate wine cellar (unless that’s what you love) to put together a simple, well-thought-out wine list. Just as with beer, you’ll want to offer variety to suit the tastes of your customers. Make your selections from these primary wine varieties:

  • Reisling
  • Pinot Gris
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Sparkling
  • Pinot Noir
  • Rosé
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon

Also, consider:

  • If you are a dining establishment, give some thought to what beers or wines will pair well with your menu and add suggestions for each entree.
  • Add a few mainstream favorites but also expand your selection with local craft beers or local wines to attract a neighborhood following.
  • Change out your drink menu based on seasonality.

Tips on Mixed Drinks

If your drink menu expands beyond beer and wine, you’ll need to stock your bar with liquor as well. Most popular mixed drinks can be made with the following liquors:

  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Tequila
  • Whiskey
  • Scotch
  • Bourbon
  • Rum

Other mixed drink tips:

  • A bar should be stocked with three levels of liquor: well, call and premium
  • If you’re hesitant to purchase too much of a particular type of liquor (a full case), you can ask your supplier about buying a split or mixed case.

Served In A . . .

Presentation is everything! When you’re starting a bar, it may be tempting to try to save money by using one-size-fits-all glasses for serving drinks; but, go the extra mile to buy appropriate glasses for the different drinks you plan to serve. It will make your establishment seem more refined and enhance the flavor of the drinks that your customers are enjoying.

Here’s a round-up of what types of drink glasses you should have on hand:red cocktail served on a square beer mat

  • Wine glasses (for red and white)
  • Shot glasses
  • Pilsner glasses
  • Pint glasses
  • Champagne glasses
  • Martini glasses
  • Highball glasses
  • Collins glasses

Behind the Bar Essentials

Beyond the beer, wine, and liquor, and the glasses you serve them in, there are other bar essentials that you need to have on hand when you’re starting a bar. These items may often be forgotten so don’t be caught empty handed!


  • Tonic
  • Club soda
  • Orange juice
  • Cranberry juice
  • Simple syrups
  • Bitters
  • Creme de menthe
  • Grenadine
  • Vermouth
  • Stirrers


  • Lemon and lime wedges
  • Orange slices
  • Cherries
  • Olives
  • Cutting board & pairing knife

Paper Goods

Bar Equipment

  • Blender
  • Shakers & strainers
  • Corkscrews & bottle openers
  • Glass rack or glass mat
  • Pour tops
  • Double Jiggers

Get your bar stocked with an assortment of custom printed paper goods for opening night! View Alfred Mank’s selection and request a quote and samples.