Home Bar Clean Out
By Laura Fagan Published March 2023
Spring cleaning isn't just for your closet and kitchen, friends! It's also the season to tackle the clutter on your home bar. It’s time to say goodbye to all those half-empty bottles and transform that mess into a well-curated collection of your favorite spirits. Luckily for you (and your lengthy spring cleaning to-do list), we’re here to help declutter your space, streamline your liquor collection and create a bar that not only looks amazing but also functions efficiently.
With these seven creative tips, you can easily turn that messy bar into a tasteful, tidy oasis and find new life for all those almost-gone bottles. Get ready to transform your bar from cluttered cocktail chaos to methodically made for a mixologist.
Tip #1: Keep the Staples
Let's be real, most of your tucked-away bottles haven’t been touched in years. When it comes to clearing out clutter, a good rule of thumb to help guide your bar cleanout is: if you haven’t poured it in over a year, it’s time to get rid of it.
But, before you blast your ‘90s alternative station and start sorting, remember: only sealed, unopened bottles can last forever. Once you twist off that cap, oxidation starts to happen, changing the flavor of your spirit. If a bottle has been open for over two years, it’s likely time to say goodbye, unless it's a high-value item. If it’s unopened and a pouring staple in your house – keep it. If you have any open crème liqueurs, it's likely time to ditch those too. So, what about your cream, dairy-based liqueurs you’ve been storing? Well, Baileys Original Irish Cream has a shelf life of 24-months for opened and unopened bottles, but make sure those bottles have been stored in cool locations and not in direct sunlight. Don’t forget to also check the expiration date.
To keep things simple, just hold on to the spirit essentials - vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, and basic liqueurs that you’re likely to use up during the rest of the year. Give the bottles a wipe down with a damp cloth and you’ll be good to go. We know parting is hard, but we promise it’s okay to let go of that 6-year-old bottle of butterscotch schnapps.
Does your home bar have racks of wine? Check out our expert’s tips on how to store it here.
Tip #2: Dust, Wipe & Sanitize
After you’ve sorted and selected which bottles you will save, it's time to roll up your sleeves and tackle the dirt, dust and grime. We recommend being intentional when it comes to cleaning - which means selecting the right products and tools. Not all products are created equal. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners that can damage your bar accessories or leave behind a residue. Instead, opt for mild, non-toxic cleaners that will leave your bar looking and smelling fresh. Start by using a micro-fiber cloth to give all those dusty bottles a once-over. Then, tackle those sticky shelves by wiping them down with warm, soapy water. Don't forget to get into all the nooks and crannies where dirt likes to hide. Any glassware should also get a good cleaning. For this, we recommend running them through the dishwasher and, once dry, try polishing them with a coffee filter for a super, streak-free shine. Lastly, give your bar tools and accessories a good scrubbing with hot, soapy water and sanitize them with a solution of one-part water to one-part vinegar. Take a few extra minutes to clean the spouts and nozzles on your liquor bottles (a straw brush is a great tool for this) the handles on your cocktail shakers and the crevices on your strainers and jiggers. It may seem like a small thing, but these little details can make a big difference in the overall look and feel of your home bar.
If you’re looking to start fresh or refresh some old bar accessories, browse our full accessory collection.
Tip #3: Repurpose for Cooking
We get it, tossing unwanted bottles can feel wasteful and also hit as a major party foul. So, why not find new life for those half-empty bottles in the kitchen? We recommend spiking your favorite sauces and desserts, or even saving leftover spirits to deglaze your pans while you perfect your culinary masterpieces. Adding a touch of booziness to your next meal by using your unwanted or near-end-of-life spirits saves money and folds in new flavors. Try making a vodka sauce for pasta, a boozy pumpkin dump cake with bourbon cream or add a splash of wine to your next dish.
Tip #4: Make a Batch Cocktail
After you’ve decided which bottles are staying and which are going, you’ll likely be left with a little bit of this and a little bit of that. So, let’s get creative and use up those almost-gone bottles to make a batch cocktail! Sangrias are a great choice for this since they use a few different ingredients, and the fruit-forward flavor is quite forgiving when combining several spirits and liqueurs. One of our favorite kitchen-sink styled recipes is the French Press Sangria:
3-4 orange slices
3-4 pineapple wedges
2-3 strawberries, sliced
4 ounces Cointreau Liqueur
4 ounces Jacquin's Blackberry Brandy
16 ounces Fog Bank Pinot Noir (make sure to use a fresh bottle of wine for this recipe)
In a French press with the lid and plunger removed, add the orange slices, pineapple wedges and sliced strawberries. Muddle lightly and add liqueurs and wine. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour to infuse the flavors. Using the lid and plunger, press down on the French press slowly. Pour into a glass over fresh fruit and ice.
Looking for other batch recipes to make your leftover spirits into something spectacular? Check out our full collection of family-size cocktails.
Tip #5: Infuse Your Leftover Spirits
Ready to turn that quarter bottle of tequila into something amazing? Infuse it, baby! This is a creative and clever way to repurpose remaining spirits, and there are countless flavor combinations. Simply put the rest of any base liquor in a mason jar with your favorite flavors or whatever you have in the fridge, pantry or herb garden. Let it sit for 3 days in a cool, dark place and then strain. Infused spirits are great for craft cocktails or to simply spice up your sipping. Try sliced jalapeños and cilantro for a spicy tequila or infuse vodka with rose hips, vanilla bean pods or your favorite fruits.
Tip #6: Create Your Own Whiskey Blend
Our next tip for all those little-bit-left whiskey bottles left on your shelves comes courtesy of Keeper’s Heart Irish + Bourbon Whiskey: transform them into a blend! Start small by blending two whiskeys in a sample size by taking your base whiskey and slowly added your second, tasting as you go. Once you are pleased with the final product, increase the portions and store in a decanter for a personalized blend that will continually evolve. The intricate blend of whiskeys will give it an unparalleled complexity. For the true connoisseurs, we recommend nerding out and keeping a record of each new whiskey addition and subtraction to track their presence in the blend.
Tip #7: Host a Tasting Party
When life gives you lemons and lots of leftover spirits – host a tasting party! No one said your bar cleanout has to be boring, so go ahead and declutter your bar by having some fun with friends. Invite them over for a tasting party where you'll sample all the half-full bottles in your stash. And because sharing is caring, ask your guests to bring their own leftover libations to add to the mix. You'll not only get rid of clutter, but you'll also discover new drinks and create lasting memories with your crew. Raise a glass and cheers to making the most out of what life hands you!
Spring cleaning is the perfect opportunity to take on your home bar and transform it into a sleek and organized space. Not only will you be able to better showcase your favorite labels and elevate your entertaining game, but it will also help you keep track of your liquor inventory to know when it’s time to visit an ABC store for a restock! For a well-equipped home bar, we recommend keeping vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, triple sec, vermouth and basic mixers on hand.