Setting up a home bar can be an expensive proposition. Plan ahead and start building over the course of several months so you don't blow you budget all at once. We have even suggested a "Stock Your Bar" Party where guests are asked to bring one bottle of liquor and you provide all of the mixers. It may sound a little pushy, but when you think about it, it is no different than bringing a bottle of wine as a host gift. Right?

Print out some of your favorite cocktail recipes on cards and have them near the bar area. For Mardi Gras we suggest some standards from the Crescent City like hurricane, caipirinha, sazerac and milk punch. (click here for those cocktail recipes) Keeping "Mr. Boston" close at hand is a great way to experiment with some new and exotic cocktails.

Along with beer and wine, here are the ingredients for a well-stocked bar.

1. Vodka - This is the workhorse of the home bar. It is used in many basic drinks like screw drivers, vodka tonics and martinis. Don't buy the cheapest or you and your guests will live to regret it. But on the other hand, you don't have to go super premium either unless you can really afford it. Mid-priced brands such as Absolut, Smirnoff Red and Finlandia are perfect.

2. Gin - A clear spirit that is flavored with juniper berries. You will find that, compared to other spirits, gin is relatively dry. Therefore, it is often mixed with with sweeter ingredients like tonic water or vermouth. The traditional martini is made with gin. For reliable brands look at Gordon's or Gilbey's.

3. Scotch or Irish Whiskey - Invest in a good blended whiskey. They tend to be the most flexible. Try Johnny Walker Red or Grants.

4. Bourbon - This is the American version of whiskey. The distinctive flavor comes from the fact that it is made with 51% corn. Jack Daniels or Jim Beam.

5. Tequila - Made from the blue agave plant which is a relative of the aloe. It can be enjoyed straight, but is most commonly found in margaritas and tequila sunrises. Cuervo Gold.

6. Rum - This liquor, made from distilled sugarcane can also be enjoyed straight, but it is in those summer fruity drinks like daiquiries and pina coladas. Choose a light rum over a dark or spiced style as it offer more flexibility. Bacardi.

1. Vermouth - white and red. Add a drop of dry white vermouth for a martini. Sweet red vermouth is found in a manhattan. Noilly Prat (dry), Cinzano (sweet).

2. Cointreau - This is a sweet, orange flavored liquor added to margaritas and cosmopolitans. You can also use Triple Sec.

3. Angostura Bitters - These are concentrated bitters included in an old-fashioned and a manhattan.

4. Campari - not everyone likes this anise flavored liquor, but some absolutely swear by it. Mix it with gin to make the potent Negroni.

5. Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and Grenadine.

mineral water, cola, club soda, ginger ale, lemon-lime soda, tonic water, still water, lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, tomato juice, coconut cream

olives, cocktail onions, lemons, limes, oranges, maraschino cherries, strawberries, celery, pineapple, bananas, cucumber, mint, salt, pepper, sugar

cocktail shaker and strainer, ice-cube trays and ice bucket, spirit measure (also called a jigger), tongs, small sharp knife (a sharp serrated steak knife with a thin blade is excellent), corkscrew, bottle opener, cutting board, straws, cocktail napkins, toothpicks, cocktail umbrellas and swizzle sticks (if you are in the mood), large pitcher, measuring spoons