Being in the midst of the holiday season with parties and guests dropping by, it might be useful to set up a sort of makeshift bar area at home to make entertaining a little less stressful. You can put a lot of money into this or you can keep it very budget friendly if you plan wisely.
A home bar can be set up virtually anywhere you have a little space–on a buffet table, a sofa table pushed up against the wall, a desk, an old card table covered with a festive table cloth, or even just a cabinet in your kitchen would work. But remember, if you want guests to serve themselves then you’ll want to have a bar that is visible and easily accessible.
While you can definitely get more or less elaborate than what the following suggestions offer, these are the basics to get you on your way.
What you need will be determined by what you are planning to serve. These are some of the essentials, but you may not need them all:
>> Ice in an ice bucket or other container
>> Wine opener & bottle opener
>> Bar spoon (I use an ice tea spoon, just something with a long handle to stir with)
>> Cocktail shaker
>> Shot glass or jigger
For everyday use in your home bar, you only need six or eight of each of these three basic types. You may want to double up if you’re planning a larger party:
>> Short glasses
>> Tall glasses
>> Stemware if you plan to serve martinis, wine or champagne at your parties
I invested in 24 very basic and inexpensive stemmed wineglasses in a shape that is appropriate for both red and white, but you can purchase separate sets of glasses if you prefer. When I have a large crowd, I serve other drinks in addition to just wine–margaritas, screwdrivers, and even rum and coke–in the stemware for the ladies and that leaves the tumblers for the men. It’s also fun to add little festive charms to the wine glasses and you wouldn’t be able to do this with a regular glass.
The trip to the liquor store will be the most expensive aspect of setting up your home bar. You can spend a lot of money here by buying 15 brands of expensive flavored vodkas, whiskeys, etc., but it really isn’t necessary. You can make all sorts of fun, creative cocktails with about a half-dozen base spirits and a few mixers.
With the base spirits, you will be able to mix up most of the cocktail classics and also have enough ingredients so that you can play around and have some fun coming up with some cool drinks of your own. This should also leave you a little extra money to buy a better brand of liquor if you prefer. Again, decide what you want to have available for your guests or what you will be serving before you shop and then purchase accordingly to cut down on this cost.
>> Cognac: For sidecars, brandy milk punches, crustas, daisies, and smashes.
>> White Rum: For daiquiris and mojitos.
>> Gin: For martinis , gin and tonics, and Tom Collins.
>> Bourbon: For Manhattans, old fashioneds, and whiskey sours.
>> Vodka: For basic drinks such as vodka tonics, screwdrivers, and the vodka martini .
>> Tequila: For margaritas, sunrises, and La palomas. The best tequilas are made from 100% agave, so you might want to check the label if you’re looking for top-shelf stuff.
>> Cointreau: This is often considered a bar essential with its clean, natural orange flavor, and it’s not too sweet. But buy it only if you need it.
>> Red Vermouth: For Manhattans.
>> White Vermouth: For authentic martinis.
>> Tonic, Soda water and Sodas
You don’t have to be an alcohol drinker to offer a “bar” at your party. There are plenty of festive “virgin” (non-alcoholic) drinks that you can serve made basically the same way as the other drinks minus the alcohol.
Even if you are serving alcoholic, don’t forget the designated drivers or the non-drinkers. Offer a mix of flavored water, juices, sodas, coffee and other non-alcoholic drinks for those who want other choices.
I set up my home bar a few years ago and it is still there. I “graduated” from a make-shift bar on my buffet table to a very inexpensive mail order piece that I put together myself. I decided I really liked the look of it and the convenience for when friends stopped by, so it stayed! I don’t use it that often, but I’m glad it’s there when I need or want it.