I know a thing or two about setting up the perfect bar, so I’m sharing with you everything you need to know to have an amazing home bar — including things you should avoid at all costs!
- Choose the Proper Setting: You don’t just stock a bar and call it a day. Instead, decide exactly what you want your bar to be. Is it going to be a backdrop or is it going to be the main event? If it’s the latter, have fun with it. Stock your bar with various mixers and fun garnishes. This way, you make the bar the actual party.
- Stock the Essentials: Your bar simply won’t be a bar without these six must-have liquors – vodka, scotch, gin, rum, tequila and a whiskey or bourbon. You can also have a lot of fun with flavored liquors, like coconut vodka (which tastes great with pineapple juice!). Get creative with it, but stocking up the essentials will allow you to make virtually any drink your guests might order.
- Various Mixers: When most people think of home bar mixers, they think of orange juice and soda. Those are good standbys but don’t forget the sweet and sour mix and tonic. I recommend that you go out and buy a few cans of 7-Up, other types of soda, tonic, and ginger ale. Along with the sweet and sour mix, these can be stored behind the bar so they’re always available when you need them.
- Garnishes: Garnishes add a bit of fun to a cocktail. Fresh fruit is critical – have plenty of lemons, limes, cherries, and orange slices on hand. Other fun garnishes include jelly beans, dried fruits, and even marshmallows. I like to take marshmallows and roast them, then put them in a bowl so my guests can add them in their cocktails for a lively treat.
- Spend $2 on Good Ice: Go out and spend a couple bucks on good quality ice you can actually see through. You don’t take a great drink and put it in city-tasting ice. If you are going to have a party at home, go out and buy a bag of crystal clear ice. Don’t use the ice from your refrigerator — it’s too cloudy and doesn’t have that crystal clarity to it.
- The Proper Glassware: Have various sizes of glassware, such as short glasses, tall glasses, and stemware. You can serve an entire party of guests in 6-8 glasses of each size.
- Bar Tools: You can’t make a proper drink without the proper tools! Your standby bar tools should include a glass mixing cup, a metal mixing cup, a Hoffman strainer and a jigger.
- Simplify Your Menu: Instead of trying to make a dozen different cocktails, I recommend picking one simple drink and making it great, such as a margarita – the most popular mixed cocktail in America. In addition to mixed drinks, you might want to stock your bar with bottles of wine and some craft beer just to round your selection out.
- Stay Away From Shots! Forget serving up shots, which will end up making your guests way too intoxicated far too quickly. The idea of a home bar isn’t to get everyone wasted in as little as time as possible. It’s to relax and have fun. So instead of straight shots of alcohol, go for juices and mixers, which will make your drinks fun and entertaining.
- Be Considerate of Your Guests: Don’t let your friends drive home drunk after your party. Use an Uber and find them a ride home instead. And for those guests who are non-drinkers, include a few ‘interesting’ non-alcoholic beverage options on your menu. Mixing juice and berries or even freshly-squeezed orange and grapefruit juice with a splash of seltzer can make for some nice and refreshing virgin cocktails
Don’t be afraid to start off small. You can always expand your bar as you get better at hosting. As long as you stick to the essentials, have your mixers on hand and your garnishes, you’ll be well on your way to becoming your neighborhood’s favorite at-home bartender.