Tips for setting up your home bar for the holidays and beyond

The bar cart, once relegated to posh hotels and scenes from old movies, exploded in popularity in the 2010s. Vacation entertainment has cooled off during the coronavirus pandemic, but as people greet friends and family back home, they seem to have turned their attention to their home bar setup: searches for glassware, glassware or bar have increased 146% over the past year, while searches for bar and bar cart Accessories are also on the rise, noted Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy’s trends expert.

A well-appointed bar cart adds style and functionality to your home. Here’s how to put one together.

Store versatile basics

You don’t need all the spirits, bitters, or simple syrups in your home bar for a party. “The home bar experience is going to be very different, and if you try to replicate what you can do in a restaurant, you will never be able to do it,” said Chad Spangler, co-founder of DC cocktail spot. Service bar. Focus on the building blocks of drinks that you personally enjoy and those that you would like to share with your guests. To avoid being stuck at the bar mixing drinks all night, offer a drink that can be made in bulk and served in a pitcher or punch bowl. Store at least one bottle of vodka, gin, whiskey, and scotch, as well as a tequila or mezcal on the cart to cover the basics of popular brewed drinks such as martinis, manhattans, old-fashioned, and negronis.

Expect to spend at least $ 30 per bottle and start with legacy names if you’re unsure of what to buy. “Don’t buy the cheapest thing, but you don’t have to buy the most expensive thing,” Spangler said.

Once you have the basics, add more funky and specific choices, like a bottle of Bailey’s for holiday cocktails, or something unexpected, like sherry or port. Remember to offer tea or coffee and non-alcoholic drinks to non-drinkers.

Tonics are versatile mixers. Store other blenders, simple syrups, vermouths and bitters in the refrigerator; Spangler said Angostura bitters are probably what you’ll need “95 times out of 100”. Plan toppings that match the drinks you want to serve, like olives, Luxardo brandy cherries for Manhattans, and citrus fruits like limes and lemons, which you may already have in your kitchen.

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Choose your equipment

Many bar tool sets come with plenty of parts, but a small stable of well-made tools will do. A one or two ounce Japanese-style jigger, which is more elongated and narrower than other types, is “the most needed bar piece,” Spangler said; it is used to measure and pour the ingredients. A shaker is essential for any home bartender who enjoys smoothies; get a set of two weighted shaker boxes. Avoid the three-piece cobbler-style shakers that come with a built-in strainer, Spangler said, as they can easily get stuck.

A Hawthorne colander, a wide base mixing glass and a cocktail spoon with a fine handle will complete your collection. Spangler recommends Cocktail Kingdom for well-made tools.

Glassware depends on your favorite drinks, but Spangler said a wineglass core with a stem, whiskey glasses, and V-shaped martini and Collins glasses can work well with most cocktails.

Choose the right furniture

Decide if the cart is primarily intended for display, storage, or for mixing and serving drinks. Look for carts with shelving and organization aids. “I recommend three shelves if you are going to use it in a functional way, but if you just want a fun and cute accent in the corner of your apartment, I think two shelves would be nice,” said Abby Price, founder of New York City. home. Abbode decoration store. Multifunctional parts are the best; some may have flaps that extend to serve or come with built-in storage racks.

The best home bar might not even be a cart. Consider wall bars, shelving and credenza / cabinets, or even a small dresser. Anna Franklin, interior designer and founder of Stone House Collective, uses antique porcelain furniture as a bar and entertainment station in her home outside of Milwaukee.

Keep it organized

Glassware, decanters, vases, bowls, ice buckets, pitchers, and plants can all play a part in your setup, but don’t overload the top. Bundle glassware, decor and liquor together to make life more pleasing to the eye, said Roxy Owens, founder of furniture and home decor company Society Social.

Arrange items on larger trays so everything is organized and easier to move, Price said. Present drink toppings in pretty bowls. Anything on the cart must be used for something, because “when you clutter things up and things spill out all over the place, it hurts the future.” And don’t pack it with bottles. Keep the rear stock hidden.

Objects of different heights create visual interest. “It’s important to keep the higher elements in the back and move forward,” Franklin said. Use cocktail books as risers to vary the glassware if it is the same height. If the cart is a drink station, logically place it in the order someone would brew a drink, with liquors on one end and toppings on the other.

Personalize your home bar

Pick all the accessories you want as long as they are useful. Coasters protect the surfaces of your home and can add patterns and colors. Martini drinkers may display unusual olive picks or shakers. Isom Johnson of Etsy suggested drink charms or labels to make sure everyone’s glass stays theirs. Franklin loves seasonal cocktail napkins.

Natural elements such as greenery and flowers add an easy holiday touch. Owens loves the look of the magnolia, boxwood wreaths, and satin ribbons. The award favors dried flowers and branches with festive red berries. Franklin suggests cutting down the evergreens and displaying them in a tall vase.

Stronger accents include string lights, garlands, garlands, ceramic or paper trees, and holiday figurines. Price stocks tree sculptures covered with mirrors that look like mirror balls. Take out heirlooms and vintage pieces. “All that glitters is a lovely way to incorporate a comfortable vacation atmosphere,” Franklin said. “Light a candle that reflects off the glassware. And think about what’s upstairs: extend the good mood above the bar with decorative panels or artwork.

Glassware doesn’t have to be simple or boring. An interesting carafe, pitcher or ice bucket can be a conversation piece. Look to local thrift stores, estate sales, neighborhood groups and loved ones for vintage glassware and bar accessories. For retail items, Franklin scours sales at West Elm and Crate & Barrel, and splurges at RH and Z Gallerie. She likes Anthropologie for a vintage feel and also suggests Target for budget choices. Pick cool glasses and give them as a gift at the end of the night. “You can almost match the glasses with someone’s personality,” Isom Johnson said.

Above all, don’t focus on creating a photo-ready display at the expense of fun, Isom Johnson said. Remember: “The main purpose of a bar cart is to bring joy to you and your guests. “

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