Cocktails at Home

Maybe it’s the popularity of the hit cable television show Mad Men, but it seems having a home bar is very much back in vogue. Entertaining at home during that era, the 1950s and 1960s, was all the rage. Think back to that scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s when Holly Golightly invited what looked like her entire New York City neighborhood up to her apartment for drinks. Everyone was dressed to the nines and having a good time (well, maybe a little too much fun!). Oh, the glamour!

We’ve come back to that place, where entertaining at home has gained a tremendous amount of popularity again and having a bar setup with all of the essentials is an absolute must. Of course the ideal setup would include a built-in bar, with a wide counter and lots of space for storage, seating and even a mini-refrigerator for all of those must haves such as citrus and fresh mint.

While most of us may not have the space or the budget for such a setup, a bar cart will do just fine. We love the idea of transforming a lonely corner of a living room or den into a full-service bar, ready to serve your guests at any time.

Essentially a multi-tiered serving trolley, a bar cart can serve two purposes. It can hold and display all of your cocktail accoutrements (glasses, tools, bottles, stirrers, etc.), while it can also take your cocktails on the go. Having that mobility lets you serve guests wherever they may be. Oh, and did I mention how chic and glamorous they can be? You can often find vintage brass carts decked out with beautiful mirrored trays at local antique shops or online auction websites such as 1stDibs and eBay, however they can cost up to $3,000.

If you’re looking for a less expensive setup, try something like Z Gallerie’s Lexington Mirrored Butler Tray. With storage for glasses and bottles and a removable tray for serving, at $259.95, it makes for a more affordable yet attractive, functional bar.

After choosing your bar cart, you’re ready for accessorizing it. Part of the charm of having an at-home bar is putting your most attractive glasses, decanters and bottles on display. Monogrammed glasses and a sassy set of drink coasters or cocktail napkins make a bold statement, as would a silver ice bucket and martini shaker. You don’t want to clutter things up, but a few thoughtful objects here and there will give it the right touch.

Now, what to stock? First think about your tastes and the tastes of your guests. If you are a vodka-gin-scotch sort of crowd, then that’s where to begin. Be sure to have a bottle of your favorite brand of each. Then, it’s a good idea to have mix-ins such as bitters and soda water on hand. If your tastes are a little more exotic, stock up on mixers such as St. Germain, an elderflower liquor to punch up champagne or prosecco or keep a bottle of Cointreau around for those Cosmopolitans.

Fresh add-ins such as lemons, limes, olives and cherries are a must too. Just keep them stored in your refrigerator. Then, when you’re ready to entertain, arrange the olives and cherries in decorative bowls and keep lemons and limes whole, paired with a small knife and a cutting board so your guests can help themselves.

Now, if you’re aspiring to be a mixologist or simply a collector of cocktail recipes, it’s a good idea to store your books nearby, rather than in a separate room. Make room on your bar cart for one or two of your go-to books, so you’ll be ready to serve up your favorite recipes.

If wine is your passion, a compact wine refrigerator is a great way to store your favorite selections and keep them at the right temperature. There are models that can hold a dozen bottles or three times that amount, depending on the space you have. Another interesting idea is a wall-mounted version I spotted on WineEnthusiast.com that frees up floor space and keeps up to six bottles ready to go.

With your wine bottles safely tucked away and a bar cart fully stocked, you’ll be well on your way to hosting the best cocktail party ever. Cheers!

Photo by Tom Koto Photography

lauren debellis

A former magazine editor, Lauren DeBellis has been writing and producing stories about home decorating and design for nearly ten years. She resides in East Northport with her husband.