It’s the time of year to eat, drink and be MARry. This December, how can we best serve our taste buds and our guests? Well, it all starts with a well-appointed and stocked bar.
Remember the Rat Pack, that group of amazing entertainers led by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin? They elevated the concept of cocktail hour to an art. Truth be told, having a cocktail with your spouse or friends is a great way to end the day and begin the evening. It is especially nice when you make it from your own bar. I love my home bar so much. I want to share with you how easy it is to create a beautiful cocktail / mocktail center in your home. Whether you’re serving alcohol or alcohol-free beverages, serving it from a bar, large or small, is civilized, gracious and elevates the experience.
SMARt tip: Think of BAR as standing for “Beverage Access Ritual.”
If you have children in your home, you may wish to keep your liquor under lock and key, or at least out of reach. This is how I grew up. The liquor cabinet was opened only for special occasions. If you’re like me and you do not have children or yours are grown, it’s not an issue and the bar can be a permanent display of Casual Luxury. Many homes are built with wet bars in the living room (or “great” room as family rooms are sometimes called these days.) This special area is usually complete with a working sink that is specifically for cocktails or other adult beverages like espresso or cappuccino. These bars are, of course, highly functional and wonderful for entertaining, but even small homes like mine boast a proper bar area.
The first place to start is location, location, location. I use an antique Swedish desk as a console behind one of the loveseats in my living room. This furniture actually divides the open floor plan between the living and dining rooms so it’s a perfect spot for a tabletop bar. I also have an antique chair upholstered in black leather with nail heads that sit right under the desk. The desk and chair serve two purposes: style and function. The great thing about using an old desk is that it has drawers. (Just don’t buy a matching desk and chair — you don’t want it to look like a home office.) In the drawers, I store a bar towel, cocktail napkins, additional stirrers and extra coasters. You can also create a bar in the hutch of a breakfront or on a shelf of a bookcase. Any place that will hold a tray is suitable for a bar.
Here’s what I recommend to create your own bar:
- A tray
- 4 glasses
- Ice bucket
- Ice tongs
- Cocktail napkins
- MARtini shaker and Other Bar Accouterments
- 1-3 decanters
Let’s start with the tray. The tray can also be for serving, but here it is the foundation you will build on so it is really critical to find something interesting, durable and cohesive with your dÌ©cor. Year’s ago I discovered a wonderful black patent leather faux alligator tray with nail heads that are 14″ by 20″. It’s plenty big but you could do something smaller if space is limited, or even larger, space permitting. You can find trays made out of Lucite, mirror, wood, plastic and lots of materials that look like wood, alligator, leather, etc. Find one that works with your dÌ©cor. Remember to tie the pieces together through color or style. Do not be afraid to be bold with your tray. Use it to create a focal point in the room or, if you decide to get wild, you can hide it in a cabinet when it’s not in use.
Let’s not be confused here, folks. This is not a wine station. Those items you will find in my kitchen. This is a traditional bar”_just the way I like it. Four is the perfect number of glasses. Not too many nor too few. What is critical is that you have nice, heavy, substantial tumblers from which to drink. I drink cognac from tumblers. Some may prefer a snifter. Whatever glasses you do use, store them upside down to protect them from dust.
I prefer a glass ice bucket because it takes zero space visually, and use one that is smaller in scale. It allows you to see items adjacent to it or behind it giving the illusion of a larger space.
Silver or silver-plated works for me as it reflects light and complements the glass ice bucket. The tongs are conveniently stored on the lip of the ice bucket.
Cocktail stirrers come in all styles and materials from sterling to plastic to wood. It’s always a good idea to have some on hand on your bar. The last thing you want to be doing is stirring a cocktail with your finger. I have a beautiful small tortoiseshell serving spoon that was a gift. It’s actually for caviar but I love it so much that I keep it proudly displayed on my bar for the occasional mixed drink.
Here is where you can kick it up a notch. While I love funny and whimsical paper cocktail napkins, I really adore my cotton cocktail napkins, starched and pressed by Yours Truly. (It’s part of my therapy. Of course, I’m often having a cocktail during the process!) It’s also an example of my casual luxury concept at its best. They truly make a statement, as such a small detail makes people so happy and appreciative.
MARtini Shaker and Other Bar Accouterments:
Although I don’t regularly make MARtinis at this station, I love having a fun MARtini shaker available for visual interest and because MARtinis are synonymous with a classic bar. I keep a monogrammed flask as well; for those times when I need a kick on the go, such as picnics and sports events, it’s ready and waiting for me when I need it. It’s such an old-fashioned, classic part of being well stocked and prepared for anything.
Whether antique, reproduction, cut glass or crystal, decanters are a great way to elevate your bar. They are easily found in the home, gift, fine jewelry, and china stores as well as off-price stores. I chose to buy new decanters that are reproductions of old-world style decanters because of the lead issue. The problem is that the long-term storage of liquor in lead crystal decanters can result in small but significant amounts of lead leaching into the liquor. This is serious, people. While I love antique items and accessories, I draw the line when it comes to my health.
My bar is set up for the cocktails that I like. Those include vodka on the rocks and cognac. The possibilities are endless. You could set up a MARtini bar or a scotch bar. Whatever spirits you prefer to make it the essential component. I cherish Rosebrook Gardens and all that it gives me. There is nothing that I love more than coming home from a charity event or special evening out and pouring myself just a sip or two of a warming, relaxing cognac in a beautiful glass. Since my bar is both engaging and inviting, I am able to extend that feeling to others as well.
Be safe, enjoy the celebrations and share the magic of the season.
And there you have it.