Party season is officially upon us! Between holiday parties with coworkers, and the multiple holiday get-togethers with family and friends, there’s no lack of reasons to celebrate. Yet the effects of the recent economy still linger, and tightened budgets have most of us opting to stay in rather than go out.
But just because you can’t afford the high price of a night out, it doesn’t mean the party has to end. Now, more than ever, is the perfect time to make your own house the party hot spot. With a little planning and a minimal investment, your own home bar can be just as stocked as the local watering hole!
If you’re a little unsure about where to start Ray Foley, author of Bartending For Dummies®, 4th Edition, has got you covered. Read on to find all you’ll need to start your own home bar and keep the party going well on into the new year!
Seven Simple Steps For Stocking Your Home Bar And Staying Under Budget!
Keep It Simple
Every home bar needs the basics—think beer, wine, and liquors—but that doesn’t mean you have to clean out your local liquor store. While some bartenders might scoff at the idea of not having both American and Canadian whiskey, a home bar for entertaining doesn’t require every option for having a good time.
“Even if you’re on a shoestring budget, make sure your bar has the essentials,” advises Foley. “While brand names may not matter for your grocery staples, brand loyalty is crucial when purchasing your spirits. Keep in mind that the most expensive bottle is not always your best buy.”
- One 750-ml bottle of gin
- One 750-ml bottle of whiskey (Bourbon, Canadian, etc.)
- One 750-ml bottle of rum
- One 750-ml bottle of white domestic wine
- One 750-ml bottle of tequila
- One 750-ml bottle of red domestic wine
- One 750-ml bottle of vodka
- Twelve 12-oz bottles of beer (domestic or imported)
- Three 750-ml bottles of the liqueurs and cordials of your choice (such as Irish cream, coffee liqueur, Grand Marnier, triple sec, Frangelico, amaretto, peach schnapps, and so on)
Mixers Make the World Go ‘Round
Ever ordered a drink at a bar only to be told they’re out of an essential ingredient in your favorite drink? It’s frustrating at the very least. The same applies at home. Don’t skimp on mixers as you’ll want to be able to fill your guests’ drink requests.
“Just one bottle of each type of mixer will do the trick,” says Foley. “These mixers will be much cheaper than alcohol and are just as necessary to making a tasty concoction. Must-have mixers include cola, lemon-lime soda, ginger ale, seltzer and tonic water, and lime, cranberry, orange, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon, and tomato juices.”
Don’t Forget the Finishing Touches
You’ve got the alcohol and the mixers—now for the last ingredient to make a drink truly to die for: the extras. Those delicious pineapples and oranges are exactly what push an already tasty beverage into the category of divine. These goodies can often get overlooked in the party rush, but should never be forgotten when creating even the most basic bar.
“While you can’t stock up on fresh fruit (and a few veggies) to accompany your drinks, a quick stop at the local grocery store is a must for any gathering,” says Foley. “Make sure lemon and lime wedges, maraschino cherries, olives, and orange slices make it on your list. There are other extras like Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce you may need for specific drinks, so like any good party planner, be sure to plan ahead!”
Shaken or Stirred
While James Bond preferred his martinis shaken, not stirred, your preferences may be slightly different from his. Opinions about the perfect way to mix a drink are varied and diverse. There are a few general rules for mixing drinks that can help smooth the shaken vs. stirred debate at your next party. Always shake cloudy drinks and stir clear drinks. Never, ever shake a cocktail that contains carbonated water or soda.
“Shaking a cocktail is in and of itself a fine art, much like opening a wine bottle,” says Foley. “Always point the shaker away from your guests. They prefer to drink their beverages, not wear them. If the shaker stubbornly sticks together, tap three or four times where the containers connect.”
No Heavy Hands Here
While parties are a great excuse to loosen up and relax, you don’t want to loosen up too much. While the tendency to throw caution to the wind and haphazardly serve drinks seems easiest, measuring will suit you best during and after the party.
For throwing the safest parties, Foley advises you to:
Serve shots in a shot glass. While certain guests may want doubles, refrain from overindulging and use only the recommended amount of alcohol.
Use low-proof alcohols. No one wants the party to end early, so use low-proof alcohols, if available, to keep the party going into the wee hours of the morning.
Have a last call. Close your bar one hour before the party ends to ensure safety is first. Who knows, maybe your guests will even pitch in on the cleanup. You want your party to be remembered but only in the most pleasant of ways.
Serve Something for Everyone
While you may enjoy a beverage or two, not all guests are going to partake in the festivities. Wow these guests by offering them more than water. Provide a special drink just for them like a Virgin Mary or Shirley Temple.
“Try your hand at a few non-alcoholic beverages,” encourages Foley. “You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results. These beverages are family-friendly and can be served at endless functions you may host in the future.”
Chocolate Colada Shake
1/3 cup Coco Lopez cream of coconut
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp. chocolate syrup
1 1/2 cups chocolate or vanilla ice cream
Mix in blender until smooth. Serve immediately.
Keep the Mess at Bay
Even the best guests can be a bit messy, especially when alcohol is involved. All of those small party fouls can turn into huge messes after your guests leave. If you do set up your bar outside of the kitchen, use a small rug under and behind the bar to protect the flooring.
“Keeping your bar near or even in your kitchen is your best bet for a tidy party,” says Foley. “This set-up ensures maximum entertaining and minimum clean up!”
“There’s no time like the present to take advantage of the savings associated with setting up a home bar. Entertaining friends and family does not have to break the bank and is even easier than you think,” says Foley. “And, as always, drink and serve responsibly.”