If you enjoy entertaining at home or like to unwind with a cocktail in the evening, an at-home bar is just the thing to take your libations to another level. You don’t need a lot of space to create a bar at home, but the more space you have, the more fun your bar-creating experience–and your bar–will be. In honor of National Beer Day on April 7 (and National Hanging Out Day on April 19,) we present you with this tutorial for creating an at-home bar worth raising your glass to.
Choose Your Space
The first order of business is deciding where your bar will go. A rec room in the basement or a bonus space in the living room, dining room, or kitchen are the most ideal places for a bar. How much space you have to dedicate to your bar will guide its design. If you have virtually no space at all, your bar may consist of a sweet bar cart in the corner, or it may take over an existing hutch that’s currently full of dishes or bric-a-brac. If you have lots of space, you can design a dedicated bar area complete with seating areas, a sink, and a fridge.
You’ll need storage in your bar area to house your drink ware, tools, supplies, and ingredients. Bar carts usually have two shelves, and the top shelf may allow for stemmed glass storage underneath. Hutches and credenzas offer plenty of storage for your bar things, or you can build shelves or install cabinets in your bar area. Storage gadgets for your bar include a compartmentalized condiment holder for your lemons, limes, olives, cherries, and other garnishes and a napkin caddy with space to hold stir sticks. The more elaborate your bar setup, the more storage you’ll need.
Add an Island with Seating
If you can, add an island to your bar area to define the space and provide seating. An island can float in the room, or it can jut out from a wall. If you’re short on storage, build or buy an island that has shelves or built-in cabinets below. Choose comfy bar stools that invite guests to sidle up and stay a while.
Bring in Some Comfy Chairs
Larger bar spaces can accommodate more guests, and they should have ample seating for those who prefer to drink sitting down. Bring in a few comfortable arm chairs or couches that suit the style of the bar, and include coffee and cocktail tables for guests to put their drinks on.
If you have the space, create several separate seating areas, and add a tall table or two for those who prefer to stand.
Design the Lighting
A bar lit with overhead room lights won’t feel bar-like at all. Your home bar should have a relaxed vibe, which means low, ambient lighting. Create mood lighting for your bar with table and floor lamps, string lights, under-counter lighting, and pendant lighting over the island. Neon beer signs are a great touch for your at-home bar and aren’t hard to find, whether you’re looking for a new sign or a vintage model. Consider investing in a lighting system that allows you to control the brightness and hue of the light bulbs, which gives you endless options for the perfect ambiance.
If your bar area is large, think about entertainment options to engage your guests and make your bar feel like the real deal. You’ll definitely want a music source, and a good bet there is a pair of wireless speakers. Connect your phone or computer to Bluetooth, and pipe in the tunes. If your crowd likes participatory activities, invest in a karaoke or pinball machine, pool or Foosball table, board games, dart board, or other favorite pastimes. And, of course, if you’re going to be watching the big games in the bar, you’ll want a nice big TV placed so that you can see it no matter where you’re sitting.
Depending on your space and your budget, you have plenty of options for fun and useful appliances that make your bar more versatile and self-sufficient. Consider a fridge for beer, white wine, and mixers, or invest in a wine refrigerator. A beer keg fridge with an attached tap is a great addition to the bar. An ice maker is always handy, as is a high quality blender. If you really want to go all-out, invest in a popcorn maker or nut warmer.
Get the Right Glassware
If you’re serious about your cocktails, study up on the proper glasses to use for your favorite concoctions, from martini, margarita and Moscow mule glasses to beer mugs and brandy snifters. Stocking your bar with the right glassware enhances the look and quality of your drinks, and it will impress your friends and neighbors.
Invest in Quality Tools and Supplies
From the ubiquitous cocktail shaker to colorful stir sticks, toothpicks, and cocktail napkins, there are plenty of optional supplies and tools to stock your bar with. An ice bucket is invaluable if you don’t have an ice maker, and if you like salted rims on your bloody Marys, margaritas and Greyhounds, you’ll want a glass rimmer. Consider a citrus juicer and a muddler, and don’t forget the jigger, which measures your liquor for perfectly poured cocktails. A cocktail recipe book is an invaluable companion to your bar and will have lots of great information beyond recipes.
Once you’ve got the bar set up, all you’re missing is the booze. The higher the quality of your spirits, the less intense your hangovers will be, so if you can afford it, invest in premium liquors. It’s best not to go all-out right away. Not only will fully stocking a bar right out of the gate cost a fortune, but it’s likely that you’ll end up not using half of what you buy. Start out small. Stock your bar with your favorite liquors and mixers, and grow your collection gradually, as you expand your repertoire of cocktails.
Your home bar can be as simple or elaborate as you have the space and money for. Look online to get ideas for your bar, and make it your own with special touches. When your bar is ready to use, sit back, relax, and drink to a job well done.