Whether you just like a good glass of scotch to knock back after a long day or you entertain regularly, it’s handy to have all your alcoholic offerings ready to pour. A well stocked and attractive bar makes that easy and inviting. When hosting a party, give extra consideration to everything you need to keep your guests sipping happily.

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Start with a good bar cart. The wheels allow you to quickly move it where guests are mingling so that if you’re playing bartender, you can top up drinks without leaving the gathering.

This metal and glass cart offers sturdy surfaces and appealing lines without adding the bulk of a piece of furniture. Or look for a unique vintage cart or cabinet that makes it a conversation piece.

If a cart’s not in your cards, you can set up bar essentials on a large tray and place it on a sideboard, coffee table, or deep bookshelf. They can work just as well to keep your party hoppin’.

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Stock your cart first with the common liquors that form the basis of most cocktails: Vodka, Gin, Tequila, Rum, and various whiskeys: Scotch, Rye, Irish, Canadian, Bourbon.

Add vermouth and a few essential liqueurs such as Campari, Grand Marnier, and Bailey’s.

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Mixers are the non-alcoholic liquids added to flavor and boost the volume of cocktails. Although most mixers will last quite a while, always check for freshness before a party. Common mixers to have on hand include tonic and soda waters, grenadine and simple syrups, bitters, Tabasco sauce, a sour mix, a cola, a lemon-lime soda, and small cans of juices such as orange, grapefruit, and cranberry.

Keep a shaker on hand, and to make a quantity of mixed cocktails, you may also need a pitcher with a bar spoon.

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Add a bucket of ice. It’s kind of a no-brainer but I always forget. To avoid the possibility of tainting the flavor of a mixed drink, don’t use ice made from unfiltered tap water. Although some cocktails call for cracked or shaved ice, cubed ice will suffice for most drinks that are shaken, stirred, or on the rocks.

Stock your bar with garnishes for a variety of concoctions: lemons, limes, oranges, maraschino cherries, olives, cocktail onions, mint, salt, and sugar.

You can mix most cocktails easily with the following tools on hand: jigger, paring knife and cutting board, canelle knife, small measuring cup, strainer, juicer, picks, ice tongs. A speed pourer is nice to have on the most popular spirits (vodka and gin, for example). Keep a corkscrew and bottle opener near the beer and wine.

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Finally, add a selection of glasses: highballs, tumblers, old fashioned or rocks, and martini glasses. If you want to include specialty pieces, have margarita (or coupette), collins, and hurricane glasses on hand as well. If you’re serving cold beer and chilled wine, put glasses for those beverages near the cooler or fridge.

Place a glass filled with colorful straws and swizzle sticks on one side of the cart and balance the display with a small vase of flowers on the opposite side. Bring nibbles to the bar with a trio of light snacks—crackers, pistachios, and cheesesticks.

Don’t let the long list of suggestions put you off. Adjust the lists of essentials to fit your menu of cocktails on offer. The important thing is to anticipate what’s indispensable so that when it’s time to party you can relax and enjoy the evening with your guests.

© Caruth Studio

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