We are rapidly approaching mid-November and that means that the holiday craziness is just around the corner. If you haven’t read between the lines yet, that also means endless holidays parties. It’s a season to celebrate, to be sure, but everyone knows that a party is no fun (unless it’s at the kids’ table) without some booze to keep everyone happy and loose. If you’re hosting a party this holiday season, or any time of year for that matter, you’d be well-advised to go out and get yourself some barware so you can be the jolly (and good) bartender come party time.
When you head off to college or your first apartment you probably experienced the excitement of getting your own dishes, glasses, and coasters. Well, once you’ve moved on up in the world past that first job and parties that only serve drinks in red plastic cups, you can experience the excitement of building your own bar. The latter is clearly more fun, and we’re here to help you decide just what you’ll need.
The first thing you’ll need for your bar set is a good set of glasses. Now, we’re only covering cocktails here so we won’t go into detail about what kind of wine glasses you might want or what beer steins to get. Pick a design that you like and get at least four short tumblers, tall glasses, and cocktail glasses in the same (or similar) design to keep things consistent, depending on how many people you plan to host at one time. A simple set will be classic, but there’s no reason not to get creative. You can express your own style or the style of your pad with whatever glasses you choose.
For something contemporary without too much detail, we like the slightly artsy look of the Brighton Series from Williams & Sonoma ($15 each for double old fashioned or highball glasses).
If you lean towards a more old-school, East Coast style, the Monogrammed Series ($59 for a set of four double old fashioned or highball glasses) has the classic appeal of a dark study or formal living room. The glasses have a heavy weighted base and are available with either a single initial or triple initials.
While tumblers and tall glasses seem like the most obvious necessities, it’s important to have some version of a cocktail or martini glass as well. Serving a martini in a tumbler won’t cut it. We like the looks of the simple and affordable Dizzy Cocktail Glass ($2.50 each), which does away with fussy long stems and will work just as well for a fruity cocktail as a dry martini.
If you want something with a little more edge — perhaps you have a dark and stylish man-cave to serve your drinks in — we’re fans of the edgy but clean-lined Smoke Barware ($3.50-3.95 each) from CB2.
Having the glasses for cocktails and whiskey isn’t enough to make your own home bar. You, or a friend, will actually have to make these cocktails and drinks, so you’ll need the tools to get the job done. The most important tool is a shaker, if you get nothing else, but once you have all the tools, it will be that easy to whip up anything your friends or guests throw at you.
Perferct for that man-cave environment that needs something with some masculinity and heft, we love the earthy design of the Walnut Bark Cocktail Shaker ($50), which will get the job done while adding some unique cool-factor to your bartending.
If you like something a little bit sleeker, or need to whip up multiple drinks at a time, try the Savoy Jumbo Cocktail Shaker ($25). This large-sized shaker will help you make several cocktails at once and has a stylish hammered stainless steel finish.
We could go into all the possible tools you might need to create fabulous drinks at home, but it’s easier to just get a complete set like the Stainless Steel Bar Tools Set ($70) and call it a day. The set includes a strainer, jigger, bottle opener, garnish knife, stirrer, and ice tongs, complete with a matching storage stand to keep your home bar looking sharp.
One thing the above set does not include is a muddler. If you ever need to make a mojito, mint julep, or old-fashioned, you’ll need this tool to make sure it’s a good one. Used for smashing herbs and fruits, this Stainless Steel Muddler ($13) will make sure your drinks have the most flavor possible.
You’ll be doing pretty well for yourself if you manage to purchase all of the above items we’ve already talked about, but there are a few more that make the list of bar essentials. In this category we’ve included special ice cubes, a tray to keep everything tidy, a sleek ice bucket, and a cocktail book to ensure that you actually know how to make a drink or two.
While you might not end up with enough of these to use at your holiday party, we still recommend getting yourself at least a few Stainless Steel Ice Cubes ($25 for 4 with freezing tray). Regular ice makes your drinks nice and cold, but it also dilutes whatever you are drinking, which isn’t such a good thing if you’re drinking an expensive scotch. These will keep things cold without watering down your prized drink.
It might seem like a silly thing to add, but if you have a nice bar tray you can keep your bar setup looking good and organized at all times. We like this simple wood Acacia Tray ($35), but you can get one in leather or another material that suits your own style.
Stainless steel ice cubes are nice, but you’ll still need to have real ice on hand for whenever you’re making drinks. There are a million different styles to go with your own aesthetic, but we think this clean Savoy Ice Bucket ($50, matches the shaker above) would look good just about anywhere.
Last but definitely not least, unless you’ve already been to bartending school, it’s probably a good idea to have a recipe book nearby should you need any assistance remembering how to make a cucumber gimlet or dirty martini. See Mix Drink ($10) is a perfect bar-companion book, with recipes for almost any drink, visual info-graphics to display correct proportions, and nutrition information for each recipe.