If the holidays mean one thing, it’s spending time with loved ones and yadda, yadda, yadda. If they mean a second thing, it’s booze, for those with the age and inclination to drink. Anyone planning on entertaining this season should keep a few staples on hand to ensure imbibing guests can stay jolly and don’t need to fish out a lighter to open their beer.
You need it
OK, you probably don’t need any of this. We’re sure your friends will still love you, even if you only serve warm rum and Cokes and boxed wine at your holiday fête. But if you want to invest in a home bar, this is a good place to start.
Bottle Opener ($6 to $60)
Bottle openers come in all shapes and sizes. From keychain adornments that look like keys to a wall-mounted option that magnetically catches caps before they fall to the ground, there’s a bottle opener for everyone — shark lovers and Star Wars fans alike.
Corkscrew ($7 to $50)
If you’ve ever tried to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew (desperate times!), you’ll appreciate the value of a good corkscrew. Like bottle openers, they come in a variety of prices and personalities, like this Movember-appropriate moustache. If you open lots of wine, you could go all-out for a push-button or rabbit-style model, but those who prefer liquor and beer can get away with a waiter’s corkscrew.
Jigger ($4 to $10)
A jigger is a hand-operated railway car. Wait, that’s not right, Wikipedia! It’s actually a tool that usually measures a shot (1.5 ounces) on one side and a different amount on the other. These needn’t be expensive; you can find them for between $4 and $9. While your guests may prefer to eyeball their gin and tonics, if you’re mixing up a French 75, you’ll want your gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and champagne in perfect proportion. Actually, you might want to ditch the traditional jigger in favor of measuring beakers, which give you options for teaspoons, tablespoons, and ounces.
Ice cube trays ($5 to $10)
If you have a fridge that dispenses ice cubes or an ice pick to hack apart gas station bags of ice, you can skip these. However, ice trays have gone way beyond cubes. From giant spheres to ice rods, trays are definitely breaking the mold. Who wouldn’t want a frozen Lego man or cat floating in classy cocktail?
Cocktail Shaker ($8 to $20)
Sorry, but if James Bond shows up at your party and asks for a martini, you better be prepared. Cocktail shakers are great, because they mix drinks and chill them at the same time. They come in a variety of styles, including plastic, but a stainless steel one goes for about the same price. While you can opt for an eyebrow-raising design, what you really want is something that won’t leak. If you decide on a Boston shaker, you’ll also need a strainer, which is helpful for drinks stirred with ice, as well.
Glasses ($10 to $29)
You could go crazy trying to get tulip glasses for Scotch ales, snifters for brandy, and cocktail glasses for those martinis, but really, as long as you have some pint glasses, old-fashioned glasses, and wine glasses, revelers will be able to find something to drink out of. However, if it’s New Year’s Eve, you’re going to want some champagne flutes. Oh, and we love this two-in-one cocktail-wine glass.
Drink book ($13 to $20)
Perhaps you can recite the recipe for a Dark and Stormy backwards, but it would be nice to whip up a Last Word for anyone who asks. “But you just Googled it for me,” you say. Ah, but a classic drink book like Mr. Boston or The Savoy has vetted recipes, and something more modern, such as The PDT, has drinks full of daring and delicious combinations. Plus, can’t we have one night away from our phones?
Coasters ($8 to $40)
Mother always said, “If you’re old enough to have a bar, you’re old enough to have coasters.” But done right, the universal symbol of a Finicky Fred or Freida can be yet another classy home bar accessory. No matter what your particular brand of nerdom is — Game of Thrones, chemistry, music, or geology — there’s something to keep the beverage sweat — ahem, glow — off your coffee table.
Juicer ($6 to $42)
Did you know squeezing lemons and limes by hand results in 20 percent juice loss? It’s a true statistic we just made up. Still, so many craft cocktails demand fresh juice that your delicate hands will thank you for not forcing them to squeeze various fruits all night. Whether you want silicone or stainless steel, there are plenty of options if you don’t mind a little elbow grease. Those that insist upon electric can choose from wide range of models, too.
It’s nice to have
If you’ve got the bar basics down but are looking to aid a bit more flair, a touch of class, an air of the bon vivant, then you these accoutrements will serve you well. Some are downright useful for when you’re attempting something beyond the ordinary, others are just upgrades of serviceable items.
Ice bucket ($35 to $180)
There’s something about an ice bucket that screams class. We think it’s the tongs. Regardless, it is nice not to have to dip your fingers in a cereal bowl to fish out some cubes. Even if you have an ice dispenser on your fridge, the ice bucket is a nice touch. Depending on what look you’re going for, stainless steel might fit your decor best, but plastic can look nice, too. If you have wealthy, generous relatives, by all means, put a crystal ice bucket on your wedding registry, but a double-insulated one will likely do the best job of keeping your ice from melting.
Decanter ($19 to $40)
To decant or not to decant. Red wines aged five to 10 years should be decanted to separate out the sediment, but many think even young wines benefit from 20 minutes in a decanter. Not everyone feels this way, but that’s fine. Decant stop; won’t stop. If a guest springs for something above and beyond Two-Buck Chuck, fork over your decanter. Or just let it serve as a pretty centerpiece. Oh, and whiskey decanters automatically make you feel like you’re in a black-and-white movie.
Bar spoon ($5 to $10)
Bar spoons differ from soup spoons because they are longer, twistier, and often have a useful doohickey on the other end. Not only can they reach to the bottom of a Collins glass, they can be useful for layering drinks. Slowly pouring a less-dense liquor over the back of the spoon will float it on top of the denser spirit, creating an impressive-looking drink.
Soda siphon ($20 to $50)
Once merely used for the classic spray-your-friends-in-the-face gag (as far as we can tell), soda siphons can actually be useful around the home bar. Buying seltzer water is a fine option, but two-liter bottles go flat quickly, and smaller bottles add up to more waste. While you regularly have to replace CO2 cartridges no matter what size siphon you buy, regular or handheld, it is nice to be able to spurt a shot of bubbly water into a gin fizz at a moment’s notice.
Bar cart ($60 to $130)
Storing liquor bottles on top of the fridge works, but loading up a bar cart with all the fixings gives guests better access to everything they need. Metal, wood, retro — whatever your heart desires. The wheels mean you can situate it in an accessible spot without infringing on the Festivus pole’s domain.
Muddler ($8 to $10)
Some may say displaying a muddler amongst your barware is just asking for mojito requests all night long, but the useful tool, which is traditionally made of wood but also comes in stainless steel, isn’t a one-drink pony. It can muddle the lime and sugar for a Caipirinha or the sugar cube with the bitters for an Old Fashioned.
Blender ($40 to $330)
In most of the country, winter’s not the best time for a blended margarita, but someday you’ll want a frothy frozen beverage again. Unless you spend a significant amount of time entertaining, you probably don’t need a blender designed specifically for mixing frozen drinks, although they exist. However, whether you go for a less-expensive model or a pricey one, it should be able to crush ice for when daiquiri season rolls around.
Punch bowl ($15 to $120)
While it may not be margarita weather, it is the perfect time for punch. First of all, it saves you from having to make a zillion individual drinks. Second, flavors like allspice, cinnamon, and cloves are perfect for chilly weather. Like a lot of barware, you have your pick of material — plastic, stainless steel, or glass. Regardless, you have to have something to put the egg nog in for when people come a-wassailing.
Wine plates ($36)
The most awkward thing about parties is having to talk to people you don’t know. The second most awkward thing is juggling your glass and those flimsy paper plates full of cheese and crackers as you scramble to think of something to say your neighbor’s second cousin, Steve. These wooden plates with a holder for wine glasses can help you keep a handle on everything, but you’re all on your own with Steve.
To give certain cocktails an extra oomph, some recipes call for a lemon or lime peel. You’re clearly not consuming this garnish, so it’s safe to skip it, right? Sure, but a spiral of peel imparts essential oils that are definitely missed when left out of the equation. A zester with a special tool for peeling works miles better than a vegetable peeler, too.
Now you’re just showing off
Given the inclination and budget, you can create a home bar that will make you want to never go out for a drink again. If you have both of those things, we would really appreciate an invitation to your next party.
Perfect Drink Smart Bartender ($50)
For those seriously into precision when it comes to their libations, the Smart Bartender, which is a scale that connects to smartphones and tablets, is something to consider. It weighs each ingredient, adjusting the recipe if you overpour. Then the app prompts you through each step in the drink-making process, whether you’re using one of its 300 recipes or concocting something of your own.
More for the novelty than anything else, Vapshot will definitely be the hit of your home bar. The device vaporizes alcohol in a plastic bottle; once the transformation is complete, you suck the gaseous liquor into your lungs through a straw. The idea is that this is a very quick way of getting your holiday cheer on, so you don’t want to be hitting the smoky sauce all night, lest you have a Santa-sized hangover the next morning.
Ceramic Liquor Chiller ($200)
The Venn diagram of people who like their spirits ice cold and neat have something to celebrate in Spindle and Sin’s countertop ceramic chiller. Its thermoelectric cooling system gets the liquor colder than ice without watering it down. Now your Jäger bombs can come with an ice-cream headache.
Yeah, it doesn’t come cheap, but can you really put a price on having your favorite beer on draft, without having to head out the nearest watering hole? Well, EdgeStar did, and it’s $560, sans keg. Ah, well. Little Lisa doesn’t really need braces, does she?
Wine fridge ($112 to $270)
While you’re waiting for that wine cellar to be built (dare to dream), you can store any reds or whites you want to keep temperature-controlled in a wine fridge. If you’re a fan of both reds and whites, you’ll want one with two temperature zones, so your zins and cabs don’t get chilled.
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