How to Set up Your Holiday Bar
Hosting a Holiday Party? How exciting! We gathered some tips from pro bartenders and party planners to help you make it the event of the season.
Where’s the Bar?
Here’s the good news: you don’t need an actual home bar to throw a great holiday bash. A countertop or kitchen island near a sink is perfect for rinsing off your Hawthorne strainer or cocktail strainer between cocktails. Remove appliances and knickknacks, drop down a decorative holiday runner or some bar towels and you’re set to go.
Hawthorne strainer: A strainer is a unique-looking bar accessory used for straining drinks from the shaker to the glass. It has a flat, perforated piece of metal lined with a flexible spring coil that catches large pieces of fruit, ice, and other solids.
If your countertop isn’t a practical option, get in touch with your creative side. A small table, built-in bookshelf, hollowed-out nook, credenza, or even a small dresser can all become a holiday home bar. Keep in mind that guests tend to gather around the bar area, so set it up in a place that encourages everyone to mingle.
Stocking Your Holiday Bar
Whether you want a traditional bar or prefer that guests help themselves at a self-serve wine and beer table, keeping it simple and well-organized is the key to enjoying stress-free festivities.
If you want to serve spirits, you won’t go wrong if you stock up on these fabulous five – vodka, rum, gin, bourbon, and tequila. You’ll want one or two cocktail shakers, a couple of jiggers, and a few bar spoons for mixing.
Jigger: Bartenders use a jigger to measure spirits for a consistent drink. A typical jigger has two sides with the larger end being 1.5 ounces. Sometimes called the pony shot, the smaller end is 0.75 ounces.
Keep mixers like club soda and juices nearby. It’s a good idea to have a few types of soda and nonalcoholic drinks on offer for guests who don’t drink or designated drivers.
Last, but not least, have garnishes like sliced limes or lemons ready to go. It’s perfectly fine to have an open jar of olives set up with an olive spoon inside.
Olive spoons: These perforated spoons are round, with long handles. Made to scoop and strain olives, they are handy for other garnishes like cherries, pickled onions and capers.
For small to medium-sized groups, a self-serve wine and beer bar is easy to pull off with just a few essentials. Set up a large tub or metal bowl filled with ice to keep beer and white wine chilled. Make sure you have a bottle opener and corkscrew nearby and a neat stack of napkins to wipe cans and bottles.
Make sure guests know to help themselves by displaying all your glassware on a polished stainless steel tray. Hint: Stemless wine glasses take up less room and are less likely to topple over.
Signature Drinks Add a Fun, Festive Touch
While a full bar is best for large gatherings, offering a signature drink can be fun when having a few friends over. You can make signature drinks ahead and set them out for grab-and-go holiday cheer. Best of all, you can give the bartender the night off!
Make strawberry or raspberry Cosmopolitans by substituting muddled raspberries or strawberries for cranberry juice. Or make it a White Christmas with coconut and lime-flavored Margaritas.
There are countless cocktail recipes to try and many are just waiting for your signature touches. On the bar, include trays or bowls of lemon twists, lime slices, and rich, red cranberries with a set of olive spoons so guests can help themselves to garnishes.
Another no-fuss idea is to serve a special Holiday punch. Here’s an easy punch recipe that will make any Grinch green with envy:
Green Grinch Punch
1 packet Kool-Aid Lemon Lime
4 cups of water
4 cups of ice
3 cups lemon-lime soda
2 cups of pineapple juice
2 cups of vodka
1 cup of ginger ale
Red sanding sugar and lime wedges for rimming glasses
Ice and Glasses Galore
What are the two most common mistakes party hosts make? Not having enough glasses on hand and running out of ice.
When it comes to how much glassware to have, a good rule of thumb is to multiply how many guests you’re expecting by three.
One solution is to use plastic glasses. Stock up your bar with some elegant plastic stemless wine or cocktail glasses or keep some on hand as extras.
Create a unique look by mixing glassware. A hostess we know collects glasses with blue accents and makes it a point to shop at local thrift shops and garage sales for glasses she can add to her collection. A variety of color-themed glasses makes for a pretty bar and helps guests remember which glass is theirs.
As for ice, if you don’t have freezer space, a portable camping cooler tucked away in your garage or patio is a great way to store extra ice.
Happy Holidays from Inox Artisans!