How to Set Up a Home Bar

Dozens of wine glasses filled with various cocktails and straws

The host with most doesn't get stuck behind the bar. 

by Erin Henderson

We are at the starting line of the most festive time of the year. No doubt, you've got a long list of parties to throw and holidays to host, but that doesn't mean you should martyr yourself (and your fun) in the name of keeping your guests' topped up. 

Instead, I champion a DIY home bar set up, so friends and family can help themselves to whatever they want, however they want it. 

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A bar works for so many reasons: not only freeing you up to air kiss and hob nob through your own soirée, but eliminates the awkwardness of someone asking, "for another," or giving long-winded instructions on how to make their cocktail to their specifications. 

Your set up doesn't have to be elaborate, but it does have to be functional and efficient. Here's how to do it. 

a selection of cocktails

What to Serve

Let's start with what to actually put on your bar. 

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: keep your selection streamlined. This is a house party, not a bar, and most people will drink what's being offered. (And if they turn up their nose, don't invite them back.)

I typically serve one red, one white, and one sparkling wine. Pick your favourites. No need to have the selection of the wine store. 

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As for cocktails, we recommend making a pitcher or two of a seasonal cocktail in advance and leaving it at that. 

If you really, really want to offer a spirit, stick to one white and one brown spirit, such as gin and whisky. But don't forget the mixes, garnish and tools so friends can make cocktails a la minute. 

a Stack of martini and wine glasses on a table outside against a sunsetWhere to Put It

I like to set up the bar on a dining room table, or at least somewhere away from the kitchen, to encourage people to comfortably scatter throughout the whole party area. 

Clear away all the chairs so guests have 360° access to the bar without having to line up or crowd around. 

Keep snacks elsewhere so people pour their drinks and go, keeping the area free for the next imbiber. 

A shaker and bartools on a table against a grey backgroundHow to Set It: 

I'm normally not one for tableclothes as they get caught on people's legs and add an unnecessary level of stuffy formality. However, for a bar I make an exception to save the surfance from stains and sticky spills. 

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I avoid decorations! I know this is a celebration but the bar will already be full with items, no need to clutter it up with more. At the very least, I stay away from glittery ornaments in areas with food and wine. That glitter gets everywhere, and it's not fun to ingest. 

Similarily, avoid flame-burning candles. You don't want Aunt Rhonda reaching for a maraschino cherry and catching her sateen blouse aflame. Setting your friends and family on fire really harshes a party's vibe. 

So, ixnay fire and glitter, but do add: 

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Hear From Real People!

Thank you very much for your services. Everyone had a fantastic time and loved everything! Thank you again for a successful event and making me look oh so good.
You were such an awesome host and I appreciate all of the work you put into it. Thank you so much again!
The Wine Sisters are professional and flexible to attend to client needs. They’re able to provide 'one stop shop for events.
The event was a huge success! Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the group was quite engaged. The wine was also delicious! Thank you so much! I hope we can work together on another event in the future!
Everybody had a ton of fun and we very much see this structure as a template we can use with clients and friends in the future.
I had the pleasure of attending the Oceania Cruise event where you conducted a wine pairing. I have to say that your wine and food pairing made a typically ho hum travel information night, spectacular! I have never done a wine pairing. I was amazed at how food interacted with the wines.
Thank you very much for the amazing wine tasting. We all had the most wonderful time. The wines were excellent and your presentation was very entertaining and informative.
I’m really pleased with how the event went. Everyone feels really happy with your incredible hosting skills and experience. We all DEFINITELY want to use The Wine Sisters again! Thank you so much!!
Erin did a fantastic job with our group. We all really enjoyed the day. I have already recommended The Wine Sisters for my company events, as it was such a great experience for us.
Great energy, sense of humour and very knowledgeable! Thank you for making it an afternoon to remember!

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