Home Bar Essentials | A Primer For a Proper Holiday Party

A well-stocked home bar and thoughtful beverage strategy is essential to treating your friends and family to a holiday house party that doesn't suck.

Photo:  Instants (Getty Images).

The holiday season is equal parts delight and drudgery, full of crazy shopping sprees, lethargic Netflix binges and shiny office parties. Its also a great time to reconnect with family and friends, and what better way to prove that you wear big boy pants than hosting some revelry on your home turf.

That way, you can set the party platform, applying your own refined tastes to the curation of the music, food and (most importantly) beverages. Your hosting duties will be many, so your bar game will have to be on point. You can’t just throw out some cheese and crackers, a few random bottles of wine and any beer hiding in the depths of your refrigerator and assume you wont get called out on Instagram.

To throw a proper holiday party you need a well-stocked home bar.  Start by understanding what the essentials are, then flip through the slideshow at the end for suggested purchases:

Spirits

Spirits, Liquor, Home Bar

Photo: DreamPictures (Getty Images).

Alcohol is of course the most important piece of a great holiday soiree. When it comes to purchase decisions, you can start with what you need to make your favorite cocktail of the moment. But if you have the budget, you should set up a whole do-it-yourself bar. You’ll want to grab decent bottles of vodka, rum, tequila, whiskey and gin. You probably don’t want to limit your purchases to plastic handles of lowest-shelf spirits. If you do that, your guests are guaranteed to wake up the next day with a headache that reminds them not to ever attend a function thrown by you again. If you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, one bottle of any of the above choices should suffice.

Wines

Kim-Wines-INTERIOR2Photo: A trio of Sauvignon Blancs by Kim Crawford.

Wine selection is more difficult than spirit selection. You might feel like you need to be a trained sommelier to pick wine for your party. Best to just keep it simple. Your local liquor store is a great resource. The people who work there want to help you navigate the sometimes overwhelming world of wine. Tell them a little bit about your guests and let them guide you to the right wines. If you want to make it even easier, buy four bottles: two red and two white. For each color, one should be on the drier side and one on the sweeter. You can also always please everyone buy popping a bottle of champagne, prosecco or other sparkling wine. Now that’s a party.

Beers

Beers-INTERIOR

Photo: Ed Norton (Getty Images).

In this new age of craft beer, people can be quite finicky about their choices. To please everyone, you should stock your fridge with some domestic beer, local favorites, an IPA and perhaps a stout or porter. If your family and friends aren’t big beer drinkers, you can just stick to a local lager, pale ale or pilsner. That is sure to please everyone.

Mixers and Garnishes

Garnishes, Home Bar

Photo: Alexandra Grablewski (Getty Images).

If you create a do-it-yourself bar, you’ll need a variety of mixers for the basic Rum and Coke type concoctions, so be sure to stock tonic water, flavored sodas (Coke, Sprite), and don’t forget to have plenty of ice. You should also offer pre-cut wedges of limes and lemons as garnishes. These are simple staples for any home bar.

If you want to allow for more sophisticated cocktail options, provide simple syrup and bitters for more adventurous guests wanting to try their hand at an Old Fashioned. Consider preparing orange rinds, cucumber slices, and diced jalapeno (or other spicy pepper of choice) for refreshing gin or tequila concoctions.

Bar Tools

BarTools-INTERIOR

Photo: LiliGraphie (Getty Images).

Obviously, the most important item for serving up drinks is glassware. You can get away with just having a set of stem glasses for wine and a set of rocks glasses for your cocktails. Optional: pint glasses for beer (though most folk will just drink from the bottle).

Next, you’ll want to have stirring devices, aka straws and spoons. You can go as far as to put out a shaker, but the odds are your guests are just going to pour the ingredients of their cocktail experiment over ice and stir. You don’t need a strainer or a jig because there likely won’t be advanced mixing going on.

Also, you’ll need a wine opener and a beer bottle opener. It might put a damper on the evening if your guests arrive and you have no way of opening the refreshments.


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