How To Set Up a Home Bar: Liquor, Glassware and Tools You Need

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By Margaretd. Regina

Even if you’re not a big drinker, it’s worth taking the time to set up a home bar.

Why? “It shows that you care about people having a good time,” said Jessica Schuster, 38, an interior designer based in New York City. “I’m not a huge drinker myself, but I love to have a home bar, because I love to entertain.”

For clients with large homes, Ms. Schuster will often design glamorous built-in bars. But you don’t need a fancy dedicated space: It’s easy to set up a decent bar on just about any flat surface.

“You can always create a home bar, whether you use your kitchen island, a larger round side table or something else,” Ms. Schuster said. “You just get creative with it.”

To demonstrate how she does it, Ms. Schuster recently created a bar on a vintage Jacques Adnet sideboard in the dining room of her SoHo loft.

Choose the spot: Any console table, credenza or cabinet that’s in the room where you plan to entertain can work. “It could even be on part of your dining table,” Ms. Schuster said.

Clear the surface by removing all clutter and dusting to create a blank slate. Then add trays. “That just dresses it up,” said Ms. Schuster, who used a vintage wicker Hermès tray and silver Christian Dior tray for her bar.

Depending on how many will reasonably fit, you might use one tray to hold bottles, another for glassware and a third as a work surface.

It’s not necessary to display every single bottle you own — especially if some are garish or hold the last few ounces of liquor bought decades ago.

For an appealing display, pick and choose. Try to include a selection that caters to various preferences, including gin, vodka, tequila, whiskey and a nonalcoholic choice, Ms. Schuster said, “but choose the prettiest special bottles.”

Some of her favorite packaging is from Solento tequila. “Their bottles remind me of vintage perfume bottles,” she said. “They’re always a big hit when I entertain.”

Put out a few styles of glasses for different kinds of drinks. And don’t use your everyday tumblers and juice glasses — this is a chance to share interesting pieces with guests, including vintage glasses with unusual shapes, colors and patterns.

“You don’t always have to have a comprehensive set,” said Ms. Schuster, who likes to collect distinctive glassware. “You can mix and match.”

Bottles and glasses are of little use if you don’t provide the proper tools and any extras needed to mix drinks without having to run to the kitchen.

What should be on your list? At the very least, a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with a bar spoon, an ice bucket filled with ice, a jigger and a corkscrew.

It’s worth searching out antique items or those with a story behind them. “I love to incorporate vintage pieces on the bar,” Ms. Schuster said, noting that she found her glass shaker and ice bucket at a Paris flea market, which provides a conversation starter.

She also likes to put out bowls filled with citrus wedges. “I have cut-up oranges, limes, lemons, because it adds color and texture to the bar,” she said. “I do them in wedges, because that way you can really get the juice into your drink, versus slices.”

The finishing touch: decorative objects that add visual appeal to your bar.

“Style it up,” said Ms. Schuster, who added a twisted beeswax taper with a bronze candleholder from Il Buco Vita, along with compact sculptural dishes.

And most important: “I always have fresh flowers,” she said.

She likes to display them in vintage Scandinavian vases. This time, she kept the arrangements simple by separating the flowers into types, placing poppies in one vase and tulips in another.

Flowers may not make the cocktails taste any better, but they add to the sense of occasion.

“Your bar needs to be functional, but also have a considered display,” she explained. “It’s the wow moment.”

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