Why Go Out? Build a Bar at Home


Going out for a few drinks may be too pricey a proposition these days, so consider setting up a bar in your home instead.

You'll have to invest some time and money up front, but in the end, you'll have a friendly place to gather. All you need are some essential spirits, a few drink-making tools and some minor renovations to an unused corner of your home.

If you want an actual bar in your home, not just a liquor cabinet or a corner of your kitchen counter, you'll need to install one. You can find blueprints for a wide range of bar designs at Web sites like barplan.com and bargear.com. You can build the bar yourself or hand the plans over to a contractor. Options range from simple designs with a small bar surface and a few shelves below to full-service L-shaped bars that can seat several people.

To give your bar personality, you might add features like tap handles, a brass foot rail, a dart board or a neon sign. You can find bar stools at stores like Ikea and Home Depot (Stock Quote: HD).

Once you've got a bar space prepared, it's time to stock up on the necessities. Ideally, your bar would have a full range of glassware—from brandy snifters to Collins glasses—but you can make do with a few versatile items. Besides the mandatory wine and shot glasses, you might consider buying highball glasses, which hold eight to 12 ounces. They're perfect for tall cocktails like Bloody Marys or spritzers, and they work fine for beer as well. If you're willing to spend a bit more and you've got the space, consider acquiring cocktail glasses or beer steins.

Serious wine drinkers will want an efficient and easy-to-use corkscrew, like the top-of-the-line Screwpull Elegance Lever ($143). To make cocktails, you'll need a bar spoon, paring knife, citrus zester, shaker and a jigger. Shakers come in different styles, but the Metrokane Bullet Cocktail Shaker ($14) offers a classic three-piece design with an appealing art deco look.

To accommodate a range of tastes, stock your bar with essential liquors like vodka, rum, gin, tequila and at least one kind of whiskey (scotch, Canadian or bourbon). From there you can customize your collection. If you like margaritas, make sure you've got Cointreau. If martinis are your thing, don't leave out vermouth. And always keep your shelves stocked with wine and beer.

To give your bar a unique twist, include a few funkier spirits that your guests likely haven't tried. Use PAMA's Pomegranate Liqueur ($25 for 750 ml) to mix up some distinctly fruity cocktails, for instance, or appeal to your environmentally minded guests with a bottle of Prairie Organic Vodka ($68).

For more adventurous drinkers, have absinthe on hand. Absinthe was illegal in the U.S. until 2007 due to its alleged hallucinogenic properties, but the anise-flavored liquor is quickly becoming a must-have for any well-stocked bar. A liter of the Swiss-made Kubler Absinthe goes for about $50.

Other crucial staples for your bar include cola, tonic water, fruit juices and fresh lemons, limes and olives.

Lastly, if you don't know how to use all the ingredients and tools you've acquired, pick up a bartending guide like The Bartender's Bible ($7) or The Little Black Book of Cocktails ($10).



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