If you or your loved ones do booze, come the holidays, they’ll be grateful that you have something more than that half-drunk bottle of Merlot on the counter. Holiday cocktails can amaze and delight; sometimes it’s as simple as adding fancy cherries or a little bottle of eggnog to your bar cart to make things special. Here’s how we stock a more festive home bar.
1. Bar Basics
Most experts recommend that even if you don’t stock a hefty bar the rest of the year, you stock up on about five bottles for the holidays. Think: rum, whiskey, tequila, gin and vodka or a digestif. (You know your loved ones!) Mixers can include pineapple (popular like The Beach Boys and reggae are when it’s freezing out), pomegranate or cranberry juice, plus seltzer and some sort of ginger beer or syrup. Have a little red wine, a little white, and a few seasonal beers and pale ales, and see below for your drinkin’ math! Also make sure you have mixing tools at the ready: A classic cocktail shaker (like the one above) or shaking tin and Hawthorne strainer, a jigger, bar spoon, a zester, a beer and wine opener and ice tongs are the accessories on the counter of most well-appointed bars. (And yes, we have the one-stop set you need.)
We’ll also totally admit to being partial to our own mixers—the easy answer to a festive, delicious, and rapidly mixed drink. (Bonus: You can use them to make virgin drinks!) The North Pole Punch mingles cherry, pomegranate and lime, begging only for seltzer, gin or vodka. Jingle Bell Rocks adds a wallop of ginger and ruby-red hibiscus to the party. There’s absolutely a holiday mixer with your name on it. (Don’t forget our gorgeous, next-level elegant N/A options, such as Seedlip.)
Key to your cocktail and mocktail strategy? Ice! And plenty of it. Have an ice bucket and tongs at the ready. And, if you’re so inclined, specialty ice can go a long way to making the party feel special. We love a large spherical cube for not diluting drinks. (Check out our collection of ice molds for some festive options.) Freeze them in advance of your gathering, then load them into an ice bucket flanked with tongs before guests arrive.
2. Bar Set-Up
Designate an area for the bar set-up. If you don’t have a classic home bar or a bar cart, a tray on the kitchen counter or atop a coffee table will help organize your area. The tools, spirits and mixers can be grouped for easy access and diy mixing. Depending on its size, you might be able to squeeze in some décor, but we like to use beautiful garnishes to do that legwork. Think: rosemary sprigs, fancy cherries, mint, citrus zest curls, and even nutmeg and cinnamon, if eggnog is in play. (Shouldn’t it be?!) Stock your wine glasses, beer glasses, and cocktail glasses (short and tall options, please!) at the ready adjacent to or on the cart itself. If big-batch pre-made pitcher cocktails are an option, go for it. And if there’s spare room to deck the halls (er, bar), we recommend boughs of holly (of course).
3. Festive Strategy
First things first: You have to have a designated driver if you’re headed to a cocktail party, and you may want to help your guests organize them in advance of the festivities. (That’s why we’re so fond of our N/A options!) As per how much folks can drink, adhere to the following general rule:
For a 2 1/2-hour party, plan on serving:
- Cocktails: 2 1/2 per person
- Bubbly: 1 bottle for every 2-3 guests
- Wine: 1 bottle for every 2 to 3 guests
- Liquor: 1 quart or liter for every 10 to 12 guests
- Water: 1 quart or liter for every 2 guests
It’s OK to let the drinks be the focus of your work and attention, though; it’s a great idea to have snacks. But we don’t call it a “snack party.”