You’re the perfect hostess, but wouldn’t you love to enjoy the party too? One way to do that is to leave (some of) the bartending duties to the guests themselves. Don’t feel guilty…giving guests a little job breaks the ice for them and frees you up at the same time.
It’s nice to serve each arriving guest their first cocktail or refreshment the moment they enter (perhaps a signature cocktail), show them the food table, make an introduction or two and then let them pour refills from a self-serve bar for subsequent drinks.
Here’s a quick how-to on setting up a well-stocked self-serve bar:
The Bar Itself
You don’t need a large restaurant-style bar to serve up a stylish one. Consider the above photo: this mimosa bar was staged on a small kids’ table.
You may only have a tiny bit of space. No problem; all you really need are the drink itself, cups, napkins and perhaps a few stirrers. Ice can be kept below in a tub or cooler. You’d be surprised how much “bar” you can fit onto a little bit of surface!
Sometimes all you need is a bucket of ice, insert the bottles and set the glasses nearby!
Ideas for bars: small tables, bar carts, dressers, armoires, buckets, how about a vintage ironing board covered in a tablecloth?
People will always be able to locate the bar….there’s some type of “party radar” for it…so put it out of the main flow of the party. Many will tend to gather there, so you don’t need to make it so central that it clogs up the flow of the party. Depending on the number of guests you have, you may even need two bars (people don’t like to wait in long lines for a drink!). If you’re hosting an indoor/outdoor party, be sure to locate one bar outside.
The basic, absolutely-necessary alcohol list:
- Scotch, Vodka, Gin, Whisky, Tequila & Rum
- Wine: Red & White (my picks: Kendall Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon & Sea Glass Pinot Grigio)
- Champagne (my pick: Korbel)
- Beer (our pick: Coors Light in bottles)
The basic, absolutely-necessary mixer list:
- Club Soda
- Diet Coke
- 7-Up or Sprite
- Ginger Ale
- Orange Juice
- Cranberry Juice
- Grapefruit Juice
- Low-Cal Flavored Mixers (our pick: Be Mixed)
Some nice extras to have:
Figuring out how much to buy is always tricky. But now there are online tools you can use! For example this one from Evite allows you to take into account number of guests, duration of party and types of alcohol served. Evite Drink Calculator
There’s all kinds of garnishes & tools you will want to have, if not on the bar, then nearby (you certainly don’t need everything on this list). Click to see my picks:
- Cocktail Napkins (I love ones with fun sayings)
- Rimming Sugar, Salt or Bloody Mary Salt
- Bottle Opener
- Shaker & Jigger
- Cutting Board / Knife
- Bar Towel
- Ice Bucket (for drinking ice…try bags of crushed ice from Sonic!)
- Wine/Beer Bucket
- Ice Tongs or Scoop
- Wine Glasses (can also be used for water)
- Champagne Glasses
- Double Old Fashioned Glasses
- Highball Glasses
- OR…Disposable Wine Glasses
- Tray (glasses look more cohesive when on a tray)
- Wine Glass Charms or Markers (to tell who’s who)
- Mixed Nuts
- Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives
- Oranges, Lemons, Limes
- Water Dispenser (think cucumber or strawberry water)
The Finishing Touches
Finish off your bar with some flowers (nothing fancy; I like to stick some in an old wine bottle or mason jar. Pick some up at the grocery store or cut last minute from your yard). You could also lay a couple of big sunflowers on your bar. A string of pom pom fringe looped around bottles is a cute touch too.