I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published April 16th 2010
If the idea of hosting a weekend cocktail party sounds more like the recipe for creating a perfect storm, read on. Learning a few pointers and setting up a bar are simple. With a little preparation, planning, and patience, you can make bartending your next Saturday night party look effortless. Here are a few guidelines for assembling a home bar (without breaking your budget).
Start with gathering appropriate glassware. You needn't have a glass for every concoction, but you should have a few essentials. Build your bar with highball glasses (large juice glasses substitute well), a few martini glasses, wine glasses, and depending on your personal desire, either some tall parfait or pilsner glasses. As your tastes develop, you can always add more specific types, such as shot, cordial, and champagne glasses, and even glass mugs for coffee drinks. (Tip: Search flea markets and apartment sales for odd glassware to fill out your collection, or try restaurant supply stores for bargains.)
You'll also need some equipment to mix your drinks. Even the simplest bar is stocked with a wine opener, a mixing glass or shaker, a coil-rimmed strainer, a good paring knife (to cut fruit and garnishes), a fresh fruit juicer, a wooden muddler (or spoon), a two-sided jigger (to measure liquor), a set of measuring spoons, long mixing spoons, and an ice bucket. (Tip: Few bartenders use jiggers. They instead measure liquor using the finger method: Wrap one or two fingers around the glass and pour to the top of either, depending on the drink.)
Next, stock your bar with spirits. Vary your choices according to personal tastes, the drinks you mix regularly, and which specific cocktails you'd like to offer at your party. Start with a good quality vodka, gin, rum (light and dark), bourbon, and scotch whiskey. Sometimes you can get away with using less expensive brands for mixed drinks, but higher quality liquors are preferred for straight cocktails. Depending on your menu, you may need more specific liquors, such as Grand Marnier, Kailua, Schnapps, or Bailey's Irish Cream. Store bottles upright and out of direct sunlight.
For mixers, stock your fridge with standard colas (regular and diet, plus clear varieties), tonic water, club soda, ginger ale, and assorted seltzers. To that selection add two or three prepared or fresh juices, such as tomato, orange, cranberry, pineapple, and grapefruit. Fresh fruit wedges like limes and lemons and herbs make great garnishes. To those, consider stocking good quality cocktail olives, pearl onions, sweet maraschino cherries (with stems), kosher salt, and a fine granulated sugar. Depending on your needs, you might want to add sour mix (available at most grocery stores), margarita mix, and Bloody Mary mix. Add more fun to your party by choosing interesting cocktail napkins, garnish picks, and even paper umbrellas.
Finally, plan your menu. Make sure to offer guests a variety of hors d'oeuvres to nibble on while drinking. Try several fun and unusual appetizers to intrigue your guests. If cooking isn't your forte, purchase prepared items in the frozen food section of your local market and keep a variety of inexpensive staple items on hand, too, such as mixed nuts, pretzels, and pita crisps. (You'll want to make sure guests are eating enough while consuming alcohol.)
The most memorable cocktail parties are often based on a theme. Try a 1920s pre-crash decadence party F. Scott Fitzgerald style and mix a batch of Tom Collins, originally created by Gilded Age New York bartender Jerry Thomas, author of the coveted Bon Vivant's Companion. Or bring out your inner intellectual with a cabaret party theme and absinthe-infused cocktails, circa Weimar-era Berlin. For simpler fare, host an urban fiesta with a revised take on the margarita paired with some great Mexican food. Whatever theme you're going for, the devil is in the details. A well thought out cocktail shows your guests that you are not only a talented bartender, but a thoughtful and creative one as well.
Another cocktail party planning tool is Brisbane Bar Staff Co. -our staff will make beautifull crafted cocktails at your house:) We also help with the planning aspects of running the event. www.brisbanebarstaffco.com
By Emma Elliott - senior reviewer Wednesday, 6th of January @ 02:01 pm