Hosting a holiday party? Unless your guest list includes Kid Rock, P. Diddy and Charlie Sheen, stocking your bar for a looming seasonal event is really quite simple. The key thing to remember is that, just as in life, you can’t make everyone happy. (Relatives are always proof of this. If Uncle Ted enjoys a nip of a good 100-year-old scotch every now and then, then Uncle Ted is just gonna have to B.H.O.B.)
Your goal is to create a warm, inviting atmosphere for friends and family to come together and enjoy an evening of good cheer. If that bombs, you definitely don’t want to be stuck with a liquor cabinet full of stuff you’ll never drink (Glayva, anyone?). Here are the top five must-haves for your swanky holiday home bar.
Good rule of thumb is two drinks per person for the first hour and one for each hour after that. Expect 40 per cent of guests to drink beer, 30 per cent to drink hard liquor, and 30 per cent to sip wine (sip!).
There are some really great drink calculators online that can help you figure all this out; some even let you cost out your holiday bar so your budget does not get blown out of the water. Your home does not have to become a liquor store. I suggest a signature cocktail, one that can be served with or without booze (take care of your driving guests!). It’s also a great idea to pick one drink that can be made as a punch ahead of time, so you are not playing bartender the whole night. Remember: Your guests are there to spend time with you. So, put out a small selection of beer, lite and regular, and wine. Also some spirits for anyone who just enjoys a simple drink; I suggest vodka, gin, rum and rye, this will pretty much cover all your bases.
2. Bar Mixes
A key component to any great cocktail is the mix. Keep lots of cola/diet cola, lemon/lime, ginger ale, and tonic and soda water on hand. Never hurts to have some cranberry or orange juice in the fridge. Coffee and hot chocolate are also handy to have around, if you’re planning on whipping up some hot toddies.
3. Bar Tools
When it comes to bar tools, keep it simple. My philosophy is, if you don’t know what it’s used for, don’t buy it. What you need: a basic cocktail shaker, large ice bucket, jigger (fancy word for measuring shot glass), a good blender, bottle opener, corkscrew and cutting board. Also, don’t forget great recipes. You’ll be mixing up wonderful libations in no time.
Everything tastes better in a fabulous glass — just be sure to have more than enough to go around. Fabulous does not have to be pricey, either; in fact, the key is not to worry about being all “matchy-matchy.” An eclectic collection of fantastic glassware is perfect for any bar. Hit up your local markets and thrift stores and you will find a ton of fabulous glasses perfect for any occasion. The price is perfect and you have a unique and personalized collection.
I always say there are two things you can never have enough of at any party: ice and hot men. So, control the part that you can control: get ice — and lots of it! How much is “lots”? Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you think you have enough ice, double it! Now everyone’s drink can stay full, fabulous and chilled. The only thing worse than a warm drink is no drink.
And to my point above about hot men (well, women too!): Ultimately, your party is only as good as the guest list. Be sure to surround yourself with good people. Most importantly, remember that, as the host, you are responsible for your guests. Take stock of who is driving; have taxi numbers handy; make sure you have a place for someone to crash in case they need to. Finally, be sure that the food flows just like the booze—have lots of it. Happy entertaining!
Dee Brun is the award-winning author of Libations of Life: A Girl’s Guide to Life One Cocktail at a Time, a cocktail chef and stylist, TV personality, home entertaining guru, writer, humorist, wife, mother of 4, TV Junkie, shoe-aholic, and borderline George Clooney stalker. Read her column, Isn’t it Deelightful, every Friday on Slice.ca.