story by Liesel Schmidt
The taste of a well-mixed cocktail or a sip of a silky smooth spirit is something that can make us relax and unwind after a long day at work, and for the hard working men of the 1950s, those after-hours drinks were the very reason behind the advent of the home bar. After all, those hours spent at the office were stressful, and coming home meant it was time to loosen the tie, settle in, and let the stress melt away like the ice cubes in a Scotch rocks. And while the wood-paneled, male-centric domestic bars of yesteryear may have become outdated and sexist, the allure of a well-stocked liquor cabinet and all its accouterments has never lost its luster.
Looking back over the history books, home bars hit the scene after World War II, when men returned from the war and were reestablishing themselves. They popped up in suburban homes all over the map, making a nightly cocktail or drink not only possible, but a sign of having made it. Consequently, home bars became part of everyone’s dream house, an aspirational feature that could be shown off during dinner parties or social gatherings. And despite the fact that many of them were in the basement, people made a point of decking them out, often modeling them after supper clubs with fancy bars and inviting their friends over for a dressy night in.
These days, we might not have the same ideas about home bars as they did back then, but they still have great appeal and are a common feature in home design. And whether they are a part of the blueprint or simply occupy a special cabinet in your home, there are still some basics that every home bar must have.
Firstly, there are the liquors: dry gin, premium vodka, bourbon, Scotch, gold tequila for mixed drinks, sliver tequila for straight drinking, dark rum for punches, and light rum for cocktails. And, of course, don’t forget various types of craft beers and wine varietals.
Mixers are next, and a properly stocked home bar must have club soda, tonic water (both regular and diet), cola, lemon-lime soda, ginger ale, orange juice, tomato juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and bitters.
No craft drink is complete without garnish, so stock up on cocktail olives, horseradish, limes, lemons, oranges, maraschino cherries, cocktail onions, Tabasco sauce, salt, pepper, and rim sugar. And, of course, make sure you have ice.
Have we mentioned accouterments? Naturally, you’ll need a cocktail shaker for making those mixed drinks, but you’ll also need a wide variety of glasses, as each drink has a specific glass associated with it. Line your shelves with Pilsner glasses, beer mugs, red and white wine glasses, champagne flutes, highballs, and shot glasses, just to name a few. These specialized glasses are made for a reason, as their size and shape help maximize the flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel of a beverage and make drinking it even more pleasurable.
You’ll also need foil cutters, corkscrews, jiggers, speed pour spouts with flapper tops for the liquor bottles, ample prep space, and a trash can be placed somewhere close but out of sight. If you have a full-size home bar, take it to the next level by adding a sink, kegerator, and a wine fridge.
Take the idea of luxury and socialization up a notch with a real bar space, complete with a counter and seating. Get bar stools that are comfortable and stylish, and equip the bar with a foot rail. Both are finishing details that can make an incredible difference to the overall look of your bar and make it even more enjoyable to use.
Whether you want to have the best home for entertaining or simply appreciate a good nightcap and want your ritual to have its own sacred space, creating your very own home bar is the perfect way to make sure your perfect drink is never far away.