It’s the season to be jolly, and much of that cheer comes from catching up with friends and celebrating the year-end. Chances are, not only will you be attending a whole heap of parties in the coming weeks, but you will also be hosting a few shindigs of your own.
For those amongst us who don’t entertain much until December comes around, having a house-party can be quite challenging. The easiest way to get started is to break your planning down into sections: drinks, food, décor and so on. Then tackle each element one by one. Let’s start with your bar. Is it ready for the year-end party season? Read on to find out if you are adequately prepared and, if not, use our checklist to make sure you’ve got everything you need before the bash begins!
Okay, so do you have a bar? If you are already the proud owner of a beautiful bar counter, that’s one thing you do not have to worry about. If not, don’t panic — you needn’t shell out a pretty penny on a drinks cabinet that you have no room for anyway. Buy a bar cart if you have space for it, or convert one of your living room tables into a temporary bar. Don’t pick a low coffee table, because you will find that inconvenient during service. Also, ensure the table is sturdy enough not to topple at the slightest push, because (for some inexplicable reason) people tend to lean against the bar a lot! Once you’ve got this far, account for spillage by covering the table with a waterproof tablecloth (even cling film works well) — then you can hide unsightly plastic by laying a prettier table cloth over it.
THE TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Some of these suggestions are absolutely critical and some things you can possibly do without, depending on what drinks you are serving and how much you want to do. An ice bucket with ice tongs or a scoop, a bottle opener, napkins, swizzle sticks, a few trays — these are things you must have. Also, always keep a lined dustbin by the bar: you’ll have less to clean up later, if you stay organised throughout. Now, on to level 2. If you are serving cocktails, you will need a tot measure (aka a jigger), a bar spoon, a cocktail shaker, a strainer and a muddler. If you are serving wine, you will need a wine key (that’s an opener) and a bottle stopper. We love beverage tubs, from which guests can grab pints and cans without having to ask for assistance, and while having one isn’t essential, it will save you some work and it looks great! Similarly, drink dispensers add a festive feel and up the ante in the décor department, so it wouldn’t hurt to have one or two.
YOU CAN’T SAY ‘CHEERS’ WITHOUT A GLASS!
Specific drinks require specific glassware, so account for what you will need based on the drinks you plan to serve. For a full bar, including general cocktails, we’d recommend old-fashioned glasses, highball (tall) glasses, beer mugs, wineglasses, martini glasses and shot glasses. If you are serving champagne, include champagne flutes too. Pre-mixed cocktails can be served in drink dispensers, but if you don’t have any, keep a few pitchers handy. Again, you don’t need to buy several dozen glasses and then grapple with storing them for the rest of the year — just go to your local decorator and rent the lot!
WHAT’S A BAR WITHOUT ITS BEVERAGES?
Now that you have a bar, the required bar tools and some chic serveware, let’s get to the most crucial part: the booze itself. Make sure that your bar is well stocked with liquor, keeping the preferences of your guests in mind. Running out of alcohol mid-party is a festivity foul you should avoid at any cost! Always offer a good whiskey (you can’t go wrong with Johnnie Walker), a smooth vodka (try Cîroc), white and red wine, an assortment of beers and a rum with attitude (we love Captain Morgan). Have a host of mixing essentials on hand too, such as juices, soda, tonic water, colas and cordials. Sugar, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon, Tabasco sauce and bitters add a dash of drama.
KEEP COLD AND PARTY ON
Here’s a bar essential many folks don’t pay attention to until they’ve run out: ice, ice baby! Get ahead of the game by stocking up on ice cubes and crushed ice for service. Don’t forget the ‘slab ice’ required for chilling beer, wine and other stored bottles. Adopt this nifty trick (for which you can thank us later): add salt to the ice in your cooler or beverage tub — single cans will chill faster and the ice will last longer. Go the extra mile for whiskey drinkers and invest in some whiskey stones to keep drinks cold without diluting them. Done it all? Now sit back and pour yourself a tipple!
Image Credits: 100layercake.com; westelm.com; potterybarn.com