Creating the Home Bar

Let’s discuss a home furnishing upgrade, one that incorporates a gentleman’s favorite vice: drinking. We’re talking about the home bar. It’s interesting, sophisticated, and unlike most decorative pieces in the home, will actually see some use. Putting one together isn’t all that expensive or difficult. In fact, you don’t need a pricey piece of furniture, just a flat surface.

The Tray

Before you bring together your favorite beverages and glassware, you need to choose a tray. The tray provides a boundary for your setup. Like any centerpiece in a room, getting the tray right creates the backdrop for the rest of the bar. Now, you can’t go wrong with a tray in a dark color, like this one from Crate&Barrel. It’s simple lines allow the other items in your bar to stand out. For those of you who are more adventurous, look into acquiring a vintage metal tray. This option adds a little more character to your setup, and you might be able to find one on eBay. You can also browse the trays on Etsy, which offers one-off, handmade pieces at reasonable prices. Yes, they’re more coin than the other options but each item is unique and  a potential conversation piece. Whichever option you choose, remember to keep it simple; avoid trays that are overly detailed. You don’t want to overpower the rest of the setup.

The Tools

Some of us may struggle to concoct anything more sophisticated than a Jack and Coke. Nevertheless, you’ll still need to have the right tools to get your home bar started. Not only does it add to your credibility, you’ll need them for nearly any drink you make. Luckily, there are only a few tools that you truly need, but be sure that the tools complement each other. For example, you don’t want to pair copper tools with chrome counterparts.

  • Cocktail Shaker - Essential to any cocktail, the shaker is to a bartender what a palette is to an artist; it’s how you create the perfect mix. The shaker should also be the centerpiece of your setup. One shaker can be different from the next, so use this to your advantage and purchase something memorable. We recommend shakers in stainless steel or copper.

  • Cocktail Strainer - Once you have your shaker, spring for a hawthorne strainer, which even the most casual drinker will recognize. Hawthornes are best suited for cocktail shakers because they are made to fit their mixing counterpart. Again, be sure the material of the strainer matches the shaker.

  • Cocktail Spoon - Imperative for any martini based drink: anytime you hear “stirred”, you need a cocktail spoon.

  • Jigger - For those who haven’t tended a bar, this is the two-sided measuring cup use to quickly pour half ounces and ounces and is essential for measuring mixers and liquors. More experienced bartenders are likely to free pour, reducing the need for a jigger, but for the amateur bartender it’s important to have in order to ensure chemistry and taste. For more intricate cocktails like a Manhattan, using a jigger is a must to create a perfect balance between the whisky, sweet vermouth, and bitters.

  • Muddler - The final basic tool that’s needed is the muddler. A muddler is required for any libation demanding mashed herbs or fruits. Think Mojitos or Old Fashions.


Once you have collected the aforementioned tools, you can arrange them in the cocktail shaker to neatly contain these bartending essentials .

The Glassware

We now have the tools to create our favorite cocktails, but what are we going to drink them out of? If you went through the effort to carefully purchase your tools, you should consider  glassware to match. You can go in a number of directions, but old fashion tumblers never fail.They should play off the tray as closely as possible; for example, if you go with a classic tray like the one showcased above, compliment it with some sleek tumblers like these.  

The Booze

Now that the set has been assembled, it’s time to focus on the best part, the booze. In future articles, we’ll cover each type in depth, but let’s at least get something on the tray. When it comes to stocking a bar, particularly one that will also be used for decoration, you must have a single malt Scotch. Try the nearest specialty liquor store and select a Scotch you truly enjoy, which fosters conversation with others that can appreciate Scotch whiskey. If you don’t enjoy Scotch, keep drinking it until you do, as your father did, and his father before him. Outside of a single malt, we recommend you stock your favorite poison. If you’re a fan of martinis, then help yourself to a nice gin, or, if you’re an Old Fashion kind of guy, reach for a decent bourbon. Just only bring out the good liquor for the equally good friends.

Putting It All Together

So there you have it: just place the glassware, tools, and spirits on the tray and you’ve got yourself a home bar. When arranging the items, follow the grade school picture rule smallest items in front, largest in backso you can easily reach  the tools or ingredients you need. No matter how you choose to arrange it, you now have a functional bar set, a conversation starter, and a charming decoration that gives your pad some class.

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A lifelong Washingtonian save for a stint at the great Pennsylvania State University, Eric now resides in the D.C. area. While not one for sound financial decisions, Eric enjoys the lifestyle and the appeal of the gentleman. He loves the curiosities of life, nothing interests him like traveling to a new place, a well-made suit, house music, or unexpected adventures leading to memorable stories, that is, if he remembers. He’s also the resident bartender for What Is A Gentleman and has the bartending school certificate to prove it.