Stocking the Perfect Bar,Part 4 “Where to set it all up?”

Now that you’ve collected all your bar tools, drinkware, and ingredients, how and where are you putting them to use?  When it’s time to serve drinks, are you spread out all over the kitchen counter?  Or do you have a separate space for your bar that’s close to the food preparation area without getting in the way?  Let’s talk about pulling everything together into a great bar that will maximize your efficiency as a bartender…and as a host.

The location of your bar area is the key.  Your goal is to minimize the amount of time you, as bartender, will spend hogging the kitchen sink/counter/refrigerator while that crucial kitchen space is simultaneously being used for meal preparation.  Happy hour should blend seamlessly into dinner — with the drinking part of the evening happening alongside the dinner preparation activities, but not interfering with them.

If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated wet bar in your home, great!  But don’t let lack of a wet bar dissuade you from setting up a fantastic and functional bar.  After all, in a wet bar, the sink is primarily a convenience for easily cleaning up.  In lieu of a sink, two small towels (one of them damp) and some spare glassware can get you through a couple of rounds of cocktails while keeping you (and your fellow imbibers) from interfering with the activities in the kitchen.  You can create a great and functional bar out of nearly any piece of furniture that has a waist-high flat surface.

We once made a fantastic bar out of a small antique hutch that we tucked into a corner of our eating nook.  The glassware fit into shelves above a small space that I used as a countertop, the liquor went into the cabinets below, and I kept the tools and a few bar towels in two small drawers.  Before happy hour, I’d prep the countertop with my ice bucket, knife and cutting board, mixers, fruit, shaker, towels, and a few bottles of liquor.  While the Hostess prepared happy hour snacks and dinner she had the entire kitchen to herself, and my bar was ready with everything I needed for happy hour with just an occasional quick trip through the kitchen for more ice.

You can achieve the same thing, even temporarily, with a small table or cabinet.  Setting the bar up away from the kitchen serves to spread your guests out by giving them a reason to hang out in the space between the two zones.  This makes it easy for you to mingle as you serve while it also helps keep everyone from congregating in the kitchen area.  It’s especially effective for smaller living spaces like apartments and condos, and the concept can be applied to any living space.  Locate your bar area within view of the kitchen, with some seating and snack service in between the two areas, and you’ll find that your happy hour, hors d’oeuvres, and dinner preparations all blend into one big party.

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