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Home Bar: Everything You Need to Know About Creating the Perfect Cocktail Setup

As the negronis and old-fashioneds continue to flow during the season’s last burst of spirited soirées, all eyes are on the home bar—whether it’s an imposing built-in version flaunting a myriad of glistening bottles or a petite corner cart laden with the basics. But even after the holiday buzz wanes, whipping up cocktails during cozy winter get-togethers is a restorative ritual, one that can be elevated with an eye-catching yet functional bar setup.

“A bar cart introduces theater to the concept of serving drinks. The drama of choice, the signature pour, the final reward—it’s all in there,” says Anna Lisa Stone, head of creative for The Glenrothes Single Malt Scotch Whisky. “For me, the experience of whisky is tied to so much more than taste. A bar cart is a simple way to enhance that personal interaction.”

Bars come in many shapes and sizes, points out Stefanie Brechbuehler, partner at the New York practice Workstead, which handled the design of the newly opened Le Rock at Midtown’s Rockefeller Center, including its centerpiece bar. “Perhaps you have a room that can be turned into a bar or a corner in a room for a cabinet or a built-in, or maybe you have room for a bar cart that moves around,” she says. When seeking a space-saving nimble solution, Brechbuehler encourages finding one “that is truly special. Maybe it’s an antique, quirky, or custom-made. Whatever expresses who you are, what you love, or the mood you want to evoke is key.” One of her ideas? An antique cellarette. “You can find those on 1stDibs, and they make a gorgeous addition to any living room. Maybe hand-write a few of your favorite drink recipes on a little pad inside, and I promise when you or a guest opens this, it will feel like discovering a little treasure,” she shares.

But for those who yearn to play bartender behind a proper bar, integrating one doesn’t have to be as daunting a task as it seems. William Oberlin—partner at Dutch East Design, the New York studio that recently completed four food and drink venues at the Grayson Hotel in Midtown Manhattan—takes a completely different approach to home bars than his team’s hospitality projects, which “ensure the operational efficiency is exactly as needed for the bartenders. We like to think of the bar as a Swiss watch,” he explains. “Fortunately, at home you don’t need a speed rack, a well gun, a glass washer, a lowboy, and a beer tap, and you probably don’t need to worry about making more than two or three cocktails at once. That means you can focus on having a bar that is attractive, suitably sized, and outfitted with the essentials.”

Once the location of a home bar has been determined, Brechbuehler recommends listing all its desired equipment and fixtures. “Do you want to add an ice maker, a wine cooler, and a refrigerator? Because if you do, then it quickly becomes a bigger project. It can involve a plumber, electrician, and cabinet makers,” she adds.

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