Create a DIY Bar Your Guests will Love

Items for the home bar. Photo by Katy McAvoy.

When it comes to holiday entertaining, no one wants to spend the night making drinks instead of enjoying their guests. Setting out a small, DIY bar for people to create their own drinks allows everyone to mix up something specific to their tastes and have fun doing it.

A DIY bar also allows those guests not imbibing to create something delicious without the alcohol. Juices, club soda, flavored tonic water, and fresh garnishes are all ingredients for creating great mocktails as well as cocktails.

Spirits – Your DIY bar should contain ingredients to create a few easy cocktails. Choose three to four liquors from your favorite liquor brands to offer at your bar. Vodka and gin are
popular spirits and good options to set out. You can also add a few sweet alcoholic options to your set up, like orange liqueur and elderflower liqueur.

Mixers – In addition to bottles of club soda and tonic water, choose mixers that you enjoy and people are familiar with. Cranberry juice, pineapple juice, simple syrup, ginger beer, and lemon-lime soda are all popular options for drinks and easy to mix and match for creating delicious cocktails.

Garnishes – Besides making a drink look pretty, garnishes are another way to add flavor to a cocktail. Choose garnishes that work for a variety of drinks and are easy to prep ahead of time and keep stocked throughout the night. Wedges of fresh limes, oranges, and lemons work great for this, along with fresh mint, basil, and/or rosemary.

Tools – At minimum, provide your guests with a jigger or shot glass for measuring liquor, spoons or stir sticks, and some cocktail picks for adding garnishes. A cocktail shaker and/or mixing glass with a strainer can be fun additions especially if your guests already enjoy making cocktails at home.

Glassware – Set out a variety of glasses for your guests. They don’t all have to match! Choose some stemmed glassware like wine glasses, martini glasses, or coupes as well as rock glasses and other short glasses for those who want ice in their drinks.

Ice – Always provide lots of ice and keep your ice bucket full. Very few drinks are served warm. Ice is considered an ingredient in most cocktails, whether it’s in the glass itself or in the cocktail shaker. The little bit of cold water melting off the ice and into the cocktail while shaking it up or while it’s sitting in the glass is factored into the recipe and taste of the drink, so don’t skimp on the ice.

Tip – Afraid your guests won’t know what to make? Provide a small menu of suggested cocktails to get them started. Vodka sodas, gin and tonics, and Moscow mules are quick and easy drinks for people to make, even if they’re unfamiliar with mixing cocktails.

recipe: Holiday Gin Cocktail 

Fruity without being too sweet, this cocktail is an easy choice for your next holiday party or happy hour.

Serves 1

1.5 oz gin

1 oz cranberry juice

1 oz pineapple juice

0.5 oz simple syrup*

0.25 oz orange liqueur or triple sec

0.25 oz fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice cubes. Shake well for 10-15 seconds. Strain into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with an orange slice, fresh rosemary, or a few cranberries. Sip and enjoy!

*For the simple syrup: Mix ½ cup of white sugar into ½ cup of hot water. Stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Chill the syrup before using. Store it in a glass bottle in the refrigerator. Simple syrup will keep for up to 3 weeks.



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