Quick Take: A pre-planned home bar menu makes entertaining easier for you and more enjoyable for your guests
At its best, home entertaining is about spoiling your favorite people in your personal space for a fleeting moment. It’s about creating an environment that makes guests feel comfortable and coddled. When you come to my place, you’re not just here for a drink, but to relax into the bigger context of “Devil & Co.” For me, naming our personal space for entertainment purposes isn’t just a precious affectation, but a signal – to me and my guests – that we’re here for something more than just knocking back a drink at my home bar. I want to fully entertain you. One of the things that makes that totally immersive entertainment easier is a predetermined, planned home bar cocktail menu.
Why Create a Home Cocktail Bar Menu:
Put Your Guests at Ease:
Sometimes “What would you like to drink?” is a minefield of a question. Guests may not know what they want to drink. They might not want to ask for something you can’t offer. They might be afraid of asking for the “wrong thing”. It’s just so wide open! Good guests like a little guidance. So make them feel spoiled with a few options, but comfortable with not too many of them.
Better Organize your Home Bar:
Having a set menu means you know what you need. Instead of trying to have everything on hand to please everyone all the time, just make sure you have the small, select and solid choose that supports your current cocktail menu.
Perfect Your Cocktail Game:
Practice makes perfect. I used to try and make a new menu for every time I entertained. Maybe this provided some variety, but I totally lost in the quality department (both in terms of cocktails and life) Now, if I spend a little time practicing and developing a few cocktails that work, I can deliver consistently each time. Otherwise, I’m always chasing ingredients and not always delivering on each cocktail.
With all that in mind, this season I focused on creating a menu of classics with seasonal and special twists and came up with:
Classic with a large caper garnishes
(let’s face it: martinis will always be on the menu here)
An autumnal take on the classic
(this also goes nicely with a cheese plate)
Trade Wind Tonic
A gin or vodka tonic with an exotic touch
(the exotic is Trade Winds bitters, an easy way to add value: something unusual from the states that will last the season)
Joaquin Simo’s sidecar recipe
(the classic but made with rich syrup, which works better in colder months)
Plantation Cuba Libre
(because sometimes I just want a rum & coke)
A house creation involving calvados, brown sugar syrup and smoked ice
I have a lot of bottles in my bar and like to live it up. But you might not want to offer six cocktails. Your bar menu might even be just one well thought out drink. However you organize it, you can still take some inspiration from my process in planning your own home bar menu.
Tips for Creating A Cocktail Menu for Your Home Bar
Add value in easy ways:
I add special (but easy!) touches to my drinks like this year’s martini with a tattoo garnish or the Old Fashioned served in a pour-it-yourself perfume bottle. (by the way, I pre-batch those in a big bottle and the perfume bottle is the right proportion, so I don’t have to make it a la minute OR measure) The idea is to create a drink that’s easy to make + a little touch that isn’t too complicated or expensive to recreate but gives your guests something a little extra.
Play with the classics:
I rarely try to create a custom list of cocktails. I like to slightly twist the classics (they are classics for a reason!) with special touches like those mentioned above or with a little seasonal addition. I usually create just one custom cocktail that can be a bit of a show-off as a house invention.This season it was the Fall Fashioned. But, no reason to go crazy because you’re not a full bar. Which brings us too….
Recognize that you’re not an actual bar:
While there might be certain expectations in a popular cocktail lounge, things are different at home. My goal is not necessarily to impress every cocktail connoisseur in town, but rather to deliver what makes my guests happy. I’m not home entertaining to change cocktail paradigms or challenge cocktaillian’s palettes. I don’t drink vodka, but I always put a vodka option on the menu. This winter menu also includes a simple rum & coke as well.
Print a menu:
Printing a menu is one of the easiest ways to up your home bar game. It’s simple and also saves you the time of explaining all the drinks to every guest as they arrive. I often put out a bottle of something simple like a sweet vermouth or a bottled cocktail with small glasses so people can help themselves to a small “amuse bouche” cocktail while they take the time to look through the menu. You can also pick up pretty cheap but cute menu holders to take it to the next level.
Stick with the seasons:
I really enjoy highlighting seasonal ingredients and flavours. This season I’ve got cocktails that feature maple syrup and calvados (apples!). But ‘seasonal’ doesn’t have to mean ingredients that are in season. For this menu I also chose to use the Simo Sidecar recipe because of the richer mouthfeel, which seems more comforting for winter months.
Have fun! Basically, home entertaining should not be just fun for your guests, but fun for you too! So, enjoy yourself and relax (and a little planning ahead always goes a long way to help you do just that.)