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Best Bar None: How to Create the Perfect Bar

Once associated with the 70s, home bars are now making a big comeback.  Halstock, the leading English cabinet makers, have recently been commissioned to create bars in some of London’s most exclusive homes and have come up with some key tips on how to create the perfect bar – whether you want something grand, fun, discreet or flamboyant.


Planning and space

The size of a bar should be determined by the number of guests you regularly entertain, not the available space.  For everyday entertaining a large cupboard or cocktail cabinet can be converted into a practical bar but if you regularly throw parties for 20 people or more and need room for two people to be making drinks, you will need a bar which is around 2m in length.  Think about wiring, lighting, ventilation and plumbing early on. 

Wet or dry?

You can incorporate a ‘dry’ bar (without a sink) just about anywhere, but having a ‘wet’ bar, with a built-in sink (and preferably an ice maker), makes life much easier.  It helps to keep a bar clean and a dishwasher means that no one has to ferry glasses backwards and forwards to the kitchen.  The sink does not to be huge and should ideally be seamlessly incorporated into a stainless steel work surface – both of which can be kept largely out of sight.  


A bar is a great way to express yourself.  It can be designed to fit almost invisibly into a room or it can make a real statement.  Halstock can create a bar using wood which will discreetly match existing paneling, or they can create a bar which reflects a particular hobby, a favorite era or a theme, such as the Wild West!  Its craftsmen can create anything from a design with tailor-made space for dozens of sporting trophies or a bar featuring an enormous TV or built-in aquarium.  They are also happy to use just about any material you can think of – from carbon fiber to mother-of-pearl.


want a bar made from wood, to avoid long-term damage it makes sense to have any surfaces which are likely to get wet repeatedly made from some other material.  Halstock can create bars with stainless steel, glass, aluminum or mirrored tops set into wood, so it is possible to have the best of both worlds.


You only need six basic tools; a good cocktail shaker, a mixing glass or smallish jug, a long-handled stirring spoon with a bit of weight to it, a strainer to get rid of seeds and pulp, a ‘jigger’ with a one-ounce measure on one side and a two-ounce measure the other and, finally, a paring knife for cutting strips of peel, for example.  A good corkscrew and bottle opener and cloths to clean up any spills are also essential.


Unless you always serve particular drinks, it makes sense to collect a whole array of glasses from short glasses to coupes and a variety of tumblers. Don’t worry if they don’t match, it will draw attention to the fact that every drink is unique, but do make sure you have enough of each type.


A couple of vodkas, gins, whiskies, a bourbon and some vermouth as well as a light and a dark rum, should be more than enough for most bars, but you may want to add a bottle of Cointreau or Grand Marnier and some Triple Sec or (if blue cocktails appeal) Curacao.  If guests may ask for cocktails, have a few ready prepared fruit purees (and some fresh lemons, limes and oranges as well as some strawberries, raspberries and fresh mint) in the fridge, along with a good range of mixers.  Unless regularly serving beer to more than 40 or 50 people at a time, when it makes sense to have it on tap, individual bottles are easiest.  Halstock can easily install and conceal built-in fridges for white wine, Champagne and a good range of mixers. 


The world’s favorite cocktails include a Cosmopolitan, a Margarita, a Mojito, a Caipirinha, a Mai Tai, a Negroni, a Martini and a Mint Julep. Harry Craddock – the legendary bartender claimed that his Leap Year Martini led to more proposals than any other cocktail.  Here is the recipe: 2 shots of London dry gin, ½ shot each of Grand Marnier, Martini Rosso and ¼ shot of freshly squeezed lemon juice – shaken with ice, finely strained into a chilled Martini glass and served with a twist of lemon zest. 


Using as well as creating a bar should be enjoyable.  Halstock will come up with ideas on everything from the overall design right down to tiny details, such as incorporating a motto into marquetry or faithfully replicating the molded edge of a client’s favorite bar.  To get the best out of a bar it pays to perfect a few ‘signature drinks’ – Diffordsguide Cocktails and Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (from 1930) are two of the best books to get you started.  You also need to make sure you have got enough help.  Making cocktails can be pretty demanding – and even if you have pre-prepared some in advance you should still work on the principle of one bartender for every 25 to 30 guests.

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