DIY – How to Make a Home Bar

From David, founder of Sommbeer @ChinookBrew

Welcome to my bar.  There’s never a tab, everything is free.  My bar is always busy but there’s never a line to get in.  This is the perfect bar because it’s mine.  You can have one too and I’m here to help.

First let’s not get stressed out about getting too fancy.  Your guests will care much more about having fun with you and other guests than that 6 ft neon palm tree in the corner of the room.  Remember too that your bar located in your garage, basement or living room can be as fancy as the Taj Mahal or as simple as chairs, drinks and posters on the wall.  It doesn’t matter as long as you try.  So let’s get started and remember, don’t worry about perfection.  Great things happen in incremental steps.

The Essential Elements for a Home Bar

The Bar
Give your guests a place to rest their drinks and chat.  A central hub creates a sense of order and by extension comfort.  When you walk in, you want to know immediately where the action is located.


The Lounge
Will you have guests from both sexes?  Guess what, after two drinks they tend to segregate into groups of men and women (at least for married couples).  Seriously though, more than one grouping of comfortable places to sit is a necessity.  At my bar, the “wine guys” stay at the bar counter and the rum heads plop down into a bean bag chair.


Reserved for Rum Heads

Too much time and angst is placed on how bars look.  I have beer signs, antiques and my gorgeous self if you really must stare at something. Decorate if you must but don’t sweat this one.

I think a tv is cheating and can be a distract from engaging conversation.  Bring in items that will drive more social interaction ie. card games, dart boards, bar shuffle board, air hockey.  As an Irish American I was born to be a bar games athlete.  At my bar I may not always win at darts but I, well ok I never win at darts.


The Potty
Seriously, think about easy access to the bathroom.  If the guys are over for a rough and loud game of poker, they don’t want to have to bother your family to get to the bathroom.  Women need tp and potpori stuff in glasses full of those glass beads.  You get the idea.  A tuxedo’d bathroom attendant with linens draped over his arm  is not required but the accommodations should be at a  “1st world” level.


Pandora is your friend.  Anything else and you or guests will have their noses pressed to phone screens looking for “that” song.  That’s an annoying distraction.  Put on Pandora and forget about it.  Also, if blood is coming out of your guest’s ears, it’s too loud.  This is your bar, not a kegger party.  Volume should be low enough without having to raise your voice.

Don’t ask your guests if they want water.  Leave it out so they can just grab it.  Hydration during and after drinking is a healthy thing to do, social constraints get in the way.  For larger gatherings I put bottled water and the fancy fizzy stuff for people to grab.

Driving – Word of warning.  Do not allow any guest to drive home drunk.  You are the bartender and you have a responsibility for them and the rest of us on the road. 

Really?  I listed the drinks last? Yeah because a bar is really about having fun, showing you care about your guests and being social.  Drinks are important however, so let’s focus on this fun aspect.

I try to stock my bar with wine, beer and liquor based on what I think others will enjoy but be careful here.  I once bought a case of Bud Light for the inlaws and they never drank it.  It’s good to be thoughtful but consider yourself too.  If you’re not sure guests will drink Bud Clamato and you have your sanity in check – don’t buy it.   With all that in mind I offer my humble suggestions as follows;

Provide craft beers along with macros.  The proportion of each is based on the crowd.  For the craft beer, assemble a mix of IPAs, Stouts and standard Ales.  Opening a special bomber or two can be a real treat. If you do this, do it for the first or second round before everyone’s palate is destroyed.  Here’s another trick; always have plenty of “standby” beers along with the premium stuff.  You will go broke if you only offer $3 beers.


Red and white is standard however I tend to focus my mix based on sweet and dry. A chilled bottle of Riesling will offset a dry (cellar temp) Malbec, both are wonderful.


A mixologist, what’s that?  Think of 2-3 cocktails or mixed drinks and provide ingredients to mix them with.  Here’s a simple foundation 
– Gin & Tonic : Gin, tonic water and already cut limes (keep sharp objects away)
– Dark & Stormy: Dark Rum and Ginger beer (ooh ginger, is this good for me?)
– Whiskey on the rocks: I’m a cowboy 


cowboy fuel

No no this isn’t a pinkies up kind of place.  A couple of bottles of fun liqeuers will really set your bar apart from the rest.  Trust me, this is fun.  Provide small small glasses for your guests and line them up for everyone to try. Ideally, your guests will be able to try 2-3 liqueurs they’ve never had before without getting trashed. 


Do you have a home bar?  Send me your pics.  I’d love to see and post them on our Twitter account or comment section below.   – David

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