Stocking & Styling an Impress-Your-Guests Holiday Bar

By Reagan Miller
Photo courtesy of Mostess

What would the holidays be without a well-stocked bar to facilitate a great party? The bar cart has become an art—styling it, stocking it, tailoring your bar to the party, your guests, your own personal taste—and it’s all the more central during the holidays when we funnel guests into our homes for celebratory imbibing.

Here’s how to stock your bar, style it well, and impress all the guests who cross your threshold this season.

Stocking your bar for the holidays

The basics of stocking your home bar for the season.

Stock favorite cold-weather spirits

When making your booze list, go with alcohol classic to cold-weather cocktails. Here’s your winter bar shopping list.

Classic winter spirits and booze: great for mixing or to be enjoyed on their own.

  • Gin
  • Rye whiskey
  • Brandy
  • Vodka
  • Prosecco or Champagne

Digestifs are spirits to be consumed after a large meal and are meant to aid in digestion. Serve them in small denominations, just an ounce or two.

  • Sherry or port, depending on your palate
  • Amaro
  • Cognac

Modifiers are cocktail ingredients—usually alcoholic themselves—used to enhance the flavor of the base spirit. It’s not the star of the show, but it’s the spectacular foil to the main act.

  • St-Germain
  • Creme de menthe
  • Grand Marnier
  • Campari
  • Vermouth (sweet or dry, depending on your menu)

But let’s be honest, what’s the fun of hosting if you don’t show off a little? “Carry spirits that your friends and family may not be familiar with or have seen before. You’ll look like a sophisticated expert and they will be impressed,” says Jonathan Brathwaite, COO at Singani 63. And for that, it’s precisely Singani 63 that we recommend.

Don’t forget your mixers & flourishes

Mixers are (typically) non-alcoholic additions that soften the alcoholic taste of the drink and highlight those sturdy flavors to make stand-out cocktails.

  • Angostura Bitters
  • Cranberry juice
  • Simple syrup
  • Tonic water
  • Club soda
  • Lemon/lime juice

Garnishes put the final flourish on a great cocktail. When it comes to garnishes, use what’s in season. Cranberries, mint, pomegranates, oranges, lemons, limes, rosemary, cinnamon sticks, and pears are holiday flavors for a reason. Use as traditional garnishes, add these to winter sangrias, or infuse classic cocktails with syrups made from winter’s freshest offerings.

Include a pre-made drink for easy imbibing

Make one cocktail or sangria ahead of time to make hosting large groups easier. “For a holiday party—whether a seated dinner or cocktail party—I always recommend one signature drink styled on a bar cart that is easy to self-serve,” says Lindsey Rose King, founder of Mostess. “This year I’m making our signature Mostess Poinsettia cocktail, which is two parts Prosecco, one part cranberry juice, and a fresh cranberry garnish. Very simple and can be self poured or served as a batch cocktail in a punch bowl.”

Photos by Paige Baker, courtesy of Mostess

Styling your bar for the holidays

There’s no limit to the ways you can style your bar for a holiday party. Here are a few of our favorites, straight from the pros.

Flowers, a signature drink, dessert

“During the holiday season, there are three items I think every bar cart needs: fresh flowers, a signature drink with a festive garnish like cranberries or rosemary, and a finger dessert, which can be as simple as cookies or chocolates,” says King.

Photo by Clancey James, courtesy of Havenly

Pick a theme

One of the simplest ways to style your bar for the holidays is by giving it a theme. “Decide on a theme and stick with it,” says Gillian Grefé, design expert at Havenly. “It could be any type of holiday vibe you want (classic plaid and greenery, metallics, glam). As long as it feels festive and you own your theme, it will translate beautifully.”

Photo by Paige Baker, courtesy of Mostess

Let the food and drink do the decorating for you

Festive colors like red, gold, and silver are beautiful accents for a holiday bar, and your libations can do some of that work for you. “Let the drink bring color,” Grefé says. This crystal-looking drink dispenser from CB2 can hold a cider or cranberry-based drink with colorful fruit like citrus or pomegranate seeds to showcase holiday spirit.”

“Buy a small dish like this one to showcase a holiday treat like roasted nuts, festive candies, or maraschino cherries. Clear, glass dishes allow for what’s in the bowl to bring a bit more color to the bar cart.”

Photo courtesy of Mostess

Don’t forget to style the space around the bar

Grefé recommends adding some holiday flair behind the bar as well: “Hang a wreath on the wall above the cart or hang garland from the edge of the cart to really say ‘it’s that time of year.’ Bonus points if you add twinkle lights to the mix!”

Photo courtesy of Mostess

You can never go wrong with gold

“Invest in festive glassware that has a gold accent or a metallic look,” Grefé recommends. “Not only will they look great on display, but they’ll look great in your guest’s hands.”

You can also use gold-accented dessert plates or flatware, and a gold cocktail shaker or tray is also an easy way to add festive color.

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