I've been trying to build up a little bar in my kitchen. I've got about a dozen bottles and some sweet vintage bar tools and shakers. It looks great! Aaaand it goes completely untouched. What am I doing wrong? Doesn't alcohol sell itself?? My friends come over and just grab a beer out of the fridge - even the people who don't like beer.
How do I get this (cocktail) party started?
Here's the thing. The only people who will walk right up to a bar and start pouring are drunks and bartending enthusiasts. For casual drinkers, a bar can be really intimidating.
So why go to the trouble? A bar is a wonderful thing to have. As a host, a well-stocked bar is party insurance. A massive amount of beer is too hard to store and too easy to skunk. Too much beer is a pain, too little beer is a disaster. But the hard stuff keeps, it looks fancy, and there are times when you'd much rather keep it classy with a highball then feel your beer bloat weighing you down.
Plus, with a bar there is the potential for alchemy. It gives amateur bartenders a chance to show off their skills. It opens you up to new flavor combinations and it makes room for the unexpected.
So don't give up on your bar - just bring the bar to the people.
1) Help them help themselves
Before your event, take stock of your bar. Scan through a bartending book and choose between five and 20 cocktails you could make without having to buy more than a bottle or two and some mixers. Then set up your bar around these cocktails - display the bottles you've selected along with their mixers and garnishes, and whatever tools people might need; can opener? blender? shakers? shot glasses for measuring? Print out a menu of featured cocktails and mount it on some cardstock, or just tape it to the wall. Leave the bartending book within reach and use post-it notes to tab the pages.
2) Do the work for them
Pre-mixing some cocktails is a great way to get the party lubricated. I recommend mixing up two different pitchers and labeling them. You could make labels from brown paper bags and tape them on, or use a grease pencil on a glass pitcher. Write the name of the cocktail, and then suggest a mixer that could be added if it's too strong. Depending on the size of the party, you might also want to serve a punch, or leave out a shaker of shooters people can pour.
3) Don't forget the teetotalers
It's nice to remember your friends who aren't drinking, for whatever reason. Make a third pitcher of mocktails, so they can feel festive, too. Label the concoction and if you want, recommend a liquor people could spike it with.