Outfitting a Well-Dressed Bar

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If you love the Old World look, you might try a globe bar cabinet to add a sophisticated look to your home bar.

It’s no secret that many people find having a drink (or two) very appealing, especially during these stressful times. And since going out to bars and restaurants isn’t (or shouldn’t) be quite as common as it was in pre-pandemic times, a spot for at-home happy hours have become quite popular.

Now, when I say happy hour, I’m not simply talking about uncorking a bottle of wine or popping open a can of beer. I’m thinking more sophisticated cocktails that involve mixing, shaking, and pouring. I immediately think of the old black and white movies of the 1930s and 40s where every home seemed to have a bar with crystal decanters and elegant glasses. Or, I picture Don Draper and his admen cronies enjoying cocktails in their offices after landing a new client.

Either way, having an actual or makeshift bar adds to a sophisticated and fun ambience. And outfitting that bar with all the right accessories is key to enjoying your happy hour in style.

Start with a Good Foundation

The bottom line is any base will do as a bar, just make it your own. Of course, you want it to be the right size for the space but beyond that, your options are endless. It could be a stand-alone bar cabinet or just a designated area atop a piece of existing furniture. Think about the style you want to portray such as Hollywood regency or a cool sixties vibe. If you love the Old World look, how about a globe bar drink cabinet? Brass and glass bar carts are a popular trend right now.

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Brass and glass bar carts are a popular trend now.

In my home, I have a more formal bar in our living room, which is great for holding the majority of our liquor and glasses. But some of the glasses and other accessories I’ve accumulated are too pretty to hide behind the bar. I have favorite and treasured items I display on top of the large bar, but I’ve also created other areas throughout my house to show off some of my other collections.

For example, in one corner of the living room, I topped a simple snack table with a vintage mirrored tray that holds among other things, a collection of gold-rimmed cocktail glasses that were my husband’s grandmother’s. In our den, I opted for a more relaxed look with a tray that right now holds outdoor wine glasses and a pitcher for Bloody Marys, as well as a few other collectibles.

Accessorize, Accessorize

They say accessories make the outfit and having the right accessories for your bar will go a long way to helping you enjoy cocktails in style.

Let’s start with glasses. There are so many different styles of glasses: from champagne flutes to shot glasses to highballs and lowballs, and everything in between. You can buy an entire set that includes many different styles or hunt for individual pieces. Many glasses from the 50s and 60s have patterns and designs on them. Or, you can go for a more sophisticated style such as Waterford-type cut crystal glasses. You don’t have to stick to one style; mix and match glasses from different eras to make things more interesting.

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Glasses from the 1950s and 60s, such as this set of glass vintage Culver glasses, often boasted designs.

Every well-dressed bar needs at least one very cool cocktail shaker. I’ll admit I have a thing for cocktail shakers because I think they epitomize the art of making the perfect drink. I’ve collected a few over the years and recently purchased a 1940s shaker for my husband for his birthday. He actually hasn’t used it but it is prominently displayed along with his grandmother’s glasses, and I love the sophisticated look it adds to our bar.

Shakers come in myriad styles that go beyond the simple stainless steel variety most of us know. There are glass shakers that have drink measurements and directions to aid the less experienced bartender. More ornate vintage shakers have handles and spouts for easier pouring. You can also find cocktail shakers in the shape of rockets and penguins!

If you really want a sophisticated look for your bar, use decanters to hold liquor and wine. Cut glass ones are the most popular and let you appreciate the beautiful golden color of a fine whiskey, for example. Wine decanters are more functional since they allow the wine to “breathe” and the flavor to open up. Either way, they will definitely enhance the look of your bar.

And, Don’t Forget…

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This vintage 1928 cloth cocktail napkin is from Harry’s Bar in Paris.

There are a few more elements you can add to your bar to pull it all together. How about cocktail napkins and bar towels? Whenever I’m in a small boutique that sells home goods, I always hunt for fun cocktail napkins to add to my stash. I’ve got swivel sticks from the 1960s and vintage bottle openers. But one of our favorite pieces is a tinplate bartender that belonged to my husband’s grandfather. It’s not worth much and it’s not in the greatest shape but my husband remembers playing with it as a kid and treasures those memories. I like to think it is the finishing touch on our well-outfitted bar.


Lisa Mancuso has an Associates Degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology and a Bachelors Degree from Stony Brook University. She has worked as the Associate Director for Creative Marketing at McCall’s Magazine. As a staff writer at the National Association of Professional Women, Lisa wrote feature articles for the bi-monthly online newsletter. She has served as a reporter for the Northshore News Group and ICD Publications.

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