Set the Bar for the Party Season

All the essentials for entertaining


With the holiday party season in full swing, I thought it would be a good time to review some of the essentials you should have on-hand during the season. I’m not going to assume you’ve got the basics covered, so this list will be a short list to setting your bar in order, even if you’re starting from scratch!

You might expect me to start with glassware, but that is a massive topic that needs its own discussion, so I will at least assume that you have a glass or two lying about.
A good knife and cutting board
No need to get fancy here, but you’ll want a sharp, easy-to-handle knife for cutting garnishes as well as a small, but not too small, easy-to-clean cutting board.

A cocktail shaker
There are many cocktail recipes that require a good shake, so this seemingly specialized tool has become more of a necessity with each passing year.

Basic cocktail tools
In addition to the shaker, you’re going to need a strainer, and a muddler, which is very likely to come with a nice cocktail shaker anyway.

A punch bowl
There’s no better way to have a good time at your own party than having an easy self-serve festive beverage on-hand.

It seems like ice can be the forgotten step-child of the holiday bar. You’re gonna need a lot of ice and those cubes frozen together in the bottom of your automatic ice maker aren’t going to cut it. Fresh ice is vital to a good cocktail bar, so make some the day of your party and head out to the store to stock up on ice several hours before your guests arrive. 

While you’re out, you’ll want to pick your standard garnishes: limes, lemons, cocktail onions, maraschino cherries, kosher salt, and olives. You can buy those green standard olives, but I like to stock up some jumbo olives stuffed with almonds or garlic for a little extra snap in my martini. And besides, whatever’s left over makes a better snack!

The other stuff
You’ll have to stock up on toothpicks, maybe swizzle (love that word!) sticks, cocktail napkins,  and garbage bags. Yes, garbage bags of all things -- getting pretty festive, aren’t we? You might want small bags to use by the bar, for garnish scraps or as improvised ice buckets as well as dotted around your pad so you’re not finding stray toothpicks and balled-up napkins stuffed between your sofa cushions. Large garbage bags are great for holding ice, and especially useful for keeping beer and wine chilled.

And of course you’re gonna need some booze. Back in June, thanks to a few tips from Jeffrey Morgenthaler, mixologist at Clyde Common in Portland, OR, we showed you how to put together a five-bottle bar. We'll give you a full run-down of what to stock your bar with next time.

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  • Snooth User: ChateauBC
    362588 2

    Nice article! But I do have one important comment:

    Be very cautious when using trash bags with anything that you may ultimately consume (like ice). Many are chemically treated for odor and pest control but labeling laws don't require that to be revealed on the box. The FAQ on Glad's website says that while they don't use pesticides or insecticides on their trash bags they do use odor control chemicals. And they don't recommend using their trash bags for food storage because of the nature of the resins used to manufacture them. Read more here:

    That said, you can find large "food grade" bags online that can be used to line a garbage can, for example, to safely store bulk food items, ice, etc.

    Happy Holidays everyone!

    Dec 24, 2010 at 10:37 AM

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