One of the best things about adulthood is being able to throw a party basically whenever you want: an upscale dinner soiree, a birthday bash or a lazy outdoor get together can always be arranged, no permission required. Alcohol is always part of the equation with the 21-and-over crowd, and serving Instagram-worthy drinks is a must. But if you don’t know the difference between a pilsner and a highball, then your love of entertaining can take a serious hit. It’s time to learn how to be an at-home bartender. Don't worry about all of the complex recipes or intricate techniques of the pros — use these 12 ideas to build your bar and your basic mixology skills, and your next party will be one for the books.
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Perfect Your Bar Setup
First things first: you need to get yourself completely ready for the party before you think about the cocktail list. That means decor, a menu and a dedicated space for drinks decked out with all of the tools and ingredients you need. Most of us don’t have full bars in our homes, but the next best thing is a bar cart we can pull in and out for shindigs. Take this industrial version for a spin, and customize it to your heart’s content.
Break Out the Glasses
Remember that time in college when you drank everything out of red Solo cups? Despite the nostalgia, it’s a little strange for a grown-up get together. Since the different names and purposes for glasses can be overwhelming, read this cheat sheet to find out exactly what you need.
Corral All of Your Tools
If you want to be a legit bartender, you should know the tools of the trade. This list details all of the essentials. Since at-home bartending has become more and more popular, you can find these gadgets online and in big box stores.
Keep Everything on Ice
A chilly glass is imperative to making sure your guests’ drinks stay nice and cold. Here are three ways to chill a glass in no time. Your friends will be impressed at first glance, and you’ll have a bartending pro tip to add to your repertoire.
Make Your Decor Match
Want to have on-theme decorations? Here’s an option for an outdoor party: a wine bottle tiki torch. Line two or three up on a ledge or along a walkway. The best part is that you can use them for any type of guest list — these look casual and elegant.
Put Out the Appetizers
Drinks can be yummy, but you don’t want your guests to have grumbling tummies. Have bowls of snacks and finger foods within arm’s reach of the hangout spots. If you’re crunched for time, you can whip up this ceviche recipe the morning of your party. Serve it with fresh tortilla chips, and you're done.
Line Up Liqueurs
Most drinks need more than just the alcohol — you’ll need extras like mixers, bitters and garnishes. Instead of running to the store earlier in the week, you can make some of your add-ons at home. Start out with this orange liqueur, and work your way up to more complicated infusions.
Mix a Few Sangria Pitchers
Now that you’re prepped for a night of making drinks, it’s time to pull out the recipes. Red wine sangria is a perfect option for an outdoor dinner party. If you’re having a lot of people over, you’ll want to break out all of your carafes and pitchers — everyone will drink it up.
Pour the Spritzers
You can uncork the wine bottle, but can you make a wine spritzer? This is a good recipe to know in the spring and summer months, when lounging at your own party with a wine glass in one hand sounds absolutely heavenly.
Get the Margaritas Flowing
All the best party people love a good margarita. This recipe shows you how to make the original tequila-based cocktail, but there are tons of variations. It’s definitely a drink you should know how to make if you really want to keep your bartending skills on point.
Master the Drink Menu
If you’re having a fancy dinner party with all of your closest besties, chances are high that someone’s going to want to have an equally fancy drink. Don’t worry — you’ll have this cucumber-garnished gimlet up your sleeve. All you need is a cool glass to pour it in.
End the Night with a Classic Cocktail
When everyone’s gone home for the night, pour yourself a gin and tonic and relax — the cleanup can wait. Now that you’ve mastered the art of home bartending, all of your future parties will be next-level fun.