To best execute a stock-the-bar party, be sure to divide the party space into multiple zones. While the perimeter of the room is filled with tables for lounging with cocktails or enjoying finger foods, the bar is centrally located just a few feet from the tables for easy access, with more casual seating in the middle of the room. The gender-neutral color scheme is welcoming to guys and gals, and can also be taken into a more feminine direction with the addition of pink or a more masculine direction with burnt orange.
It’s best to keep food simple at a stock-the-bar party, due mostly to the fact that wine and spirits are meant to be the main focus. To keep guests from becoming hungry, create a layout of finger foods displayed on a variety of vessels. Cheeses, breads and meats are usually a big hit with guests, and they’re easy to prepare and display.
Fill the Shelves
There are two main approaches to stock-the-bar events. One suggests the hosts supply all of the glassware and accessories needed to host parties in which wine and spirits will be served, and the guests bring two bottles each, one to stock the bar and another to be used at the party. The second method suggests that guests bring everything needed to stock the bar, both for the party and for the homeowners' use.
Stop It Up
Bottle-stopper sets come in handy at stock-the-bar parties both as gifts from guests or supplied by the host. Due to the amount of guests interacting in a single space, corks often get lost or tossed in the trash while bottles are still half-full. Placing bottle stoppers nearby ensures open bottles of wine won’t expire. Bottle stoppers are also a quick and easy way to dress up otherwise generic or nondescript bottles.
Chiavari chairs are one of the most popular styles of rental seating for events. Often feminine in color and used at weddings, these designer favorites are also available in more masculine or gender-neutral versions such as these with a merlot-toned wood finish and cream leather upholstery.
Put your signature recipes on display creatively with chalkboard serving trays made from picture frames. Remove the glass from the frame, then insert a small piece of plywood or luan cut to size and painted with chalkboard paint. Pick up drawer pulls from the hardware store, then attach two of them on opposite sides of the frame.
One of the easiest ways to instantly dress up spirits and garnishes is with decorative serving trays, decanters and rocks glasses. Trays create uniformity amongst disparate objects, resulting in the look of a collection. Decanters are ideal for bringing more of a formal touch to serving cocktails. Decorative rocks glasses offer a chance to incorporate color, texture, pattern and sheen into your bar groupings.
Add ambiance to your stock-the-bar party with a one-of-a-kind chandelier made from discarded wine bottles and basic lumber. Save an assortment of used wine bottles in different colors and lengths, then remove the base of each bottle by first scoring it with a wine bottle glass cutter, then carefully pouring boiling water over the score, and immediately putting the bottle under cold running water. The temperature change will cause the glass to crack along the score line with a clean break. Smooth the edges with a sanding block. Next, have a plank of 2”-thick pine cut to size at the local home improvement store, and add holes properly spaced with a drill and 2” paddle bit. Finish in desired stain, add pendant kits to each bottle with wires threaded up through holes, then insert bottles into place, securing tightly with silicone. Add chain to the top with wires hidden inside chain.
Adding lounge seating to your stock-the-bar party is a great way to encourage guests to relax over long conversations and cocktails. To create the look and feel of a lounge, center club chairs around any object with the proper scale, shape and height for use as a temporary cocktail table. Here, the center of the living room was used as a men’s lounge with a pair of tufted chairs flanking a repurposed rope spool.
High-top tables, also referred to as “bar height,” sit between 40” and 42” above the ground. These are ideal for wine pairing stations as they allow guests to easily walk up, try wine and primers, and enjoy brief conversations as they move from table to table. Positioning high-top tables around the perimeter of the room with at least three feet between them will allow guests to mingle among different tables without overcrowding one another.
Add a custom touch to your tasting tables with conversation bubble chalkboards. Trace a conversation bubble shape to 1/4” luan using a pencil. Cut the traced shape out with a jigsaw, sand the edges with a sanding block, then apply two coats of black chalkboard paint. To create a stand, pick up a dowel and corresponding wooden disc base from the craft store, then secure the thought bubble chalkboard to the top portion of the dowel using hot glue. Use chalk to identify the featured wine as well as the accompanying primers.
Garnishes are also key to a successful stock-the-bar party. Cherries are best kept chilled; however, fruits such as limes, lemons and oranges are best kept out in a tiered tray alongside mixers and stemware.
Invites + Gift Suggestions
Once you've chosen your party approach, let guests know what they need to bring with them. Include cards inside the invitations instructing each guest as to what they should bring. This will eliminate multiples of the same item and also ensure the homeowner’s bar is fully stocked once all guests have arrived. Download the template here.
If glasses are being provided as gifts, wrap them with twine or ribbon or simply carry them in gift bags. This will make accessing them for immediate use much easier.
Mix It Up
Mixers play an important part in the design of a successful stock-the-bar party. While mixers are low in price, they’re high in demand and tend to be depleted early on if not stocked appropriately. A great assortment to keep in mind is multiple bottles of seltzer or soda water, simple syrups, grenadine, margarita mix, tonic, assorted sodas and juices.
Stocking a bar with the proper glassware for wine and spirits can be a daunting task, especially given how many types of specialty glasses exist for specific cocktails and brews. Instead of overflowing your cabinets with glassware you'll most likely never use, keep in mind the modern-day essentials: margarita, martini, sangria and tall beer glasses.