Survey your home, and place the bar in a location with ample room for people to approach it. Make yourself a drink, and then retreat. The bar generally determines an area of your home where people are going to congregate. Place your seating and food away from the bar area to alleviate congestion.
Unless you are hiring a bartender, it may be easier to serve only one type of cocktail. If you like, you can base it on the season or on what you and your friends like to drink.
Pick a cocktail with no more than four ingredients, excluding the garnish -- but three is really best. That way, it’s easy for you or your guests to make drinks quickly, and having fewer ingredients cuts down on cost and mess. Or serve drinks that can be made in advance and served in a pitcher, such as sangria, mojitos, or margaritas.
We also suggest inviting a few friends over to taste test a few days before the event. Some cocktail recipes, like food recipes, need an extra dash of “this” or splash of “that.”
Set up your bar with nonperishables, such as spirits, glassware, and tools for bartending.
Decorate with vases full of flowers, old vintage bottles, paper lanterns, and ripe fruit.
Stock extra glassware in an easily accessible place just in case it's needed.
Purchase all fruit, squeeze all juices, and refrigerate. Fresh lemon, lime, and orange juice will make your cocktails taste infinitely better.
Freeze some fruit for creative garnishes -- white grapes and strawberries look beautiful dropped into champagne.
Set your thermostat about 8 degrees below what is comfortable. (When you fill your home with people, it gets much warmer.)
Replace your bulbs with a lower wattage bulb or an amber-colored bulb for a nice lounge effect.
Old glassware is great. You can pick up mismatched pieces at thrift stores, garage sales, and antiques markets for very little money. Be creative! Wine needs a proper glass to appreciate the nose, but cocktails can be served in a plethora of options. Mixing up styles and colors can add to the decor at your party.
Music really sets a mood. If you are serving classic cocktails from the 1920s and 1930s, select a well-known artist from that era to play. If you have a record player around, even better.
If you are worried about spills around the bar, purchase a piece of dark cloth or velvet to place underneath the bar.
Don't put candles on a bar, unless they are inside a tall hurricane glass.
Don't forget the coasters. Place several of them on any surface that might be marred by wet glasses.
Don't overcrowd the bar with decorations, glassware, and bottles. Make sure that there is plenty of room for people to pick up bottles and put them down again.
Don't put spirits with 30% or less ABV (alcohol by volume) into the freezer. They will freeze. The ABV is listed on every label.
Get inspired to recreate classic cocktails on your own by doing some light reading. The following books contain great drink recipes and list easy mixing instructions.