How To Stock a Bar for the Holidays

‘Tis the season for non-stop parties, fa-la-la-la-la- , la- oh. my. god.

Thanks to Pinterest and Mad Men, our holiday bar expectations have evolved beyond Miller Lite and Barefoot Wines. Yeah, for some reason, we have to do way, way better than that nowadays, and I’m here to help.


  1. Know who’s coming. I guess the fact of the matter is, know who you’re going to be inviting. My Thanksgivings are usually equally divided by Football Dudes  And Their Annoyed Girlfriends, so I split everything evenly between beer & wine. No sense in prepping for cocktail hour when everyone is going to be preoccupied with turkey and the Cowboys.
  2. Easy to Mix. I love artisinal cocktails as much as the next girl, but chances are, we won’t be muddling, adding bitters, or making our own syrups and juices. KISS the holidays– Keep It Simple, Stupid.
  3. The classics. Gin & tonic. Cosmopolitans. Eggnog. Hot Toddies. Manhattans. These are the drinks people have at classy Christmas parties. Invest in a jigger (so your guests won’t be eyeballing with they *think* a shot actually is), a nice ice bucket, tongs, small/square ice blocks, and prep your bar by pre-making Olives on a Toothpick for martinis, orange twists, and pre-drain your Maraschino cherries. This will save you lots of hassle and clean up. And, let’s be honest– it’s how the pros do it.
  4. Light vs. Dark? This is the rum question. Light or white rum is meant to be mixed in tropical cocktails with light-colored juice (no one wants their pineapple juice to be dark and swampy). Dark rum is better for things like Hot Buttered Rum, eggnog, and other winter beverages. It’s sweeter and has more body. And for the love of all that is holy, don’t buy spiced rum. Add your own spices.
  5. Vermouth. Vermouth is not something you can skimp on. Yes, you can buy Martini & Rossi for $6 pretty much anywhere. But you shouldn’t. IF you want to mix an excellent Manhattan or Negroni (ohhhh, Negronis), buy quality sweet vermouth. Punt e Mes. Trust a girl.
  6. Stop skimping– no one wants a barfy night for Christmas.  You’ll ruin the holiday spirit if you hand someone a drink that tastes like hairspray. I am extremely picky when it comes to my spirits, and here are my brand suggestions:
  • Gin: Gets a lot of play this season because of its piney, juniper flavor. Death’s Door and Hendricks are both about $30 a bottle and worth it. Please stop committing the crime of Tanqueray. 
  • Vodka: Tito’s or Ketel One. If it costs $11 it’s going to make you hurl.
  • Rum: Gosling’s only. The Dark & Stormy is an excellent party beverage, and requires (really, it’s copyrighted) Gosling’s rum and ginger beer. Ginger beer is your best friend– calms the stomach and has a spice, so it slows down the rate of consumption.
  • American Whiskey: Bulleit bourbon. It’s only $20 a bottle, can be had on the rocks or mixed. Brilliant.
  • Brandy. No one wants the $6 E&J stuff, even though it’s fine enough to stir into eggnog. Go for stuff that’s labeled “alambic” or “Cognac style,” which means it’s distilled in copper pot stills and is smoother and easier to drink. Expect to pay $30-70 for a bottle. If you don’t want to stir $70 brandy into your drinks, I want to let you in onto my Little Holiday Secret:
  • Amaretto. Disarrono or Trader Vic’s amaretto. It’s made from apricots but tastes like almonds. Sweet with a low alcohol by volume, it’ adds JUST the right kick to a holiday beverage without going overboard. I’ll be featuring Amaretto quite a bit in some upcoming Cocktail Fridays


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