Happy Hour: Bartending on a budget

By: Frank Mills

Having a great home bar doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, as the busy holiday season approaches (if you’re a football fan, the parties have already begun), you might actually find yourself saving money by avoiding pricey clubs and making your house the designated hot spot.

In his new book Bartending For Dummies, Ray Foley, the founder and publisher of Bartender Magazine, offers simple steps for stocking a fantastic home bar on a budget.

"All you need is to learn the basics,” he says. “Combine a solid basic bar foundation with a good attitude, and anyone can create the ultimate party and become the best bartender in town!"

Foley's tips include:

Keep it simple. Yes, you’ll need the basic essentials, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy ten brands of every alcohol staple. Foley recommends having at least one 750 ml bottle of gin, whiskey, rum, tequila, and vodka, as well as a bottle each of white wine and red wine, plus twelve 12 oz. beers and three bottles of liqueurs and cordials.

Don’t forget mixers. "Just one bottle of each type of mixer will do the trick," says Foley. "Must-have mixers include cola, lemon-lime soda, ginger ale, seltzer and tonic water, and lime, cranberry, orange, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon, and tomato juices."

Finish the job. Delicious garnishes like pineapples and oranges will take your drink from ordinary to awesome. Be sure to also stock lemon and lime wedges, maraschino cherries, olives, and sauces like Tabasco and Worcestershire.

To shake or to stir? Always shake cloudy drinks and stir clear drinks, Foley says. (And when shaking, be sure to point the shaker away from your guests!)

Measure. Overserving will end up costing you more, so always serve shots in shot glasses.

Announce last call. Closing your bar an hour before the end of the party not only gives your guests a chance to sober up, it might inspire some of them to help you clean up.

Have something for everyone. Delicious non-alcoholic drinks like a Virgin Mary or a Shirley Temple are always crowd pleasers. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, follow Foley’s recipe for a chocolate colada shake.

For more tips and delicious cocktails, check out Bartending For Dummies.