One of the best gifts for the holiday season can be assembled in anyone's abode in Legolike fashion, big or small, classic or kitsch, mod>"/>
One of the best gifts for the holiday season can be assembled in anyone's abode in Legolike fashion, big or small, classic or kitsch, mod or old-school, each part evolving into a fabulous, gleaming, awe-inspiring shrine of love and positivity—that's right—the home bar. In fact, regardless of the particular love shack you may live in, a well-appointed barroom will get you a million miles further than Ralph Lauren or the Pottery Barn ever could. So turn that double-wide into an irresistible spirit house! Build a saloon from scratch as a stress-relieving gift to yourself, or give bar components to friends, loved ones, your Mormon parents, or that buddy who's having a little trouble getting laid. Aside from a lava lamp, kick-ass neon-blue shag carpet, or the body of Ricky Martin/Gina Gershon, there's really nothing better to get the juices flowing than your own personal grog shop.
As Martha Stewart will attest, a central mixing station provides a wealth of options for festive gatherings or intimate affairs—not to mention those celebratory times when Martha herself has one too many G&T's, puts a lampshade on her head, and begs the nearest Vinyardite to ride her like the bucking bronco she really is. It's all part of the good life!
The ultimate lounge decor depends on the mixologist's personal preference: There are more bar styles than cocktails. We all know the genres: Gilligan's Island Polynesia, mirrored disco, nautical, LA poolside (or swim-up, if the budget affords), kitsch-collectible, neon palace, Godfather villa, Daddy's den, pink flamingo, tequila cantina, pool-table tavern, hippie haven, or, one of my favorites, Playboy mansion (if you can rent the costumes). Hell, you may like eight beers on tap and a big-ass moosehead on the wall.
Regardless of what you're after, the list of add-ons (and gift possibilities) is never-ending: cocktail glasses, soda siphons, wine racks, decanters, salt and sugar glass rimmers, muddlers, citrus reamers, bottle openers, pornographic ice trays, olive-grabbers, deco cocktail napkins and invites, ice-makers, and, of course, those little umbrellas that adorn Zombies and Singapore Slings. As cigar boxes and lighters are to the chimney set, so are shakers and shot glasses to the crocked clan.
First, remember that every detail of your home inebriation system is critically important—like a trip to Everest, you must have the right equipment for your journey to the spirit world. One false move, and all the previous moves (dinner, dancing, sparkling conversation, foreplay, etc.) hit you in the face like a checkmate from hell. The bar is the ultimate closer, the home-court advantage, the big finish, so don't skimp on details: Go to Pasta & Co. for the olives, Tiffany's for the right martini shaker, then make sure you've got the perfect vintage glassware, classic swizzle sticks, and an elegant wine key. Imagine Bond— James Bond—driving a Ford Taurus or drinking wine coolers, and you'll get my drift.
Here's a little shopping list to get your lounge up and swinging:
The bar itself: The best way to begin conceptualizing the home bar is to steal ideas from the pros. Check out Luau (2253 N 56th, 633-5828), the Frontier Room (2203 First, 441-3377), Serafina (2043 Eastlake E, 323-0807), the Lizzard Lounge (2325 California SW, 923-0877), and Canlis (2576 Aurora N, 283-3313), and see what style you like (while there, "borrow" coasters and bar napkins). Jukebox City (1950 First S, 625-1950) is a good place to start spending, with chrome stools ($99), diner booths ($995), jukeboxes (check out the bubbling, deco, 1946 Wurlitzer, $8,995), lava lamps, and gumball machines ($125, and since you'll be the one filling the machine, they can dispense peanuts, olives, or amphetamines).
Danny Vegh's (800-275-9404) also has functional yet boring home bars for sale. You can even add a pool table to the room for $10,000 (an 1870 Brunswick-Balke-Collendar). Cheaper, more stylin' alternatives, including some cool "cocktail" signs, can be found at antique dealer Area 51 (401 E Pine, 568-4782).
Theme props: Go ahead and get creative when erecting your Temple of Liquid Love. (If it helps to sample the product before building the store, go right ahead, barkeep!) If you're doing the South Pacific Tiki Theme, get yourself some palm fronds, bamboo mats ($8; Cost Plus, 2103 Western, 443-1055), masks ($10-$300; Milagros Mexican Folk Art, 1530 Post Alley, 464-0490), and wooden crates for bar stools (available free on Sundays at Esquin, 2700 Fourth, 682-7374). Daniel Smith (4150 First S, 223-9599) has all sorts of thatched huts, Buddhas, carved tabletops, and wacky donkey carts that can, with a little imagination, be turned into your own swamp-root sanctuary. Snag a luau shirt ($5.99; Goodwill, Rainier and S Dearborn, 329-1000) and a bag of sand ($1.95 for a 50-lb bag; Home Depot, 1335 N 205th, 546-1900), and BOOM!--it's you, Ginger, Mary Ann, and a (hopefully) passed-out Gilligan playing spin-the-bottle in your own little paradise!
Glassware: You can never have too many cool glasses: martini glasses, tumblers, highball glasses, ponies, shot glasses, wine chalices, margarita glasses, and the list goes on. Alhambra (101 Pine, 621-9571), though ridiculously expensive, has incredible glassware, from cognac snifters to stem glasses (for straight-up martinis) to champagne flutes. Go to Fremont's antique stores for great vintage glassware. Hell, pick up a punch bowl and cups if you're in the mood to go totally wild (see "Luau" theme above).
Hardware: Every bar must have one old-school martini shaker (the best I've seen is one shaped like a Zeppelin airship, ca 1925, displayed in The Art of the Cocktail, a book that's also great for bar ideas). They can be found at Williams Sonoma (1936 Penguin cocktail shaker, $125; 600 Pine, 621-7405) and at antique stores (check Capitol Hill's That's Atomic, 1502 E Olive Wy, 325-3794). If you can get over their pompous name, Sur La Table (84 Pine, 448-2244; 90 Central Wy, Kirkland, 425-827-1311) has strainers, stirrers, spoons, paring knives, and more mixologist paraphernalia than pipes at a Phish show.
Other amenities: Monogrammed bar towels are available through most mail-order catalogs. A string of neato Christmas lights overhead can be a fun idea—just avoid the silly jalape�epper lights (unless you're totally doing the tequila bar theme). Bar games are also a nice addition: Trivial Pursuit, cards for strip poker, Twister (avoid dartboards—they don't mix well with liquor). A Web site called Mixology's (www.mixologys.com) has all sorts of bar decorations, including a martini lamp ($99.95), martini table ($119.95), and more Irish pub prints than there are actual Irishmen.
Regardless of your theme, buy some candles for ambiance. Another nice touch is to have a cocktail tray (or a moveable minibar) at your disposal in order to bring nightcaps to a "more comfortable" area. Handles are a nice feature for when it's dark and you're tipsy. Pick up some nice bamboo trays for a mere $42, and some sweet leather coasters while you're at it ($4.95), both available at Capers in West Seattle (4521 California SW, 932-0371). Speaking of trays, ashtrays are optional in this new age of health-consciousness, but I'd suggest having one on hand for matches, toothpicks, and, when the party really gets going, roaches (from spliffs, not the insect family).
Finally, let's talk about stocking the bar: You could blow all your cash on one ostentatious purchase of a bottle of fine wine—a Titanic-boarded Bordeaux with hints of seaweed and saltwater, perhaps, auctioned off at $12,000 (winebid.com). But that would be as ridiculous as giving James Cameron an Oscar. Instead, you'll need the critical basics to stock your personal saloon. So here are the Cliffs Notes:
Mixer: Have soda, tonic, and ginger ale on hand at all times. A great gift idea is a package of all the fixin's for a Bloody Mary (Sting Ray mixer, marinated asparagus stems, Tabasco, fresh horseradish, Worcestershire, Clamato, a pepper grinder, etc.). And always have ice on hand. Lots of it.
Tequila: This is one rocket ride you don't want to miss out on. Forget those frat memories of you, Jos鬠a lime, and a salt lick—the good stuff has nothing to do with slamming. Buy a bottle of Patron Gold, 100 percent Blue Agave ($48.20 per .750). It's smooth, it'll make you feel like you're trippin' without the hallucinogens, and best of all, it's legal.
Rum: I like Lemon Hart from Guyana ($23.95). Then again, 151 (Bacardi, $18.95) will kick you in the head for those times when that's what you really need.
Vodka: A must in every arsenal. Everybody's got an opinion about what's best. Some people swear by Belvedere ($26.95), though I think they're snowed by the bottle. Me, I enjoy the granddaddy of 'em all—Stoli, 100 proof ($17.95), which smacks of grain alcohol, Soviet machinery, and motor oil. Regardless of what you decide, keep the vodka well stocked as it's a mainstay of Greyhounds, Screwdrivers, White Russians, Kamikazes, Salty Dogs, Vanilla Tinis, etc.
Gin: Who gets drunk on gin anymore? My dad, that's who, so have it on hand. Tanqueray's the classic ($18.95), though taste preferences vary wildly.
Scotch: Don't cut corners here—drink Black Label ($29.95), Chivas ($28.95), or my personal favorite, Dewars ($21.45), with its malty flavor and smoky, clean finish. In the way of single malts, yes, have a bottle of 15-year-old Balvenine ($52.95)—get it for $40 at the Duty Free on the way back from Vancouver. Otherwise, Oban 14 is sweet ($39.10) and so's Knockando 12-year ($38.95). Test-drive a few at your favorite watering hole before laying down the cash. Another option is to get one of those cheesy "single-malt samplers," which are basically a bunch of airplane bottles in a box, but a fun way to try the small-batch single malts.
Irish Whisky: Jameson ($20.95) from Dublin is the real deal, as is Paddy, if you can find it.
Bourbon: Yep, gotta have some of this, too. The more the merrier, in fact. Kentucky-bred, 100-proof Knob Creek ($28.45) puts the "fire" in "firewater." Throw in a few ice cubes, even some sugar if you've got a sweet tooth, and enjoy the ride. Bookers has hints of vanilla, orange, and a campfire, and sells for $49.95 a bottle. Basil Hayden's ($33.95) is spicy and oaken with a long finish. Have some Maker's Mark ($18.95) and V.O. ($14.95) on hand for when you run out of the good stuff.
Cognac: Kelt VSOP ($49.95) is rich, full of oak, and yummy, for lack of a better word. Of course, if you're rich you could spend the $129.80 for Remy Martin XO, but that's like spending $80 to see the Sonics in row 33 versus spending $150 for row 26. How much money do ya have, and if ya have that much, why aren't you courtside (Kings Cognac, Louis XII, $58,900)?
So there's your starter kit, which oughta keep you well lubricated, at least until the well runs dry. Practice bartending—be courteous and witty, dole out nice strong pours, and you will be wildly popular. And remember, just like Archie Bunker, if you get bored with your own little home bar (and feel like throwing several thousand dollars down the drain), you can always buy the neighborhood cocktail lounge and run your shop out of there.
Michael Stusser is a frequent contributor to Seattle Weekly.