Getting the party started with your own home bar

The clink of the glasses, the rattle of the ice in the shaker, and the laughter of your loving friends around you.


WORDS JOSEPH L. GARCIA

So you’re a suave, sexy gentleman and you have everything in the world. You go through your residence, your soft Italian leather loafers shuffling on your immaculate floors, and yet you feel that something is amiss. You put your hands on your waist, brushing the belt loops on your perfectly tailored pants — and that’s it. There’s nothing in your hands, and no one’s watching your little reverie.

Maybe you need some zing, some color in your life, and the answer may lie in a brand-spankin’ new sports car, but we’ve got something up our sleeves that will really get the party started: your own home bar.

Stay with us a minute; we’ve got you. I bet you can hear the clink of the glasses, the rattle of the ice in the shaker, and the laughter of your loving friends around you. Or whatever, it could just be one person telling you how good you are with a shaker, and that can make all the difference. See it now? Great. Let’s start.

For this short guide, we tapped into the mind of Pylon Partners, Inc. CEO and Founder Patrick Cuartero (if you meet him, he’s suave as well). Pylon Partners is behind Bevtools, makers of fine barware, ABV (that’s  the 14th best bar in Asia, according to Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2017), Lazy Bastard (a hotdog stand used to camouflage ABV), and Prisma in Boracay, a seaside offshoot of its bar operations.

Jiggers, glasses, shakers, muddlers, strainers, and spoons. Bevtools can customize these with your initials or any logos you might want to include.

This guy knows a lot about atmosphere, considering that he made a ’20s speakeasy come alive in Makati. ABV boasts of an imposing bar with hardwood counters and copper details, so can we go all out with this at home? “The best way to answer this is really depending on the theme of the home bars.  A ‘home bar’ doesn’t have to be the theme,” he said in an e-mail. He gives examples for themes, citing “vintage wine cellar” (we’re thinking stone and wood for this one), “man cave” (concrete, definitely), “gentleman’s lounge” (The choices here gets simpler: Art Deco or preppy?), or a modern dive bar (at this point, maybe, you can go all out with the driftwood and the streamers). He adds, “My own home bar is a pretty nice-looking shelving unit I purchased from a wonderful furniture store called A11 on FB Harrison Street.  It carries a lot of the above.”

Hold your horses though, big boy: “With that, and on the bar itself, this now depends on space.  If you have enough space that can house a larger full bar station, then make sure the bar has elements that utilize stainless steel for easy cleanup.  However, home bars can be as simple as a small cart with a few bottles and a cutting board.”

“In other words, start with the theme, size, and requirements then choose materials from there.”

We’re imagining you live alone like Bruce Wayne or Gatsby, but just in case you’ve got people waking up on your couch somewhere, Mr. Cuartero has some suggestions on where to build your home bar. “I honestly also think this is a personal preference question as well.  But from a practical perspective, you should build your home bar wherever you find yourself hosting the most,” he said. “You should be close to where your guests are, if you’re the one that’s going to be tending the bar.” He does say that if you’ve got the bar and you’ve got someone else tending to it, then, Monsieur, by all means, enjoy your evening wherever you are.

Getting the party started with shakers and mixing glasses by Bevtools.

Of course, before throwing your big Gatsby-style bacchanalia, you’ve got to have your spirits on hand. Mr. Cuartero created for us a list of drinks that should be stocked by any self-respecting home bartender: whisky (“Build your bar on your favorite whiskies and have a nice collection to stare [at], and eventually drink!”), wine (“Have a nice wine cellar or wine cabinets that are properly temperature controlled.”), beer (“Have one draft/keg system—Kegerator is the brand most home bars use—along with a fridge of a selection of craft and imported beer by the bottle, or can, sometimes”). Finally, he makes a list of spirits, ideal for making your own cocktails at home, for your personal enjoyment or that of your guests. He first suggests vodka, the basis of many cocktails (including martinis, White Russians, and Cosmopolitans). “Ketel One is our favorite for our bar, but most people at home like Grey Goose or Belvedere, as they like the bottles,” he said.

Rum, meanwhile, is the base for Cuba Libres, mojitos, piña coladas, and daiquiries. “Havana Club is a great pouring spirit, but you can go with our favorite—Flor de Cana.” Tequila, meanwhile, can be used for margaritas and drunk neat as a shot. “Gran Centenario is a great pouring spirit, but at home, you’d probably opt for something like 1800, Don Julio, or Patron. Just stay away from the Jose Cuervo (unless it’s the real, more expensive Cuervos such as Reserva de la Familia.” Gin is the primary spirit for the Martini, the Negroni, and the Gimlet, but of course, “Gin is a good spirit to have, as a lot of guests will ask for gin and tonics!  Simple to make, for a home bartender, and refreshing and delicious enough for guests to enjoy.  Hendrick’s is a good choice for these.”He added, “We personally like Beefeater, but you can also carry Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray.”

He adds a list of whiskies to the fray. He kicks off with Bourbon, American-made whisky made mostly out of corn (as opposed to Scotch and Irish whiskies, made with malted barley or rye). For these, he suggests Bulleit and Maker’s Mark for Bourbon, while of course leaning on the classic Johnnie Walker for blended Scotch. As for his collection of single malts, he suggests Glenlivet and Glenmorangie, easier to have than his personal favorite, Oban, from one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, with only two stills. From Scotland’s Isle of Islay comes Scotch with peated (read: smoky) flavors, and for these he suggests Lagavulin and Laphroaig. From Asia, Mr. Cuartero cites players Yamazaki, Hibiki, and Kavalan (from Japan and Taiwan, respectively). While Asia isn’t the first place that comes to mind when thinking about whisky, one must note that some varieties of Hibiki have won the top prizes at contests like the International Spirits Challenge, and the World Whiskies Awards. 

A wine glass, a double Old-Fashioned Glass, and a champagne glass from from Christofle’s Jardin d’Eden line.

You’ve got your bar, you’ve got your booze, now you’ll need barware. You didn’t think you’d serve your cocktails out of a water bottle, did you? Mr. Cuartero recommends having on hand shakers, mixing glasses, strainers, spoons, a jigger, a citrus press, a muddler, a barmat (“If your home bar does not have a drip tray”), and “all different kinds of ice trays for proper ice shapes. Tube ice from 7-11 won’t cut it!” Of course, you’ll need glassware, and High Life suggests having at least two of the following: beer mugs (you’ve got to have them for your guys), brandy snifters (perfect for ruminating, swirling the glass in your hand), champagne flutes (you never know), tall and skinny Collins glasses, highball glasses (a standard for many cocktails), hurricane glasses (for heavier, blended drinks), coupes (shaped a bit like a nice little cup, and perfect for margaritas), cocktail glasses (for your “shaken not stirred” James Bond fantasies), Glencairn whisky glasses (for tasting whisky, made with a bulb shape) and shorter rocks glasses, wine glasses, and shot glasses (just in case you’re in your 20s). For these, Mr. Cuartero’s company Bevtools makes rocks glasses and Glencairn glasses, as well as other accessories. “Bevtools can definitely customize.  Logos or initials we can do.  Any engraving, we can make happen.  And, yes, we can source things out if we don’t currently have it.” But then, there’s also Rustan’s, with glasses made by Christofle. Christofle’s line shows off a range of wine and champagne glasses at about PHP3,950 a pop. Then there are Double Old-Fashioned Glasses from the Jardin d’Eden line at PHP12,500 for a pair.

Just in case your hands need a little more push in the right direction, ABV holds cocktail masterclasses, approximately every other Saturday afternoon.

All right, champ, you’re all set. Call all your friends (or just your date, really), but bear in mind that your home bar should be, according to Mr. Cuartero, “comfortable for all guests, including the home bar owner.”

Oh, and make sure you take their car keys.