The home bar: Part 1


Every September San Francisco is host to a wondrous occasion know as Cocktail Week. Classes, lectures and bar-hosted events are held all around the city. This past cocktail week your humble Enthusiasts attended a seminar on a topic that has always been of great interest to me: the home bar.

Our gracious hosts were none other than Jon Santer­—founder of Bourbon and Branch (among many other prolific San Francisco bars) and David Nepove, aka Mister Mojito—currently a bar advisor by trade, but a long-time San Francisco cocktail guru. Between the two of them, it’s needless to say we were in good hands.

In this multi-part series I will take you through everything we learned. From how to build a bar; to the tools you’ll need to outfit it with; to the various ingredients you’ll want to keep behind it. In Part One we cover the bar itself. And depending on budget, the sky really is the limit.



The lesson started with instructions for how to actually build a bar from the floor up. The carpenter in me was enthralled. Of course you can build out of just about anything, but the basic dimensions you should be aware of are as follows:

  • Bar height: 42” from the floor
  • Bar top: 24” – 30”
  • Bar depth: 11”+ (the area under the bar where customer knees go)

    Someday we’ll have space to build a bar like this…

    You’re going to want hooks, stools and a rail for guests to put their feet on. A mirror on the back wall is always a nice touch. And if you want to go really crazy, call the plumber and install a sink. But if you’re like us and live in a small apartment, an kitchen cart from Ikea works just fine.

    Functional. Everyday.


    That said, no bar is really functional without ice. Ideally you can have a dedicate refrigerator for ice and glasses—if not a built-in ice maker. Barring that, just get a set of silicone ice trays (small cubes for shaking, large cubes for cocktails) and keep a sealed container full of ice in your freezer. For a larger events you’ll want to stock up. Professor Santer recommended 5-10 lbs of ice per-person. There’s no way you’ll need this much unless you constantly mix cocktails for everyone in the room all night (i.e. I really want to go to one of his parties). In my experience, more like 2-3 lbs of ice per-person is perfectly sufficient. But be sure to have beer and wine as well to give people options and yourself an occasional break from mixing.

    Next you going to need the various tools of the trade. Check back next week for a breakdown of bar implements and finally understand the difference between Hawthorne and Julep strainers.

    Bar construction photo courtesy of willwhitedc, flickr.