Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | August 19, 2009

The Home Bar

Yesterday Derek Brown of The Gibson had a great article in Washington City Paper on the ways a professional bartender can be jealous of a home bartender. Derek writes:

I have to say that as a professional bartender I’m somewhat envious. Even though I know that must sound strange. Living in an apartment lacks the pizzazz of treating your closest friends to a round of homemade juleps, even if I serve them day-in and -out at a real, working bar. It’s the act of hospitality that exceeds the commercial exchange. It’s the passi0n behind their endeavors. You bypass foofy cocktail lists, humiliating acrobatics to get the bartenders attention and crowds of dirty martini-stoned post-adolescents and instead get a well-made drink for the simple love of the craft. Even better, you get to do this in the privacy of your own home.

Derek points out that home bars are labors of love and are by no means cheap. My collection of liquor (guessing over 80 bottles these days), bitters, syrups, and other ingredients is likely on par with many professional bars. Obviously stocking a home bar comprehensively is expensive and this likely comes before you even begin creating a real bar space at home.

I live in a fairly small apartment and an actual bar is not an option. But one day, if I’m living in a house, I’d love to set up a basement bar. I would seek to create a cozy space that has a warm feel, stocked with plush furniture, soft lighting and a range of glassware adequate to whatever cocktails my guests might desire (did someone say wrought crystal punchbowl and ceramic tiki mugs?). The bar itself would be fairly simple wood, hopefully with some brass details. I would have to have a sink to make it a complete wet bar, along with a refrigerator for ice-making and, um, refrigerating needs. I don’t think it’d have to be a particularly large space, but something that would be comfortable for my guests and allow us to avoid the distractions of television from another room.

When will this home bar be realized? I honestly have no clue. But as long as I’m into craft cocktails I have no doubt that I will dream about building out my own home bar.



  1. Why a basement bar? I think a home bar would be best in the living room.

    • Well, I think the requirement to have both a wet bar and refrigeration (especially ice making), makes the basement more desirable. Many basements have plumbing fixtures to start out with, while most living rooms do not. And I’m obviously talking about having a finished basement, not anything rough or dirty. Make sense?

  2. Hi Matt,

    I can sense your enthusiasm reading your article!
    Having your own home-bar is nothing less than exciting! Why? because it’s all yours and you can finally express your own ideas about what a great bar is all about. I would suggest that it makes sense to get started right away as the planning is almost as much fun as is the finished project. Why not start with a small inexpensive Pre-built unit and then add on as you develop new ideas…Just a thought!

    Tom Holmes

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