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7 Tips for stocking your home bar – cheap!

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Budget-friendly bartending tips

Party season has officially arrived, bringing with it Monday Night Football games, just-because dinner parties, and holiday get-togethers that all need good eats and great drinks to go with them. However, entertaining as the hostess with the most-est can get pricey, especially if you’re serving up a tasty bevy of mixed drinks. Ray Foley, author of Bartending for Dummies, 4th Ed (Wiley Publishing, 2010) shares seven super simple tips to stock your home bar like a pro and still have money in your wallet.

Friends having drinks at home

"Entertaining doesn't have to be extremely expensive – even creating your own home bar can be affordable," claims Ray Foley, founder and publisher of Bartender Magazine and www.Bartender.com. "All you need is to learn the basics: Combine a solid basic bar foundation with a good attitude, and anyone can create the ultimate party and become the best bartender in town!"

Here are Foley's seven budget-friendly home bartending tips.

1Keep it simple

Every home bar needs the basics—think beer, wine, and liquors—but that doesn't mean you have to clean out your local liquor store. "Even if you're on a shoestring budget, make sure your bar has the essentials," advises Foley. "While brand names may not matter for your grocery staples, brand loyalty is crucial when purchasing your spirits. Keep in mind that the most expensive bottle is not always your best buy."

2Mixers make the world go 'round

Ever ordered a drink at a bar only to be told they're out of an essential ingredient in your favorite drink? Don't skimp on mixers as you'll want to be able to fill your guests' drink requests.

"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."

3Finesse your final product

Garnish, garnish, garnish. Those delicious pineapples and oranges are exactly what push an already tasty beverage into the category of divine.

"While you can't stock up on fresh fruit (and a few veggies) to accompany your drinks, a quick stop at the local grocery store is a must for any gathering," says Foley. "Make sure lemon and lime wedges, maraschino cherries, olives, and orange slices make it on your list."

4Get to know: shaken or stirred

While James Bond preferred his martinis shaken, not stirred, there are a few general rules for mixing drinks that can aid in the shaken-or-stirred debate at your next party. Always shake cloudy drinks and stir clear drinks. Never, ever shake a cocktail that contains carbonated water or soda.

5Don't over-serve

While parties are a great excuse to loosen up and relax, you don't want to loosen up too much.

For throwing the safest parties, Foley advises:

  • Serve shots in a shot glass and use only the recommended amount of alcohol in other drinks.
  • Use low-proof alcohols. No one wants the party to end early, so use low-proof alcohols, if available.
  • Have a last call. Close your bar one hour before the party ends to ensure safety first.

6Serve something for everyone

While you may enjoy a beverage or two, not all guests are going to partake in the festivities. Wow these guests by offering them more than water, providing a special drink like a Virgin Mary or Shirley Temple.

7Keep the mess at bay

Even the best guests can be a bit messy, especially when alcohol is involved. If you do set up your bar outside of the kitchen, use a small rug under and behind the bar to protect the flooring.

"Keeping your bar near or even in your kitchen is your best bet for a tidy party," says Foley. "This set-up ensures maximum entertaining and minimum clean up!"

Cocktail party recipe ideas

Betty's party cocktail meatballs recipe

In this video, Betty makes her wonderful Party Cocktail Meatballs. These are little meatballs that are covered with a tangy sauce, and placed in a slow cooker until ready to serve with crackers. They're great for game day!

More on home bartending and entertaining

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