How to Stock a Bar for Your Holiday Parties

Husband and I love to entertain year-round, and we always keep our bar well-stocked. But I know that this time of year can get a little confusing for most people. What do you really need to have on hand during the season of a hundred house guests?

So when the opportunity to collaborate on the bar area for our Home for the Holidays party presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Virginia, Kayla, and I got together to create a bar area that has a little something for everyone. The key is striking a balance. You have to have the basics, but you also will want enough little extras to make sure the party stays festive and feels tailored just to your guests.

Start With the Liquor

There are five basics to have on hand at all times. They’re the foundation for any cocktail, but can also be enjoyed all by themselves.

If you don’t know much about the liquor, I would suggest asking the store clerk what they’d recommend for a middle-of-the-road bar basic. You should never buy the cheapest, but you probably also want to avoid going too high-end. There’s nothing that pains me more than someone mixing an expensive bourbon with Coke.

  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Bourbon
  • Rum
  • Tequila


Next comes wine. People often bring wine as a gift for the host, but you never want to count on that. It’s best to keep a couple of each of the wines listed below on hand during the holiday season. For a party where people will be mingling , it’s safe to estimate  3 glasses per person and remember that each bottle contains 5-6 glasses. Just pick something you like or, if you’re serving a meal, something that will complement dinner. For our party, we drank wine donated by Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend and Ruffino Prosecco — both are tasty choices for an affordable price. Watch a little video of me popping the cork on DIYNetwork’s Instagram here.

  • One Red
  • One White
  • One Sparkling

Now, here’s where things really start to get interesting! Mixers and garnishes are both things to have on hand at any event but, as with liquor, there are two levels: the basics you need and the extras that could be fun for your guests.

Mixers: Basics

  • Dry Vermouth
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • Bitters
  • Cointreau or Gran Marnier

It’s always good to have a variety of sodas and juices — not just for mixers but for those who’d prefer not to imbibe.

  • Sodas we keep on hand: Coke, Diet Coke, and ginger ale.
  • Juices: We had grapefruit juice, which we used in the Pleasant Evening Cocktail.

Mixers for the Over-Achievers in the Crowd

Something to mix up some flavorful cocktails. Examples of things we usually have include …

  • Pama (a pomengranate liqueur)
  • St. Germain (an Elderflower liqueur)
  • Baileys (an Irish whiskey and cream based liqueur popular in coffee and white Russians)
  • Kahlúa (a coffee-flavored rum-based liqueur)

Garnishes: Musts

  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Olives

Garnishes for the Fun of It

Around the holiday season, we particularly love champagne garnishes. Kayla came up with 5 that you will simply adore – they look as good as they taste!

And that gorgeous magnolia garland over the bar? Virginia made it by hand. Get her garland how-to and tips here.

What about you? Did we miss anything? What do you always have on hand for your guests to sip?

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  9. Jan in Birmingham says:

    Thanks for listing the bar essentials. We're hosting our family Christmas this year, and by popular demand, we will be having a cocktail party rather than another seated family dinner. I need all the help I can get!

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About Hannah B. Slaughter 


I’m a graphic designer for HGTV and DIY who loves taking something old, making it new and then adding sparkle. Weekend activities include thrifting with my handsome husband, writing for ...

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