Best Tips for Setting Up Your Holiday Party Bar

Set up a holiday party bar with our best tips and ideas. Find out what to have on hand, and decoration details to make it festive for Christmas gatherings and entertaining.

Setting Up a Holiday Party Bar

If there’s one thing you can count on at a party, it’s the fact that everyone will make their way to the bar for a refreshing beverage. Setting a festive display and adding a few special details is simple with these ideas and tips.

I decided to design a bar that would coordinate with my Christmas cocktail party. By following the same color scheme the look is modern and whimsical.

Begin by setting up a card table and covering it with a fabulous fitted table cover from TableVogue.

Keep a Well Stocked Holiday Bar

Keep your bar well stocked during the holidays, from Thanksgiving through New Years. Here’s what we always have on hand, and with these items we can whip up a hot toddy or a cold cocktail in no time

  • Bourbon
  • Vodka
  • Spiced Rum
  • Tequila or Mezcal

Specialty Liqueurs

  • Kahlúa
  • Amaretto
  • Irish Crème
  • Coconut Rum

Best Tips

  • Serve juice mixers in pitchers, bottles, or other decanters. This looks so much nicer than having all types of commercial containers on the table. 
  • For soda mixers, I like to set out smaller size cans or bottles. This way you can store the extras for later, instead of throwing out a half empty 2-liter bottle.
  • Keeping your liquor choices to the basics can keep your budget in check as well as being a space saver. Use liquors from my list above, which can all be mixed with the same sodas or juices, again minimizing your space and cost.
  • Round up your items in trays for an arrangement that looks neat and deliberate. It also helps contain spills or drips.
  • Add a savory snack to the bar. It’s nice to have little nibbles while your getting your cocktail or chatting with someone. These sweet & spicy pecans are perfect, or these savory spiced pecans. Other good choices are sweet Chex party mix or savory popcorn snack mix.

Christmas Party Details

  • One of my favorite ‘special occasion’ projects is making an ice bottle cooler. It’s an impressive presentation but simple to prepare. You just need a couple of days for freezing. The one I made here holds vodka but you can also make them to hold white wine.
  • Add some type of glass garnish whether it’s a wedge of lime, a sugar rimmed edge, fresh herbs, or in this case, a mini candy cane hanging off the side. Everyone loves this thoughtful detail. 
  • Adding playful or humorous cocktail napkins is one of my favorite ways to incorporate personality, and can even help generate conversation.
  • Add a pretty detail to your ice bucket by freezing ice cubes in silicone trays with fun shapes. I used a star shape for this party and added a cranberry to some while keeping others plain.

Final Tips

  • Plan ahead – Be sure to consider your guests drinking habits before they arrive as there is nothing worse that rushing to the shops to get the diet version of the drink you have in your bar. Likewise, if you know that more guests are not drinking this year, ensure you have extra mixers, and festive accessories for your drinks.
  • Keep it Festive – Adding a little cheer to your ice trays will keep the most drab of drinks festive. Everyone loves a cheeky napkin, a sparkler for flair, an unusual straw or festive ice cubes added to their drinks. I add cranberries, currants, mint, citrus and cherries to my ice trays. They’re always a hit and so very simply to make ahead.
  • Be Prepared – Drinking and spilling go together like Vermouth and olives. No one wants to see his or her red wine spilled on your new cream carpet. To avoid the embarrassment and frustration of cocktail stains on your carpet or upholstery, opt to serve vodka, gin, champagne, and white rum. Compliment with clear mixers like 7up, Indian tonic and soda water, then garnish with lime, lemon and olives.
  • Mocktail or Cocktail? – Telling the difference between a mocktail and a cocktail is not an easy feat, and is a standard that should be sought after if a few guests prefer to sip a cola while the drinking crowd is enjoying margaritas. Make sure you have a pretty and tasty mocktail to offer like a Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers heaping with maraschino cherries, fancy straws, swords and fun napkins for them to set their drinks on.
  • Keep them flowing – If you are serving mixed drinks, serve them in a carafe to ensure that your guests can return to the bar for a quick top up.

I hope these tips for setting up a holiday party bar are helpful and bring you lots of holiday cheer!

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17 Comments

  1. I'm glad to say I do most of these things with our Christmas bar (the nice decanters, pretty stirrers, Christmas decor and cloth, etc), but you really WOW'd me with the "ice snuggie". I LOVE that! Can't wait for the tutorial.

    BTW…LOVE your new profile photo!

  2. Looks great Chris! I love the cranberry ice… so simple but makes a statement. Will have to add this to my Christmas to-do list. 🙂

  3. Nice presentation! I love the ice cooler. My fruit would never freeze so perfectly =)

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