How To Have a Successful At-Home Bar

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How committed is Tony Abou-Gamin to his home bar? The world-class bartender at Wynn’s Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas freezes distilled water in a freezer in the garage of his home to create his own block ice. He then cuts away the sediment of these blocks with a Japanese ice saw before finishing the process by hand-cutting the blocks into tiny chunks of ice. 

This is the only ice he will place in one of his homemade martinis.

“My dad always said that a gentleman should know how to master the perfect martini. It’s about making the commitment,” says Abou-Gamin, who wrote “The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cockatils” (Agate Surrey, 2010).

The good news? Anyone can follow Abou-Gamin’s example to create a top-notch home bars – the important part is wielding the right tools. (The home-made ice blocks and Japanese ice saw, of course, are optional.)

Abou-Gamin didn’t spend a fortune to create a built-in bar; his Las Vegas home is too small for that. He instead relies mostly on a vintage portable bar given to him by his cousin. Stylish bar carts are always a great option if a full remodel is not.

The tools of the trade are just as important. Every home bartender should have what Abou-Gamin calls the “kitchen knife” of bar tools, the Boston shaker set. This set consists of a 16-ounce mixing glass and 26-ounce mixing tin that home bartenders can use to create any drink that requires shaking or stirring.

Abou-Gamin also suggests that home bartenders invest in a good wooden muddler, a type of stirrer used for mixing cocktails.

“You can mix a mojito with the back of a wooden spoon,” Abou-Gamin said. “But it just doesn’t do the job the way a good hardwood muddler will.”

Because he is so passionate about his ice, it’s little surprise that Abou-Gamin also recommends the Lewis ice bag, a canvas bag that bartenders fill with ice that they can then crush, perhaps with a muddler, to get the perfect cocktail coolant.

Everett Williams agrees with Abou-Garmin’s approach. He’s a star bartender, too, and a member of the Bartending Hall of Fame. The Los Angeles resident was known for 28 years as bartender “Dr. Lee” to the patrons of the ultra-exclusive 33 Club – not open to the public but available for celebrities, world leaders and dignitaries.

Williams says that the key to running a successful home bar is to actually use that bar. He’s seen too many home bartenders who mainly use their bars as a storage area.

“It becomes a place where people throw boxes or old clothes that are on their way to the garage,” Williams said.

The home bar should always include a bottle of vodka, gin, rum, bourbon and scotch, Williams said. Home bartenders should also rotate their mixers throughout the year, offering guests a range of extras from jars of cherries, olives or onions to bottles of grenadine. 

Williams also recommends that home bartenders keep a bottle of bitters and another of ginger ale at their home bars. These ingredients can satiate more than just cocktail cravings.

“Both my girls are grown up now, but whenever they had upset stomachs or heartburns, I’d give them ginger ale with four or five splashes of bitters in it,” Williams said. “That will settle your stomach faster than a New York minute.”

Tags: entertaining, at-home bar, martini