Cheers in the New Year

Even though our lake cottage is snug, during the holidays, we still manage to fill it with lots of family and friends. One of the keys to fitting in so many folks is to find ways to encourage everyone to spread out through the house, not just wedge into the kitchen like merry making sardines. At Thanksgiving this year, I made the mistake of putting the bar in the kitchen, which all but guaranteed that our guests would not stray far.

I learned my lesson. So for our Christmas and New Year’s gatherings, I decided to lure our guests out of the kitchen, into the living room and even down to the lower level den by setting up a few small bars through the house. My new strategy is working so brilliantly it will be my new party traffic control plan for the new year.

Here’s the new bar in our living room. I had this wonderful old serving cart down the basement, so I decided to pull it upstairs for Christmas entertaining. I nestled it into a corner by the bookcases, next to my reading chair, where it was out of the way yet still easy to get to. The bottles went on the shelf below and the top became a self-serve bar, outfitted with a few essentials, like glassware, mixers and ice.

In our den downstairs, which is Dan and Lyric’s lair, I turned an end table into a mini bar. Our TV is in this room, and during holiday gatherings, there always seems to be a big game on. There’s not a lot of room on this table, so we had to keep it simple, with just a few favorite spirits on hand. In the future, I think I will only set up this bar when we entertain, tailoring it specifically to our guests’ drink preferences.

We are turning my mom’s cottage next door into a guest cottage. I’m experimenting with the décor for this special spot. For the holidays, I turned a buffet table into a small bar. I like the idea of our guests being able to relax at the cottage, perhaps fixing themselves a cocktail before coming over to join the party at our house, or enjoying a quiet night cap before they turn in.

There are tons of blogs on how to stock your bar, from which cocktail-crafting tools you’ll need to which spirits to always keep on hand, so I will leave you to the experts on that one. Personally, I’m a huge fan of decorator Bunny Williams and her philosophy on entertaining. Bunny says she likes to welcome guests with a well-stocked bar, set so they can serve themselves.

In a recent article I read in one of the big decorating magazines, I chuckled at the hostess’s “Three P’s” for entertaining success: parmesan, potato chips and Prosecco. Translated, that could be: have something to snack on, like a bowl of nuts, or cheese and crackers. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be good.

We try to keep an assortment of cheeses and fresh fruit on hand so we are ready when an instant party happens, which is pretty often in our social little lake community. In my pantry, you will always find a jar of mixed nuts or some gourmet trail mix that I can pour into a pretty bowl in seconds, ready for guests to nibble.

Even if you don’t imbibe, having a bar cart set up with refreshments is a great idea. Stock it with flavored waters, fresh fruit juices and sofa. It doesn’t matter what’s in the glass — it only matters who is holding it. Today, and every day into the new year, celebrate those people. Cheers!

Next Week …  Trays are one of my favorite decorating tools. Come see how I use them to help tell a home’s story.