7 Things You Should Always Have in a Sober-Friendly Home Bar, According to Experts
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All hail the bar cart! Nimble, totally customizable, and the center of attention when it comes to all things summer entertainment, the bar cart is so much more than just another piece of furniture. And it’s for so much more than alcohol! This summer, whether you’re experimenting with sober weekdays or avoiding alcohol altogether, taking the time to stock your bar cart with 0 ABV options has never been easier.
“It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of the home bar cart and home entertainment. The days of decanters and bottles filled with high-proof spirits are behind us,” shares David Fudge, co-founder and CEO of Aplós. “Being a great host means being prepared to serve the needs of a range of guests, including those who may not be drinking alcohol at the moment.” Lucky for you, I’ve rounded up some of the best entertaining tricks for mixing drinks sans alcohol this summer.
A Great Garnish Makes the Drink
Think beyond paper umbrellas this summer, and embrace a garnish that transforms any drink from an afternoon seltzer to a happy hour concoction. Aplós’s master mixologist Lynnette Marrero puts it this way: “There’s a ritual and sophistication behind a great cocktail, and that should be felt with non-alcoholic options as well — in the mixers, the glass, the garnish.” For designer Victoria Sass of Prospect Refuge, keeping citrus on hand makes it easy to level up mocktails. “This can mean fresh limes if you make drinks on the reg, or a few slices of dried blood oranges for a zhuzh in a pinch,” she recommends.
Stock Something for Everyone
Alex Doman, Co-Founder of AVEC, has a rule of fourths when it comes to stocking his bar cart. First, there’s NA (that’s non-alcoholic) beer or wine. My favorites include Athletic Brewing Company and Studio Null. Then, there’s something functional — like Aplós, Three Spirit, and Bonbuz. “These brands make delicious tasting drinks that do a better job of replacing the feeling of alcohol,” Doman shares. Next up, an NA spirit or aperitif for mixing cocktails. I love Ghia and Lyre’s. Lastly, a versatile mixer without too much sugar, like AVEC.
Reach for Lowball Glasses
Ignore old-fashioned rules about what kind of cocktail belongs in what kind of glass. It’s your bar cart! If you’re short on space, the biggest thing to look for is versatility. That’s why Sass loves serving mocktails, which generally require a decent amount of liquid, in lowball glasses. “Look for attractive lowball glasses that can hold a bit of ice, a mid-sized wine glass, or my personal favorite: a chunky goblet with a short stem — preferably hand-blown recycled glass. Something about that combination hits all the notes for me,” she says.
Unexpected, Elevated Ingredients
Sure, sometimes the simple equation of a NA liquor plus sparkling water hits the spot, but other times, adding an ingredient can elevate the drink from easy to intriguing. Melanie Masarin, founder of Ghia, suggests a sprinkle of cracked black pepper. “The little specks of pepper always float at the top and you get a little hint of the aroma before you even take a sip. It adds a layer of complexity rarely found in traditional mocktails,” she shares.
Those who aren’t drinking alcohol are used to rummaging through the fridge for a seltzer bottle at a party, especially when the only two options are wine or a spiked punch. For Karimah Gottschalck, Chief Brand Officer at Boisson, having options is part of gracious entertaining. “Having two wines, for example, or two punches — clearly marked, of course! — makes for a more inclusive experience. Ensuring the nonalcoholic options don’t feel inferior in their sophistication or flavor is thoughtful hosting,” she says. Keeping a stocked bar cart with NA and alcoholic options is a great first step.
Decant For Aesthetic Purposes
As with any bar cart set up, there are some designs that shine brighter than others. Never fear! Sass suggests opting for a decanter, for a start. Toeing the fine line between “the joyful abundance of a well-stocked bar cart and total chaos,” is a practiced art, she says. Here are her suggestions: “Keep glassware corralled with a tray or two and accessories like tongs and stir sticks collected in a bowl or vessel. As for the cart itself, think about how formal or casual you want the experience to be.”
Not drinking doesn’t have to mean things are buttoned up. Experiment with exciting new beverages, like Phony Negronis or white wines. Bitters are a quick upgrade for any cocktail. Gottschalck reminds us that “having a cocktail that’s thoughtfully made, looks and feels appealing, tastes interesting and sophisticated — it brings guests into the social moment.” Here’s to a bar cart that’s stocked for everyone.