It’s a place where everybody knows you by name, you get to choose your company, it always plays your kind of music, there are no dry days, it doesn’t close down just when you’re beginning to have fun, and you never need to be the designated driver,” says Vikrant Nath. Always wanted to open a bar, but were daunted by the implications? Set up your own bar as Nath, chief executive officer of eQ Communications Solutions, did, in his house in New Delhi’s Greater Kailash II. Well, most of us already have what passes for a home bar, which could be something as prosaic as your kitchen counter, but why not go all the way and upgrade your bar. Here’s a guide to making it large.
The space: Like Nath, you can convert an entire room into a bar, or do what ESPN Star Sports presenter Gautam Bhimani has done—the bar occupies a section of his living room, forming the main focal point.
The theme:If you’ve got a spare room or basement which you’re turning into a bar, try a theme. Nath turned his bar into a replica of a Wild West saloon. Bhimani’s bar is a white cane and teak masterpiece dating back to the late 1950s, which he inherited from his grandmother. It has travelled across India, from Jamshedpur to Kolkata, New Delhi and Gurgaon.
The counter and accessories: This is a crucial element and the look depends on the theme. A counter of around 4ft in length and 2ft in width should more than suffice. Set up bar stools (lined with camel hide, in Nath’s case) and bar rails at the top and bottom for people to rest their weary selves. Bhimani uses his bar all the time—“not just for major alcohol consumption but as a place to prop myself and enjoy a glass of wine or an after-dinner liqueur.”
It could either be a wet or a dry bar, the difference being that a wet bar is provided with plumbing, so that you have a sink to rinse and wash stuff. Try sourcing a visi-cooler and stock it with beer, Breezers, soft drinks and juices. If you’re inclined towards wine, then a wine rack is also handy and if you want to be showy, then a glass hanger over the counter gives it a pubby feel. Don’t forget the large bar mirrors, coasters and bar towels.
The juice: Most important, with a bar like that, you want to show it off, and when those special guests come streaming in—the sexy neighbour or your boss—you can’t fob them off with cheap stuff. Keep the crowd-pullers—Smirnoff, Bacardi, Teachers and their like, but also take it to the next level. There isn’t enough space to do a Bluffer’s Guide to Single Malt here, but you get the drift. Make sure that you have some variety in whisky, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a bottle of bourbon, a bottle of the Irish (Bushmill’s 12 YO is nice). If we’re talking rum, then try and get hold of some of the great rums from the West Indies—Appleton Estate or Myers.
If you’re into cocktails, make sure that along with the base spirits, you also stock some flavoured vodkas, liqueurs (Cointreau, Baileys, Kahlua, Midori) and Vermouth (dry and sweet). If you want to skimp on the liqueurs, then Monin makes a brilliant range of bar syrups in over 50 flavours. Bitters, lemons and basic juices are also needed.
The equipment:Musts are a cocktail shaker, peg measure, muddler, wine opener and ice bucket. A 10-speed Hamilton Beach Blender is great for cocktails such as frozen Margaritas or Daiquiris. If you’re into fresh, then get a juicer for freshly squeezed juices. A Zester and a Mister (Google them!), will also be handy.
The glassware: You don’t want to be serving that Macallan 12 in Ferozabad glasses. Invest a little. There are two basic types, the stemmed and the straight. The essential stemmed are the Martini (also called the cocktail glass) and the all-purpose wine glass. The nice-to-haves are the Margaritas, the brandy balloons and the champagne flutes. The essential straights are beer mugs, the rocks and the Collins. Avoid cut glass; you want your guest to see the deep glow of the whisky.
The book: Get an Esquire publication, Esquire Drinks, by David Wondrich, and work your way through the cocktails.
The invite: Last but not least, give me a call. I’m still trying to cadge an invite from Nath.
(The writer, Vikram Achanta, is co-founder and CEO of Tulleeho, a marketing services firm for the beverages industry and tulleeho.com a drinks website.)