How to Set up a Stylish Bar



Entertaining season is almost in full swing.  It’s what we love about autumn, the chance to gather friends or family {or both} together for intimate dinner parties, larger celebrations and then those full-on grand holiday events, right?






One of my best tricks for entertaining includes a drinks station, or bar, where guests can help themselves to a festive drink, which may, or may not include alcohol. {I don’t really drink, once in a while a glass of wine or champagne, but that’s pretty much it!} Sometimes I serve the first drink by the front door, as you can see above.  This small demilune table is just big enough to hold glasses, napkins, a decanter and a few bottles. I filled the English transferware bowl with ice to keep a second bottle of wine cold, and perched it on my umbrella stand!






A vintage Italian wood Florentine tray is perfect to hold glassware and napkins, and glimmers softly in the waning light, too. In the evening, I add a candle or a few small votives for an extra special welcoming glow.



Here are a few tips on making your drink service inviting and practical: 

1.Make it easy to access: Little bar trays out in the open allow guests to serve themselves. As I mentioned, I like to meet guests at the front door with a  tray of champagne or a signature drink for the evening, then invite them to help themselves from there on to drinks after showing them where the drinks are. On a beautiful fall evening, I’m just as likely to set the table in our courtyard by our front entrance up as a drinks station. It’s a relaxed and comfortable way to offer drinks, guests can linger in the garden, even when it gets a little dark, the lanterns and candles offer enough light to make it pleasant out there before going in for dinner.






Before guests arrive, I will add bowls of olives, some cheese and baguettes, and maybe some crudités to this simple French style drinks area. An antique French carrier corrals the wine, majolica pitcher holds straws, a green antique French majolica plate is a beautiful contrast to the lemons. The antique French wine openers and rustic country bowls are a wonderful touch, it’s all set out on an antique piece of wood, but an old sign or plank you have left over from a project will work beautifully too.

2. Make it easy to use {functional}: There are lots of lists and “how to’s” on what makes a perfect bar set up, what kind of things you need, how much alcohol to buy and more. Here at home, I tend to serve champagne, wine, and perhaps one special cocktail, which simplifies things quite a bit.






I always include an antique guest towel for guests to use should they need to mop up a spill or other little mess.






This little bar area is stocked with ice in an antique French bowl, more glasses are in the cabinet above.

3. Make it beautiful: Just like any other part of your home, design your drinks area with an eye for detail and drama.





In the living room, a vintage Florentine tray in turquoise and gilt livens up this little drinks tray. Vintage Venetian Murano glasses have 24 karat gold flecks inside their hand blown stems, they pick up the glow from the gold candle, and the gilt rim of a small art deco era plate that holds crackers. A few linen napkins for guests are on hand for guests to use, just before this particular party started, I added another plate with some pate, cornichons and an antique silver knife.






4. Make it fit your style: There is no one way to set up a drinks station. You can use a cart, they are very popular right now. I don’t usually have room for a cart, so I set up trays with drinks and/or drinks ingredients. I’ve set them in the living room on our painted antique commode, in the kitchen on one of our cabinets with glasses in the cabinet above, outside, in the living room on my tea cart, just about anywhere and everywhere. The style depends totally on you, the party, and what you have available.





The ingredients for my  LIMONCELLO CITRON COCKTAILS are set on this antique transferware tray along with a few glasses, lemons. Recipe is here. Later, just before guests arrive, I will add a small pitcher of the lemonade mix. A little compote holds some lemon licorice, just for fun.





5. Make it fun!: A little touch of humor is always a good thing in my opinion. Even a very serious collection of antique Baccarat decanters can be livened up with some fun. Add striped straws to your set-up, or a favorite dog figurine. The whole idea of serving drinks is to entertain your guests and liven things up.




I placed some caramel apple taffies in the antique hands just for fun. Not technically a regular mix, candy and wine or champagne, but it’s a fun touch! {and they magically disappeared by the end of the evening!}



At this outdoor bar, some bright striped straws make it lively.


No matter how you serve your drinks, whether you serve alcohol or not, a little drinks set-up let’s your guests know you are excited they are joining you, and you prepared a special time for all of you to enjoy the evening.


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7 thoughts on “How to Set up a Stylish Bar”

  1. cate tuen

    Lidy, I love it ALL! So inspiring and homey–all with a golden glow. Love the idea of using the Florentine trays. I will definitely use some of mine next time……Blessings! Cate

    1. Thank you Jackie and Cate. It’s always so great to have a tray set up and ready to go. Hope you both enjoy lots of evenings with your family and friends this season!

  2. This is at timely post, Lidy. We entertain a lot in the colder months as many are finished with vacations and summer events. I, too, wish I had room for one of those lovely bar carts—just not happening here with limited space. I love how you are making such pretty and interesting places to set up a bar. Lots of great ideas! Last Easter I made a signature drink in one of those big glass dispensers. Guests loved it so much, I spent a lot of time making more batches. I didn’t like how it took me away from the fun but I loved what a hit it was. Any suggestions?

    Jane x

    1. Jane, the only suggestion I have is to 1. get another drinks dispenser or a larger one and 2. mix up a batch in a huge pitchers or containers and store in fridge until needed!

  3. Carole Shiles

    This post is so timely, I just got a brass and glass Hollywood Regency cart. Don’t know where I’ll place it but your style ideas surely did help me. I love your style and pinned both cocktail and soup recipes. Thank you.

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