Raising the bar: the best at-home drinking dens

Raising the bar: the best at-home drinking dens

What could be more hospitable than a properly made drink? Not just a gin and tonic, but a martini or daiquiri? And rather than scrabbling around in the cupboard, wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the ingredients were laid out, and there was a plentiful supply of ice and the right glasses?

If you’re thinking along these lines, a home bar might be for you. Here are some ideas for creating your own, whether you have space for a custom-made bar or a cocktail trolley. In his new book, Henry Jeffreys explains how everybody needs a home bar – or at the very least, a cocktail cabinet.

The retro bar

Interior designer Trevor Dykman has combined a Formica-topped bar with local touches at this home in Cape Town

The 1970s were a contradictory decade in terms of style, so when searching for a retro bar you have a multitude of looks to choose from: futuristic with glass bricks, chrome and plastic; bamboo and padded leather; or Scandinavian stripped pine.

You don’t need to go for the full ’70s look: bars in this style work in a modern interior. The best thing is that you can still pick these things up cheaply, and they make a change from Ikea.

The Hollywood bar

This curved and polished wooden bar with shiny chrome and leather stools has a distinctly art-deco fee

After many years of neglect, the art deco look is now revered once more and London’s great hotel bars such as those at Claridge’s and The Savoy have been returned to their pre-war splendour.

New venues are also going for the grand look: Swedish interior designer Martin Brudnizki has brought deco glamour back to London’s dining scene with his work for The Ivy and the revamped restaurant at Fortnum & Mason. For the home-bar enthusiast on a tighter budget, the good news is that deco can work on a small scale.

Companies such as Epstein made cabinets in lavish wood veneers that can be easily found online, and you can complete the look with stools and accessories (either original or reproduction) in cream or black, polished wood veneers, Bakelite and lots of chrome. Just remember that deco is supposed to be fun and frivolous and you can’t go wrong.

The Tiki bar

A beach bar on Harbour Island, Bahamas by India Hicks, with a counter and shelving made from varnished planks of wood, and an extensive rum selection

Tiki was the name of the first man in Polynesian mythology, but as a bar culture it owes far more to California than Hawaii. The first Tiki bars opened there in the 1930s, and the look became as much a symbol of prosperous 1950s America as mid-century modern.

The Tiki boom slowed in the ’70s and ’80s but was revived in the 1990s; London’s most famous example, Mahiki, once a favourite of the Duke of Sussex, opened in 2005. For that proper escapist feel, you need darkness –aTiki bar should have very little natural light. And you really have to go the whole hog: if you don’t have a basement or garage to devote to it, then it’s best not to bother.

There’s no room for minimalism: you need grass mats on the walls, puffer fish, tribal masks, fake palm trees, the works. A more restrained tropical feel can be achieved by aping the colonial look of clubs in British India and Malaysia:think lots of bamboo, ceiling fans and sepia photos.

The mixologists’ bar

Create your own cocktail laboratory in this Mixologist inspired home bar

Home bars are about making a feature of your drinks, demonstrating your cocktail prowess, and turning friends popping over for a drink into an event. But if your bar is, above all, a place for you to hone your skills, you want something that looks and feels professional.

You’ll need everything in the right place: compartments for ice, a big freezer to keep bottles and glasses cold, and plenty of counter surface for chopping.

Think of the no-nonsense look of the Spanish tapas bar: often a very basic affair, with a marble top and white or patterned tiles behind. The next step would be to create your own cocktail laboratory. Quench designs home bars in stainless steel with built-in sinks, fridges and freezers – a look currently popular in domestic kitchens. You can pick up stainless-steel work counters from junk shops and suppliers of second-hand professional kitchen equipment.

The cocktail cabinet and bar cart

The cocktail cabinet is the perfect hidden bar

To all intents and purposes, the cocktail cabinet is a hidden bar; you might not even know its purpose until 6pm comes around. This discretion is not accidental: a cocktail cabinet has its origins in a sturdy piece of furniture in which well-heeled Victorians could lock their precious booze away, some with a special compartment for a block of ice to chill champagne.

Art-deco cabinets were similarly for the wealthy, but after the Second World War the look changed to Scandinavian designs with clean lines in bare wood, glass, metal and plastic.

Prices for the top designs have increased dramatically in recent years, but you can still find bargains. And of course, any sideboard or cabinet tall enough t o hold bottles can be repurposed.

If you lack space for a home bar or cabinet, there is always the drinks tray, but if you want a bit of theatre, you really need a drinks trolley. Ask yourself if you need it to hold all your liquor, or if you will just be using it to entertain. Finnish designer Alvar Aalto’s, in stripped wood and laminate, is perfect for modernists; and Arteriors sells glamorous metallic versions.