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This could be your basement.

Creating and stocking your own home bar

We’ve all thought about it, and some among us have even acted on it: Wouldn’t it be amazing to have our own bar or club right at home?

Imagine that place to escape and spend a night out but still feel right at home, literally because you would be right in your home. It’s not an impossible dream; it is, in fact, easily within reach. Here are six simple steps—the six S’s—to creating a basement tiki bar, a martini nook, or a mini beer garden valhalla that’s within stumbling distance of your warm, comfortable bed.


The first consideration is the space you have to play with. If you are in a tiny apartment you might have to settle with sticking a Don Draper-type cocktail cart in a corner or a shelf in the kitchen. Then again, if you have a gigantic finished basement, you may decide to drop a complete Irish pub into it, or you may convert the living room into a Hugh Hefnerian bachelor’s den fit for refined scotch-sipping.

If space and budget are plentiful, there are complete bar kits to be had. The handy types might design and build a bar from the ground up. Fold-out and mini bars as well as stools are available from online retailers including and A keen eye and some luck at thrift stores and flea markets can also yield appropriate vintage furniture to get you started.


This might be the most fun part of the process, at least until the drinking begins. This is your chance to create the bar of your dreams. Atmosphere is everything, and it doesn’t take much to set the scene. Some funky old lamps with appropriately colored bulbs can set the mood. Add some comfy seating and tables for drinks. The right coat of paint can do wonders. And it never hurts to go with a theme that reflects your tastes. Some old team jerseys or sports memorabilia will conjure a throwback sports bar feeling. Some far-out psychedelic prints and blacklight posters create a Clockwork Orange milkbar vibe. It’s your scene: Do what you want, but make it yours.

Building a Better Bar

How a small buffalo internet site became king of home and professional bar supplies worldwide

Do a Google search for “home beer keg” to make a fridge into a kegerator. Or maybe Google “buy falernum,” as if you’re looking for that essential, elusive ginger lime mixer.

In either case the top result is a link to the Western New York-based Started 13 years ago as a bedroom web business by David Rivers, the locally based, 30-employee business has grown to an international player and go-to supplier for both home bar enthusiasts and some of the planet’s most celebrated cocktail bars.

Rivers’ initial model was simple: Put together an easy kit for beer lovers to turn refrigerators into tappable keg coolers. From there the business blossomed, as he found more niches in beer, cocktail, food service, and party circles that needed to be filled.

The continued growth has led the company to move from several spaces downtown on Main Street to an old trucking terminal in Kenmore that houses their offices and warehouse. Rivers, who remains Kegworks’ president and primary “idea guy,” says his company was able to grow so rapidly thanks to the boom in home bars that has happened in the last decade.

“People started getting into cocooning: staying at home and building out basements,” Rivers says. “Now you’ve got TV shows dedicated to ‘man caves,’ and we fall right into that.”

From their best-selling home kegerator kits to what is now one of their hottest sellers—premium cocktail ingredients like Rochester-based Fee Brothers syrups and bitters, as well as high end tonic waters— remains at the forefront of the industry.

“It’s getting close to Kentucky Derby time, and we now have our own julep cup because there’s always a run on them,” says Kegworks CEO Tom McManus. “Same with our proprietary Moscow Mule mug. It was the drink that started the whole vodka craze in the West, and now it’s part of the classic cocktail resurgence.”

The website is not only a one-stop shop for everything from mixers and muddlers to faucets and foot rails, but also an information-rich portal loaded with “how to” tutorials and videos, as well as blog that features new additions to the Kegworks inventory and how to best use them. A quick scan had us wanting to mix a drink with extra spicy Blenheim ginger ale, a sparkling liquid commodity almost impossible to find outside of North Carolina.

A locally based company that is always thinking local, many of proprietary products, from shelves to signage to t-shirts, are not only brainstormed in Western New York but made right here as well.

Local draft beer enthusiasts, cocktail achievers and home barkeeps also win big: While ships all over the world, they are also happy to take orders for local pickup at their headquarters on Military Road in Kenmore.

Spirit study

It’s important to really get to know how to prepare and serve your drinks properly. There’s a wealth of knowledge to be uncovered online, where a new generation of cocktail and “mixology” enthusiasts have cultivated the culture. Blogs like,, and have brought cocktail appreciation into the 21st century.

Then for a wonderful throwback: Anyone up for a classic “Zombie” or perhaps a “Missionary’s Doom” should check into the work of author and cocktail archaeologist Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who has turned mid-20th-century tiki drink culture into his obsession with a series of books, including the top-selling Sippin’ Safari, as well as an iPhone app called Tiki+.

Another great smartphone app, Mixologist, has almost all you could ever need to know to whip together tens of thousands of drinks, at a scant 99 cents.


This is really the most important part of the equation. You can have the coolest-looking bar ready to go, but without the libations it’s worthless. Likewise, 10 wisely selected liquor bottles sitting on the kitchen counter could make for a real good time.

Decide what you like and always keep it on hand. Any discriminating home bar should be prepared for basic cocktails, so there are bottom-line essentials: gin, a light and a dark rum, vodka, and whisky. Next in line are tequila, brandy, and sweet and dry vermouths. From there, the liqueurs, apertifs, and such that you stock will depend heavily on what you like and plan on making. Deciding on brands is even more personal. There are adherents who insist on certain top-shelf selections, while many are happy with cheap well brands. The shelf life of liquor is long, so it will never really go to waste. Eventually, you will use it up.

For the pour people looking to serve up sudsy delights, home bars offer two ways to go: a refrigerator of bottles and cans or the almighty keg draft. offers kits to convert any size refrigerator into a draft beer dispenser. Chris Groves, art and media director for favored local beer retailer Consumer Beverages, says most kegerator fans play it safe and pick something simple for their home bars: “Number one would definitely be Labatt Blue Light,” Groves says.

His home bar picks?

“I would sway heavily towards Belgian styles,” he says. “On draft I would keep an Ommegang Belgian Pale Ale and Rodenbach Red. In my fridge would be a lineup of saisons, dubbels, and tripels. I’d also stock anything from Great Divide, Ithaca, Great Lakes, and Allagash.”


This goes hand in hand with “stock” and “spirit study.” Plenty of ice, the right mixers, and fruits for garnishes are key if you are making legitimate cocktails. You need to keep things like simple syrup, bitters, and a whole lot of limes on hand at all times.

And it can spiral even further. You never knew that keeping coconut crème and pineapple juice around was so essential until you got that uncontrollable urge for piña coladas.

No bar should ever be without a good stainless steel shaker, a strainer, a muddler, a jigger, a lemon/lime squeezer, a bar spoon, and a blender. Distinctive and appropriate glassware is a point of pride for any discriminating home barkeep. You can’t serve a martini in a brandy snifter, just like you can’t offer up a hefeweizen in a standard pint glass. Know the difference and present your drinks in their proper vessels.


Finally, you get to enjoy. You did all the work to make your home bar special. Don’t keep it all to yourself: Invite people over to enjoy your bar and marvel at your skill in mixing up alcohol-based delights. Before you know it, yours will be the hottest joint among friends and family.

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