Much like the grocery and restaurant landscapes, the bar industry has seen a sizeable change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some establishments have dealt with the lockdown measures by pivoting to delivery cocktails or just plain retail to burn off some inventory, while others have hunkered down and waited for socially distant reopening.
In the meantime, many of their potential customers have formed new rituals, such as Zoom happy hours or virtual get togethers. Delivery options, similar to the grocery sphere, have increased in demand, as people get comfortably used to socially imbibing from their own backyards or living rooms. From automated pod-style cocktail machines to craft ice refrigerators, technology has also evolved for cocktail enthusiasts, as have premade cocktail choices from major alcohol brands at all levels.
When stocking your own bar, a few tweaks will make a world of difference when it comes to crafting a home-based libation. Bring some of the methods of professional bar staff into your own lineup and shake, stir and pour with confidence.
Be prepared: Mise en place isn’t just for the kitchen. The practice of keeping prepared items, such as lemon slices or simple syrups, stored in a mini fridge by your home bar means that you can have a bevy of choices for your next beverage. Take it a step further by infusing those syrups with some simple flavourings, such as vanilla or chiles, or pre-mixing batch cocktails. Try making beyond-basic mixes from fresh ingredients for bloody mary mixes or shandies, since fresh tomatoes and lemons are easily obtainable in the next online grocery order. Small pots of herbs, found adorning some serious gastronomic-driven bars around the world, serve as decoration and also a ready garnish.
Expand into the kitchen: Some bartenders borrow ingredients from the back of house, especially when it comes to sweet or savoury components. In addition to those aforementioned herbs, the kitchen can offer up a variety of flavours and textures to tweak cocktails (not to mention providing more storage space than a mini bar). Freeze fruit instead of ice cubes for slushy drinks, or try grilling them to add a certain je ne sais quoi to a garnish. Worst come to worst, use a high-end ice cream as the base for a creamy cocktail (a coconut pineapple ice cream and spiced rum get you most of the way to a Pina colada, for example).
Set a low bar: Most busy establishments stock their shelves according to frequency of use. More commonly used house brands get the bottom billing on the shelves for easy reach, while pricier items get a more prominent position (the fact that this tactic raises its visibility in terms of the customer’s viewpoint is probably coincidental). Consider adjusting the lighting around the bar for better visibility (the walls behind bars are mirrored for a reason). Watch out for proximity to track lighting or spotlights, however — the last thing you want is that prized bottle of single malt boiling next to a high wattage bulb.
Everything in its place: Keep dedicated bar equipment specific to this area. Towels or mini napkins for spills, small spoons and knives for flavorings and garnishes, swizzle sticks and other stirring essentials should be on hand, rather than rummaging through the junk drawer at the last minute. Use free wall space, below counter areas or even low ceiling underhands to build shelving or dedicated racks for glassware or decanters — removing those elements from the bar counter minimizes the sounds of shattered glass and heartbreak. Consider cleanup elements such as dedicated areas for clean and dirty glasses, drying racks or bottle cleaners to make life easier at the end of the evening.
This article is part of a three part series on how the COVID-19 pandemic changed how living spaces are organized and designed. Read part one on How To Sanitize And Organize Your Groceries During COVID-19, Based On Professional Restaurant Techniques and part two on 3 Restaurant Design Tips You Need To Know To Organize Your Kitchen For Pandemic Cooking.