French Art Deco Bar

French Art Deco Bar

One of my fellow dorks asked if I could do a post about stocking a bar. I’m no expert, but we’ve recently been actively re-stocking our bar after years of inactivity, so I do have something to say on the subject.

First let me tell you about my bar. I love my bar, truly I do. It was my first baby, before I had my two human babies. When we were first dating, my husband and I used to go to Miami Modernism and gape at all the gorgeous 20th century furnishings. During one of those visits, I spent inordinate amounts of time petting the Art Deco bars in one dealer’s booth. So sophisticated, so civilized, so EXPENSIVE! I had no money, so all I did was lust. A couple of years later, I saw an ad in our local weekly for an art deco sale on the beach. I dragged my husband down there immediately. I remember we were on our way out of town for a weekend of canoeing in the Everglades and it was totally out of our way.

Jackpot! The sale was being held by a guy who went to France every year, trolled the countryside for antiques, and brought all of them back to the states for resale. It was a treasure trove of armoires, beds, dressers, etc. And scattered amongst the other furniture were 3-4 Art Deco bars, at about half the price of the ones at Miami Modernism. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. The one above is the one we bought.

It was the smallest one because we had a tiny apartment, and it cost me $800 which was more than we could afford, but my husband knew we had to do it or we were never getting out of town to commune with the gators and mosquitos. Eventually the bar moved into a 1936 Art Deco/Mediterranean house with us, where it starred in several parties and was oohed and aahed at by all, under penalty of never being invited to our house again. You will admire my bar, dammit!

bar 1 with stuff on it

In the intervening years, however, we’ve moved a number of times and while the bar has always had a place of pride, it was never used as a bar again, not until recently. Mostly it was used for linen storage. About a year ago, though, I relocated the linens (although the board games still live there) and we started stocking it again. It’s the only fine piece of furniture we own and I’m sure that if there was ever a fire, I’d be carrying it out on my back.

So now you know why two out of my first three posts to this blog have been cocktails.

There’s actually a lot of information out there about stocking a bar. I didn’t find most of it terribly useful, though. A lot of it seems to assume you have endless amounts of money and space, for one thing. We have neither. Aside from fruit juices that need to be refrigerated, I’d like to keep all our bar stuff contained to The Bar. That means limited glassware and a selection of liquors. Endless liqueurs are out, although there are a couple of basics you should keep on hand. Here is what we have right now, and what I think is a good setup in general:


  • Vodka (currently Skyy, but we are not brand loyal as long as it’s decent stuff)
  • Light rum (Bacardi)
  • Dark rum (two: Cruzan Black Strap for when quality doesn’t matter and a bottle of 12-year-old Ron Viejo de Caldas for when it does)
  • Tequila (Cazadores right now, but that was a mistake and we’ll be shelling out the bucks for some 1800 Silver or even Patron Silver next time)
  • Bourbon (Maker’s Mark, and we are brand loyal)
  • Scotch (12-year-old Dalmore)

Notice the absence of Gin. We hate Gin. You may not, so go for it.
Liquor we still need to get: Brandy

bar with side doors open


  • Triple Sec and/or Grand Marnier (we currently have both)
  • Kahlua (or some other coffee liqueur)
  • Aguardiente Cristal (This is an anise-flavored liqueur popular in Latin America; you drink it as shots when you want to get very drunk. Our bottle has not been opened.)

Still need: Amaretto, Vermouth (which is actually a fortified wine, like Port or Madeira)


  • Tonic water
  • Club soda (buy the little bottles for keeping around to make one or two drinks at a time; buy a bigger bottle for parties, when you don’t have to worry about it going flat)
  • Grenadine
  • Assorted fruit juices, as needed, such as cranberry, orange, pineapple, etc.
  • Assorted other juices, as needed, especially tomato. Or just find a good Bloody Mary mix.
  • Assorted citrus as needed; limes are the most useful, although we had a lot of fun with Meyer lemons recently.
  • Simple syrup (make your own, one part sugar to one part water, keeps in the fridge for several weeks)

  • Coca-Cola, for Cuba Libres
  • Tabasco

Still need: Bitters. I’m not quite sure what they are, but I’ll need them for Manhattans eventually.

bar with sliding doors open

That’s it. Things you don’t need because you will use it too sparingly and you should probably just go out and order it when you get a craving: flavored brandy of any kind, Creme de anything (banana, menthe, etc.), Blue Curacao (gross), Peach Schnapps (you’re trying to be a grown up right? Put down the Sex on the Beach), Rose’s Lime Juice (use fresh), almost any of the flavored vodkas or rums out now. Keep it simple!

Now a word on the hardware. Pick up any bar guide (btw, we like Mr. Boston: classic, simple, sorted by liquor, nice index) and you’ll see a page with 20+ different kinds of glasses pictured. You don’t need them. All you really need is highball glasses, and if you want to get fancy, a cocktail (aka martini) glass. Our “highballs” are our every day glasses, the cheapest ones Target had. I think they were $1.69 for four. Our cocktail glasses are from Crate & Barrel, about $4 a piece. You should have basic wine glasses, too, but they don’t have to be part of your barsenal if you don’t drink wine. We buy the IKEA wine glasses because we break them all the time. They’re like pennies each, I swear.

bar with top open

You’ll also want to get a shaker, stainless steel so it doesn’t rust. We have one of these things; we have no idea how to use it. A jigger is handy for measuring. Ours is like this, one side is 1 oz, the other 2 oz. A citrus reamer is handy, but not absolutely necessary. If you’re serving a crowd, a pitcher is good to have, and if you need to muddle anything, like for Bajitos, you’ll need a mortar and pestle (which is handy for actual cooking). We keep meaning to get an ice bucket, but we haven’t needed it enough to motivate us. There’s a corkscrew in there, too, but we have a better one in the kitchen for the wine. Also, think about some sort of tray to put it all on. We got a cheap silver one at IKEA.

That’s it. Let me know when you’re ready and I’ll come by. I’ll bring the little paper umbrellas.