Turn a Buffet or Desk Into a Cocktail Bar

Expecting guests for a cocktail party but you don't have a dedicated bar? No worries: You can quickly turn a buffet, server or desk into a cocktail bar with our expert stocking and arranging ideas.

Consider Height

One of the most important details in setting up a cocktail bar is proper serving height. Standard counter height — 36 inches from the floor — is the right height to keep in mind when selecting a piece of furniture to use.

Plenty of Serving Space

Selecting a piece of furniture with enough space for stocking spirits, glassware, mixers, garnishes and decanters is also key.

Stock the Good Stuff

A well-rounded liquor selection makes it easy for guests to mix up their favorite drink. Spend wisely by stocking only the most popular spirits rather than specialties which may only cater to a few guests. An excellent variety includes: rum, whiskey, tequila, bourbon, vodka, gin, red wine, white wine and champagne.

Glassware Setup

Stocking enough glasses to serve your guests can take up a lot of space. To conserve space, arrange glasses front to back by height: tall wineglasses in the back, martini glasses in the middle and rocks glasses in front. Bonus: Placing tall wineglasses at the back also prevents breakage.


Stock a wide variety of mixers — such as juices, diet and regular soda, seltzer and tonic water — in single-serving, rather than 2-liter, sizes. Mixers tend to be depleted quickly so keep plenty of backup bottles on hand.

Bar Tray

Corral small items, like concentrated mixers, napkins and bar tools on a sleek tray to minimize clutter.

Decorative Decanters

Decanters are a great way to display half-finished bottles of wine or spirits. Hit antique and thrift stores to find vintage glass decanters in a range of heights and shapes.

Play With Pattern

Similar to decorating a space, cocktail bars can also be elevated to the next level with the right amount of pattern. These rock glasses with metallic cross-hatching add just the right graphic touch.

Don't Forget the Garnishes

The finishing touch to any good cocktail: The right garnish can make or break a drink. Display garnishes such as cherries, olives, limes, lemons and oranges in small bowls or ramekins near the mixers and glassware so guests can help themselves.

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