My friends and I are at that awkward stage in our twenties where we know exactly what we like but we can’t always quite afford it. Well-made clothes, fine dining and top-quality travel experiences. Luckily for me I have a penchant for acquiring such things, even on a strict budget which is, of course, what the Rich Little Poor Girl blog is all about. Cocktails are no exception. I like a house party just as much as the next person but gone are the days when I’ll gladly glug paint stripper- sorry, I mean vodka chased with luke warm Fanta, which brings me to this; the Good BYOB Bar Guide to impress even the sniffiest of friend-of-a-friends.
You need your guests to be impressed with your bar setup from the outset. The bar is the first place they’ll head for and it sets the tone for the quality of the night. If you can excite people as soon as they hit the bar, you’re in for a fun time. It’s also the safe zone where they’ll shelter throughout the night. Conversation turned awkward? Head to the bar. Not sure which way your friends went? Beeline to the bar. Need liquid courage to flirt better with the twinkly-eyed guy with the beard? Bar. Bar. Bar.
Rule #1 Location, Location, Location
Nailing a good BYOB bar is really just about presentation. It’s about making the bar look exciting and then popping in a few added extras so people feel like they’re being treated. So, back to meeting people’s needs. Make it convenient. To start with the basics, arrange your table in this order; on the far left side you want cups and ice, then leave a gap for people to place their bottles. Line your mixers up in the middle – Coke, lemonade, tonic water etc. followed by the food garnishes and finally straws and umbrellas at the end. That way there’s a logic order to go along and you’ll avoid congestion if the bar gets busy.
Rule #2 Just Add Juice
For a really good BYOB bar that’s impressive and affordable, you want to lay on the basic mixers (Coke, lemonade, tonic) plus a few unexpected extras. I like to add orange or pineapple juice to the lineup as it looks pretty and can be used both as a chaser and in cocktails. Don’t go for the fancy stuff though. Buy simple, store brand, no pulp juice. Somewhere between hand-squeezed, organic dah’ling and suspiciously fluorescent… On serving, pour it into a glass jug which has been kept in the fridge (host points for drinks which stay cold) and no one needs to know that it’s not Tropicana. It all tastes the same with liquor in anyway. Add a water jug brimming with ice too. It looks pretty, pads out the table and your guests will thank you for it the next day.
Rule #3 Keep Them Sweet
The key to a good BYOB bar is to appear to have not only met all of their needs but gone the extra mile too. That doesn’t mean spending loads though. It’s actually mostly a style over substance situation. The addition of a few syrups will take your bar to the next level and allow your guests to play around with their favourite flavour combinations. I’m slowly building a collection of big bottles for my bar cart but if you’re just stocking up for the odd party, mini syrup sets are a smart way to offer a selection without splurging. It’s okay that the bottles aren’t as big. Syrups are more of a novelty anyway as most people won’t actually bother with them but it’ll still make people go, ‘Oooh!’ when they realise they’re there.
Rule #4 Get Fruity
Finally, the cherry on the cake, fruit garnishes – pardon the pun. Citrus wedges, passion fruit halves, berries, cucumbers sliced lengthways, juniper seeds… All of these look impressive for pimping up drinks but are quite inexpensive. I budget myself £5 and get a selection and then put them out in little glass dishes. You don’t need to try to cater for every single person at the party. Remember, some will stick to beer, bubbly and wine so these are really just for the liquor lovers who will likely get lazy as the night goes on and the need for the perfect cocktail gives way to an appreciation of alcohol of any form. It’s all about getting those brownie points in while your friends are still pretending to be classy.
Rule #5 Always Add Accessories
A final flourish of accessories makes even the most basic of bars seem much, much cooler. Forgo plain plastic straws in favour of something whimsical. The fun colours subconsciously signal to Becky’s brain that her vodka soda lime is much more exciting than it actually is (damn holiday diet) and she’s likely to enjoy it more than usual, thus enjoying the night overall more (perhaps, in part, to downing even more of those delicious vodka soda… who knows). If you’re going for disposable cups (which I suggest you do – your boujey martini glasses won’t look so boujey in thousands of pieces), spring for the red cups. Especially if you live in the UK. We may be grown adults but they still make us feel like we’re the cool kids in an American slasher film.
By the way, I don’t always have bottles of Cristal and Moet at my parties as standard, they just match by bar cart so beautifully I couldn’t resist the setup. Rest assured, come partayyy time the whole thing will get wheeled into the bedroom and out of the way. They’re just too pretty to drink! And besides, I actually much prefer the taste of prosecco to champagne. I can’t be the only one?