Yes, there’s been a lot of discussion about the bar. The reality is we do a fair amount of entertaining that involves cocktails, consequently have lots of bottles and need space to store stuff as well as to engage in mixology. This piece covers more than you might want to know about bar design. But if you are thinking of a bar, or are a glutton for punishment, it should be helpful.
Our kitchen is sufficiently spacious that we could have set up in there, but from the outset liked the idea of a remote wet bar to spread things out. Originally, Beth designated what is now the Red Room as the Cocktail Room, I think because it has one very tall window from which you can see the water and in front of which she envisioned herself sipping Cosmos. But it’s relatively small and would only have supported only a tiny bar. We thus shifted the name and function to the current Cocktail Room. The new location allow for a good size bar, is easily accessible to the patio and backs up on the plumbing of the mudroom.
If you locate a bar in or near the kitchen, you might not need a separate sink or fridge. Our temporary set up is a about 50 feet away as the crow flies, and it’s been annoying to back and forth to, for example, dump the shaker before making another drink. So, the goal is a self-contained bar they one need never leave.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about how we use a bar and early on was focused on big parties, say twenty or more people. That’s important, but do that a half dozen times a year. Much more frequently we’re making drinks for a small group or just ourselves. This was a key consideration in making tradeoffs as I will describe.
Houzz a terrific resource. Check it out if you’ve not already. For any design project, you can search for, say, “wet bars,” and get a million idea (or to be more accurate in this case 46,915). I found plenty of pictures of bars the size, shape and style of what we had in mind. Our surface is 74” x 25”. Why? Because that’s the size of the door that Ed Lahey insisted we use as the bar top. And, it turns out to be a decent size for a bar. Particularly important if you will have a built-in fridge is to be standard counter depth and height.
For about ten years, we have been using a $200 Frigidaire dorm fridge to store beers. Now in our pantry, it used to sit under the shelves where we stored booze, just off the kitchen in our former Cotuit house. It is fine and holds more than a case, and the price was right. My original thought was to stick it behind a cabinet door and we’d be good to go. Not so. The problem is that conventional refrigerators need air circulation around the coils so can’t be enclosed. That means you need one designed for undercounter mounting, vented out the kickplate, and the costs much much higher. Why? No idea, but it is what it is.
My original thought that we needed a “beverage center.” Typically, they have a glass front and, depending on the size, hold 3-5 cases of beer cans. Similar to a wine fridge, just with different shelves and racks. And you can get a combination. For a big party, that kind of capacity is great. (Of course, I considered a kegerator, but space constraints made it impractical.) Beverage centers do not include a freezer, so an icemaker suggests itself. You can get similarly configured, undercounter mount icemakers too. But as I suggested, this can all get pretty pricey. U-line seems to be the high end. With them, you can spend $4000 for a small fridge and $3000 for an icemaker. And, the room required adds up.
With an icemaker, you still want an ice bucket up on the bar for accessibility. An alternative I considered was a bar top ice chest with a built-in drain, easily to get to when you are making drinks and it can hold plenty for a party. You can use one in conjunction with an icemaker or just plan to load up before a big party with ice from elsewhere. I considered a model that came integrated with a sink.
There are a variety of bar sinks available from small, shallow ones to larger deeper ones. The “wet” part of the wet bar is important, not because you need water to make drinks, but for dumping, rinsing and washing. My conclusion is that you want a sink big and deep enough to wash glasses. I’m hoping to rarely take stuff to the kitchen for cleaning. With a big enough bar, a dishwasher could make sense; we knew we didn’t have the space to consider.
Speaking of storage…critical is getting enough room for booze, a variety of glassware for typical entertaining, and all our bar supplies, although some could probably live on the bartop.
Tying it all together, my task was to balance space–trading off, for example, cold storage against dry storage–and to work out how much we wanted to spend (hint: not $7000 for fridge and icemaker). Here’s the plan:
Above the bar, we will have a combination of shelves and cabinets and are trying to work out how to use a glass door from original cabinets salvaged from our old house. And we may have a winerack if it fits, otherwise all bottles will go under. The bar surface will be a heavily urethaned distressed door. We’ve selected a rectangular sink 13x9x9 interior. Ed gave us a cool little, vintage-looking gooseneck faucet to go with it. Bottles will be stored under the counter in cabinets and we’ll try to get a small drawer for napkins, corkscrew, knives, stirrers, and such.
The bigger decisions were about cooling. My conclusions were based on designing for normal use, i.e. smaller groups. I bagged the idea of a large chest for ice based on not wanting to give up the counter space. (For the same reason, I chose a relatively narrow sink.) We will continue to use our fun little beach bucket ice container. And, I opted out of an icemaker figuring we would rarely need that quantity and not want to trade off the under counter space. For parties, we can stash a cooler with some bags around the corner in the mud room. On the other hand, I’d like to be able to walk up to bar at any time without having to remember to stop by the kitchen for ice. Therefore we need some freezer space. That took me away from the idea of a beverage fridge in favor of an undercounter refrigerator/freezer combo. We went with a 5.1 cubic foot Summit, a solid middling brand. We’ll likely keep a Tupperware container of ice in the freezer compartment, stocked from the icemaker in our Subzero.
We are aiming to have the bar in place by mid-April, so stay tuned.