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Setting Up a Bar and Mixing Cocktails

Martha Stewart Living Television

There's more to mixing a good cocktail than simply pouring liquor over ice and stirring. According to master mixologist Dale DeGroff, who has been tending bar for twenty-five years, great flavor is what makes a cocktail memorable. He stresses the need to approach the mixing of drinks the way a chef cooks a meal: with high-quality ingredients and meticulous care in preparation.

When you entertain at home, it is customary for the host to prepare the first round of drinks, after which time, guests can make their own. Setting up the bar properly will prevent you from having to stock it repeatedly. Ideally, you should set up your bar on a 6-foot-long table that is accessible from at least three sides. Cover the table with a cloth, then lay a second cloth, such as a white-linen covering, on the table, running the length of the table. Place the liquor in the center of the table on a tray, with the labels facing out, so they can be read. Designate two glasses per guest, and place them at both ends of the table.

Set up two condiment trays (with olives, onions, cherries, toothpicks, spoons, and so forth), one on each side of the liquor. Place two ice buckets with tongs in them in front of and behind the liquor. Always buy the largest ice cubes you can find, and look for ice made from spring water; figure on 5 pounds of ice for every 10 guests. Place the cocktail shakers, strainers, pitchers, and other supplies on the long side of the table, closest to the edge. Place the napkins and recipe cards on the two corners of the table, and the bottles of soda water between the condiments and glasses.

Try these cocktail recipes from Dale DeGroff:

Learn more about Dale DeGroff at

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