Pictured Above: thegarbar.com
Bars are great. Nowhere else can you get a nine dollar specialty cocktail that tastes like barbicide yet somehow has less alcohol than the average hard seltzer. Only in bars can you listen to bankers butcher Poison songs as someone shouts over them, trying to convince you they were an original member of Pink Floyd, and then have a Yankees fan brawl with a Red Sox fan all in the same night. There’s a better way. Which is why it’s time to begin celebrating the garage bar by learning how to turn your carport into a boozy haven.
Step 1: Get Inspired
When you’re staring at a filthy garage, with oil stains on the floor, and a bunch of tools on the wall that certainly won’t get you drunk, it’s hard to envision the bar your garage could be. This means you need to get some ideas jammed into your dome piece.
The premier place for garage bar inspiration is Garbar Nation. They’re like Bar Rescue, but instead of swooping in to shout at business owners, they praise every different type of garage bar. Through pictures, videos, and stories, Garbar Nation teaches you how to work with your space, and set out a plan for building a watering hole that the whole neighborhood would be proud to pass out in.
They’ll teach you there’s no wrong type of garage bar. You can make a sophisticated lounge for discussing current events over cognac, a home gym complete with Guiness on tap, a cosmopolitan elitist affair that only serves cosmopolitans, or a biker dive where the oil stains are actually decor. The key is to make it yours.
Step 2: Learn the Laws
Before you ever slap a piece of plywood on a couple of sawhorses and hand your friend a PBR, you need to make sure that you’re not running afoul of the fuzz. This is especially true if you’re hoping to make your garage bar a business, rather than just a hangout for your friends.
Liquor licenses, fire codes, maximum occupancy, and food and beverage sanitation requirements are all concerns for a garage bar. This is true even if it is just a personal tavern for handing out hooch, rather than a true professional endeavor. Some areas, Utah springs to mind, have a lot of legal red tape regarding alcohol. Make sure you’re informed so that there’s no risk of accidentally getting fined for operating a speakeasy when all you wanted was a place to watch the game and play some foosball.
Step 3: Plan Your Garage Bar
A great garage bar doesn’t just happen. It takes careful planning and preparation. Once you’ve gotten some good ideas, and are sure that the coppers won’t be kicking in your door, you need to lay everything out.
Take photos of bars you like with elements you want to incorporate. Draw some stick figures if that helps you get in the mood. Load up on videos that show the type of garage bar you’re trying to make. You need to be able to see it in your head in order to make it happen, and the easiest way to do that is by showing your head stuff that helps it along.
There’s inspiration, and then there’s perspiration. Not only do you need to have great ideas, you need to make sure those ideas are viable. Get down to blueprints if you can, so that you understand not only how every nook and cranny looks, but how they operate. Bars aren’t terribly complex, but they aren’t simple either. You need to know where you need a drain, a water line, and safe power for your TV, jukebox, karaoke machine, or mechanical bull.
Lay The Groundwork
Once you know how to make the garage bar work, you need some infrastructure. This might mean affixing new pipes, adding a bathroom, running wires for more outlets, putting in refrigeration, or getting some fiber optic cable for that online gaming bar you’ve always wanted. You could be shocked at how much hassle an oversight at this stage can be. As Confucius says, “Dude, go slow so you don’t mess this whole thing up and we have to go get hammered at O’Dumplin’s, again. That place smells like donkey.”
Step 5: Get the Gear
This is without a doubt the best part. It combines the fun of buying tools with the fun of knowing those tools will help you get a buzz. No matter what type of garage bar you’ve concocted in your lush dreams, there’s some essentials you’re going to need.
Maybe you’re making a cigar bar or a coffee bar, or even a smoothie bar. But, if you’re not, you’re going to need alcohol. You’re going to want to get a variety to assuage the thirst of all your guests. Here’s the standards we recommend everyone have:
- Whiskey – Bourbon, scotch, and rye are wise.
Maybe you’re the rare soul who likes drinking a pine tree and can take gin straight. But even then, you’ll want some mixology options. Therefore, you’re going to need mixers to cut that alcohol flavor. Here’s the basics to have on hand:
- Simple Syrup
- Orange Juice
- Cranberry Juice
- Tonic and/or Lemon and Lime Juice
- Milk or Cream
- Sodas – Club soda, cola, and ginger ale at the very least.
You can never have too many mixers, but you certainly can have too few. These basics are by no means the end of the road. This is just enough to keep you from getting shanked in your own garage.
No one drinks martinis exclusively, nor do whiskey aficionados ever only want a dram to still their nerves. You’ve got to be prepared for your wine snob pal’s sudden hankering for a margarita, or the shot monster who wants an IPA. You’ll need at least a couple of each of the following glasses to be ready for most anything:
Standard issue for measuring as well as imbibing as fast as possible.
Here’s your choice for margaritas, martinis, and champagne.
Double Rocks Glasses
Big enough for mixing or for adding a giant ice mold, the extra space in a double rocks glass gives it both room to maneuver as well as a heft that just feels good in the hand.
The curved tumbler is meant for capturing aromas in the top, which makes it ideal for cognac and brandy, but it also works for wines without risking a delicate stemmed glass.
Both lagers and ales are better out of a pint glass. Not only do they make the drinking experience better than sipping straight from the bottle, you can get glasses with nucleation points to provide a constant stream of fizz that titillates while you quaff.
This one is a little more optional, but is ideal for providing greater presentation to mixed drinks.
Ice Trays / Molds
Bags of ice might be cheap, but they can add up pretty quickly. Plus, standard cubes are just asking for watered-down drinks. Save money and provide more aesthetic appeal by investing in some good silicone ice makers.
This type of jigger is a twofer. It’s got measurements on both sides so a quick flip is all you need to go from making an Old Fashioned to a Pink Squirrel. Start off with a 1-ounce/2-ounce jigger, and you can supplement with other sizes later on.
Boston shakers come in two pieces that fit together. Don’t get anything other than a Boston shaker, since you can mix anything and everything in one of these. Other shakers have limitations, and they won’t do anything a Boston can’t, except add flair or pretentiousness, depending on how you use it.
Very few people like to chew their mixed drinks. To keep the junk out, you need a strainer. Hawthornes are the best type, fit right onto a glass, and keep everything flowing smoothly.
Used to mash up fruits and spices in a drink, you’ll need a wood muddler that’s unvarnished unless you really want to make your guests violently ill.
Don’t just use some kitchen spoon for stirring, use a bar spoon and you’ll get the right amount of swizzle.