Now that our extra long festive season has arrived, my mind drifts to taking care of all my guests. You should always be prepared to welcome someone into your home for a refreshing beverage.

I have a friend back home who has decorated his basement like a dive bar. There’s a neon Cerveza Coors sign and a lovely 70s Crown Royale-emblazoned mirror behind the bar. Comfy backless stools belly up to the bar, at attention, ready for rounded bottoms to pass the night away, watering their souls and considering advice from a sympathetic, impartial ear.

Be Prepared
My friend is always prepared for a party or a surprise guest. His bar’s beating heart is the curated shelves of spirits standing proudly in the dimly-lit space. Most of us don’t have the luxury of such a spread here. However, this doesn’t dismiss you from your friendly obligation to pour a real drink for your pals when they pop by. My home bar sits atop my vintage home safe. While there’s not much inside, the top is loaded with the essentials. It doesn’t take much to show a little hospitality and class.

Spirits & Mixers
Unlike wine, which is finicky storage-wise, and beer, which sours and goes flat, spirits are ready to roll whenever. You can keep the bottle open and the nectar will stand up to our often brutal elements. You only need the basics to create a variety of cocktails, like gin, light rum, vodka, whiskey and brandy. From here you can get fancier (dark rum, a nice Armagnac, or, one of my favourites, a rustic bottle of rye). I recently happened upon Picon (a French bitter beverage which is consumed in France with beer and makes a California–Basque concoction called Picon Punch) and picked up three bottles here for future use.

Essentials & Accessories
Consider a few key items like robust glassware that’s impressive and feels good in your hand. I also made my own bar recipe book for inspiration. It’s sheathed in a tattered two-ring binder and includes magazine clippings and internet printouts. I’ve simply segregated the formulas by spirit. Fancy gadgets and measuring devices have no place at my bar, just a waiter’s corkscrew and a groovy gifted handmade lever-action beer bottle opener (thank you, Richard). Keep your bar simple, make it personalised and ensure suitable stock for yourself and your guests. Cheers!

Michael Kloster grew up in the vineyard countryside west of Fresno, California. He has been involved in the hospitality industry for two decades. He has organised the Lucky Wine Buyers’ Collective for spirits and wine lovers in Saigon. If you want something to drink, please contact him at