The Best Home Bar Is One You Build by Trusting Your Friends
When I first moved to New York City almost five years ago, my social life consisted almost entirely of housewarming parties. As each friend got the keys to their shockingly small (or "cozy," as we all generously described it back then) one-turned-three-bedroom apartment, the rest of us gathered to break the new place in. Weekend to weekend, the routine was pretty much the same.
It usually went something like this:
- Receive a text from the host, thinly veiled as a reminder of the apartment address, but really intended as a gentle (and reasonable) hint that the party is, in fact, BYOB.
- Make plans to meet up with other friends planning to attend said housewarming — most likely at or near a liquor store, in order to make that whole BYOB thing happen.
- Along with friends, purchase way more liquor than one could possibly drink — or even share — for the night.
- Transport the boozy bounty to the new apartment, which more often than not required a daunting climb up a five- or six-story staircase.
- Party on, dude. Warm that house!
- Stumble out of the party, pleasantly buzzed, having left a substantial quantity of the alcohol you purchased behind.
The Beauty of Booze as a Housewarming Gift
We were freshly minted adults, testing out the limits of our newly growing bank accounts. We were learning what we really liked to drink, no longer bound to whatever keg happened to be inside the fraternity house. Best of all — whether we knew it or not — we were figuring out the fine art of generosity, seeing the satisfaction that comes with showing up to someone's home and having something to contribute.
Over the course of that first year in New York, it quickly became clear that throwing a housewarming party was a surefire way to stock that inaugural liquor cabinet, which, for most of us, was actually just the cabinet over the fridge that was also home to boxes of random granola bars, a toolbox, and our roommates' broken slow cooker.
We were figuring out the fine art of generosity, seeing the satisfaction that comes with showing up to someone's home and having something to contribute.
That first housewarming haul provided us with liquid courage well into our second and third years in the city. The bottles made appearances at holiday parties, movie marathons, and the occasional lousy attempt at a dinner party. (Take it from me — when the chicken is burned and the pasta is sticky, it's usually best to switch from cheap red wine to a vodka soda.)
Among our friend group, it became a running joke that the liquor from our housewarming parties would be enough to get us through our leases.
And we were right. When it was time to move, many of us packed those same bottles into cardboard boxes and brought them along with us to the second apartment. There, they would form the foundation of a new liquor cabinet — an actual dedicated cabinet for many of us, and even a bar cart for a lucky few.
Within weeks, those bottles would be supplemented by another round of housewarming party goodies, and the cycle would repeat itself over again.
When it was time to move, many of us packed those same bottles into cardboard boxes and brought them along with us to the second apartment.
Five years and multiple apartments into our New York City experience, most of our liquor cabinets are still stocked (at least in part) by the contributions of our friends as they've celebrated each new home with us. As we've continued to get the hang of this whole "grown-up" thing, the offerings have become higher quality and more expensive.
Guests bring along a good whiskey or a high-end gin not to drink that night, but as a gift for the recently moved in. As a result, we're more likely than ever to dip into them sparingly.
"That's the good bottle from the housewarming. Save it for a special occasion."
Special occasions, of course, don't happen nearly enough, and our collections simply grow.
The Beauty of a Bar Built By Your Friends
I've still never "officially" stocked a liquor cabinet. Based on what I've read, doing so requires a lot of considerations, and a decent knowledge that I'm not sure I have. When it comes to booze, I tend to trust my friends.
Over the years, they've introduced me to brands and variations that I might not have thought of or known about to buy myself. Through their gifts, they've helped broaden my horizons. They've helped me take the edge off on plenty of bad days and provided me with the raw materials for toasts on the better ones.
Through their gifts, they've helped broaden my horizons.
Liquor cabinets (in my experience, at least) are best stocked by your favorite people — the people you invite to share in the happiness of a new house or apartment, the people most likely to swing by at a later date to help you make a small dent in something boozy. The alcoholic bounty that comes from a housewarming party can build the foundation for months and years of further celebrations in that sufficiently toasty home. Every cocktail mixed (or stiff drink pulled straight from the bottle) is also a chance to reflect on the happiness of a fresh start. For me, it's impossible not to be sentimental about a bottle when I pull it out.
Has a friend ever brought you an extra-special bottle for a housewarming? What was it?