Home beer and spirit-making have become popular hobbies. Bars and beverage stores feature a growing range of artisanal spirits and craft brews. Cocktail parties are back in vogue.
And retailers are responding to all this imbibing by offering furniture, barware and accessories with cosmopolitan flair. All you need are a few invitations, snacks and some good music for the party to begin.
Let's pop the cork on what's new:
"Nowadays, entertaining does not have to mean having a glitzy full bar. Bar carts have become more delicate, refined, and smaller in scale, so you can tuck them into a corner of a room or blend them in with the rest of the furniture," says Veranda magazine's market editor Catherine Lee Davis.
West Elm's Parker slim-profile cart in acorn-stained walnut veneer with brass rail trim has a mid-century vibe. The walnut-stained Dodson cart features a flip-down front concealing a mirror-lined interior with plenty of storage. And a cart in polished nickel with two foxed mirror shelves evokes Art Deco glamour. (www.westelm.com )
If you want the look of a built-in bar, consider Pottery Barn's modular collection of wine grids and drawered cabinets. In black or mahogany finish, the pieces can be configured to look like a hutch or buffet. (www.potterybarn.com )
Davis says that with barware, the trend is toward shaking it up. "We see lots of different materials like hammered silver, tortoise, or shagreen," she says. "It's all about mixing and matching. After all, entertaining should be about having fun."
Gent Supply Co. has a natty collection of coasters, glassware and flasks printed with illustrations of turn-of-the-century gentlemen duelers, narwhals, anchors, and animals dressed in distinguished garb. (www.gentsupplyco.com )
Artist Richard E. Bishop, known for wildlife etchings in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, has his work on an array of bar glasses and decanters. Ducks, trout, foxes and horses set a "country house" tone. (www.richardebishop.com )
A punchbowl that rests in the clutches of an octopus, and a sculpted shell held by a delicate coral stand are part of an aluminum barware collection at Z Gallerie. There's also a faux crocodile service tray in rich eggplant, studded with silver rivets, that makes a sophisticated statement.
Silver cocktail picks and stir sticks topped with airplanes evoke the Second World War. And a mirrored sign with phrases like "Stirred" and "Straight Up" printed in a gold retro font would make great wall art. (www.zgallerie.com )
JC Penney has a whimsical yet elegant wine decanter from Michael Graves Design that features his signature bird as built-in aerator. (www.jcp.com )
At Homegoods, there are hammered metal cocktail shakers with handy drink recipes printed on the side. Standing wine buckets are useful accessories, leaving more room on dining tables and buffets for nicely-sized tools -- small muddlers, sieves, scoops and tongs, for example -- that will have amateur bartenders looking like experts. (www.homegoods.com ; www.surlatable.com )
Making a good martini may be an art, but how about making your own gin? No bathtub is required, just a kit like one from Uncommon Goods containing all the spices, juniper berries and accessories needed to turn garden-variety vodka into a custom gin.
New York artist Aymie Switzer's laser-etched cedar coasters depict neighborhood maps of many major cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. Coasters recycled from old tires are stamped by Los Angeles artists with different graphic number fonts. And Colorado designer David Rasmussen's black walnut stemware is distinctive and beautiful. All at www.uncommongoods.com .
Whether it's a swanky gathering or a casual movie night, provide your drinking guests with a variety of interesting treats. Pier 1's Tasting Party collection includes one-bite ceramic dishes, shot glasses and spoons which can be stored in your home bar. Ebony buffalo-horn condiment spoons and mottled horn bowls from Williams-Sonoma would add flair. (www.pier1.com ; www.williams-sonoma.com )
If you're setting up a first apartment and don't have much money, consider giving an old nightstand or tray table new life as a miniature bar. Hit flea markets and junk yards for salvaged tool trolleys, medical supply carts or old microwave stands and spiff them up with paint, paper or other decorative materials like stick-on tiles and mirror. The web has many artful ideas, including at www.curbly.com .