Setting up a Home Bar: Aussie Man Caves Guide

A home bar is often the centrepiece of a traditional Aussie man cave — and for good reason.

Particularly for your average bloke, your local pub, bar or club is an important social outlet. And that’s why a well-stocked bar is often such an essential man cave feature.

A home bar is not only a great gathering place to get your mates together in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere, it can also be an excellent way to express your own personality in your man cave design.

So read on and find out what are the essential elements for putting together a top-notch hooch stand in your man cave and you’ll be propping up the bar like a pro in no time.

Home Bar Basics

For most mancavers the ideal is to have a full-blown, built-in wet bar (wet bar simply means to have a bar with sink). But that’s not the only option.

No plumbing? No problem. You can still put together an authentic man cave bar with a little adaptation. And we’ll look at options for ‘dry-bars’ (for want of a better term) below.

Tight on space? If you’re tight on space, or your priorities simply lie elsewhere — like increasing the size of your visual entertainment space or games space — you might consider a console table or side-table bar arrangement.

Although many a man cave traditionalist would say there’s nothing like having something to stand behind when it comes to a man cave bar, you can still have a pretty cool and practical set-up this way.

There’s a myriad bottle and bar storage options that can create a surprisingly compact and functional bar.

If you’re a bit handy, the creative use of swinging and folding doors and drawers can make a surprisingly effective bar unit and can make the bloke who built Dr Who’s Tardis look like an amateur.

Tip — Even an old bookcase or bookshelf can make a pretty cool bar unit with a big noggin’ energy. Think about ideas like arranging your spirits in alphabetical order or a shelf for each spirit type.

No matter which space saving option you choose, you can give it a real bar feel by the decoration you choose to put around it. We’ll give you some man cave bar decoration ideas below.

Positioning Your Home Bar

The first thing you need to consider is the best position for your bar within your man cave.

On the logistics front, think about where and how you’re going to wash and store your glasses. If you’re planning on creating a wet bar, where you’ll be washing should be pretty straight forward. If not, think about your nearest and easiest sink option and how you’re going to transport your glassware there and back, particularly when you’ve got a bunch of people around.

We look at how to best store your glasses under Home Bar Storage Options in this guide.

Tip — Keep in mind all spirits deteriorate over time. To keep spirits at their best, make sure you keep them out of direct sunlight and at a cool, even temperature.

Buy or Build Your Home Bar?

Once you know the kind of bar you want to create and where you’re going to put it, next up is deciding how to put what’s in your head into reality. You’ve got a few options here.

DIY home bar build — If you fancy yourself pretty handy with the tools, or you just love a project, a do-it-yourself home bar build is a great option. As well as the satisfaction of seeing your own creation come to life, you have the chance to put your own personal stamp on how your man cave bar looks and functions.

The good news here is that there are heaps of home bar plans to get you started available on home DIY websites and others like Pinterest, as well as bunches of free video tutorials available on Youtube.

Buy a complete home bar unit — There are also plenty of choices if you choose to go down the ready-made path. Online check out home bars on Amazon Australia or eBay to get you started.

There are also companies that specialise in pre-made or made-to-order home bars. A Google search should help you find out if there are any around your local area.

Pick up a used home bar unit — You might be surprised to find that it’s not uncommon to find used home bars available through websites like eBay and Gumtree in Australia.

Home Bar Shelving and Storage

How you store your spirits, wine, glasses, and accessories is another important consideration. You can take a purely functional approach, and that’s fine. But with a bit of thought, your home bar storage choices can have a big impact on your man cave bar style.

Bar shelves for spirits — Thinking about the traditional style of shelving for spirits you might see in your local pub, bar or club is a good place to start. Your typical floating-style wall shelf is one option. Or how about step-style shelving for a real behind-the-bar effect.

You could also experiment with a bit of LED backlighting behind your spirit bottles for that intimate bar or nightclub feel.

Pinterest is another good place to find ideas. The handmade craft website Etsy has some interesting bar shelves ideas and options you can buy.

Compare bar shelves on Amazon Australia.

Wine racks — Like spirit shelving, there are a lot more options than just your typical foldable cross hatch-style wine rack. With some amazing, innovative designs and styles out there, your wine rack can be a serious bar feature in itself.

If you’re a serious wine connoisseur (or just want to look like one), consider a temperature-controlled wine fridge. They can be fairly inexpensive, even new (check out Amazon Australia for ideas), or you can often find them used on sites like Gumtree and eBay.

Glasses racks and storage — So too, how you store your glasses can either be purely functional or a feature in itself. Your overhead hanging style slide-out glass racks give that real authentic pub look. Or choose under-bar storage if you want to keep things clear up top.

Check out shelves for glasses on Etsy and Pinterest for different ideas. You’ll also find a bunch of glass shelving options on Amazon and eBay.

Choosing Your Home Bar Stools

After you’ve decided where your man cave bar is going to sit, the type of bar and what it’s going to look like, the next big decision is your choice of stools. This is an important decision not only for comfort but also for the look and feel of your bar.

Like storage options are dozens of types and styles of bar stools to choose from.

Things to consider is how many you need, how many you can actually fit comfortably around your bar, and what you like in a stool that might be firm (no jokes, please), or with a bit more padding for comfort, with back support or without. Also, think about what your stools are made of and seat coverings. How easy are they to maintain? And how rowdy do you think things might get?

Check out Amazon Australia and eBay for ideas about what’s available. There are also many specialist shops around Australia that do nothing but bar stools. Another good place to start for ideas.

Tip — Consider opening up your bar space with a matching pub-style, high-set table, sometimes called a nightclub table, or bench to match the height of your stools.

Types of Glasses for Your Home Bar

Choosing the right glasses for the right plonk is another essential consideration for a great home bar.

Some traditional mancavers might suggest there are only two types of glasses — pints and schooners — but not so.

For a serious man cave bar, consider a broader selection of glasses for different drinks and applications Here’s a quick guide to the popular glass types you might consider:

Pint glasses — The 570 ml pint glass is pretty much the world pub standard for beer and cider drinkers. Depending on how many friends you’ve got, it’s worth having at least a dozen on hand.

Schooner glasses — The old 425 ml schooner glass is an Aussie favourite. The choice between pint and schooner glasses usually comes down to simple personal preference. Having a set of both on hand might be a good idea.

Red and white wine glasses — It probably goes without saying a set of red and set white wine glasses is crucial for any self-respecting home bar. They don’t necessarily have to be expensive. You can pick up a decent set of each at stores like BigW or Kmart pretty cheap.

Whiskey glasses — For many blokes, a good set of whiskey glasses is essential. And we at Aussie Man Caves say a big cheers! to that. You might spend a little more on a decent set of whiskey glasses, and we say it’s worth it. There are a few styles of glass specifically for the serious whiskey drinker, though most commonly, you’ll get whiskey served in a lowball glass, otherwise known as a whiskey tumbler.

Cocktail glasses — These are stemmed glasses with a bowl that looks like an inverted cone. You can also use these for martinis. A cocktail glass and a martini glass differ only slightly. Needless to say, any self-respecting home bar needs a set of these.

Champagne flutes — What are you going to use on Melbourne Cup day? (or family celebrations, for that matter?). Another must-have among your glass selection.

Highball glasses — This is what you’d get when you ask for spirit in a tall glass at your local pub, bar or club. Highballs can vary in size and are similar to other tall glass styles. Too much detail to get into here except to say that it’s good to have a set of some sort of tall glass.

Lowball glasses — This is the typical short glass you’d get in a pub. It’s also known as a tumbler, whiskey tumbler, rocks glass or old-fashioned glass. Another bar must-have.

Stocking Your Home Bar

How to stock a bar is a big and often subjective subject, but there are some basics and essentials every decent home bar should have on hand.

Ultimately, the best way to kick off is to start small and start with what you and your visitors enjoy.

Keep in mind you don’t need to set it up all at once. Creating a great bar is an evolution. Having a budget (start cheap, work up and find what you like) and a plan like buying one bottle of new spirits each month might work for you.

If you want to develop your skills as a mixologist, you might want to buy the spirit(s) and ingredients (or what serious mixologists call modifiers) for one new cocktail each month. Your collection and cocktail options will grow pretty quickly.

Beers and ciders — The huge range of beers and ciders and particular location-specific choices make choosing the best beers and ciders for your man cave bar a particularly subjective thing. Perhaps the best advice is that, assuming you’re not going to be the only one frequenting your home bar, having a variety of styles and brands on hand is a good idea.

Spirits — Your choice of spirits is also often a very subjective thing, but consider a good cross-section of the basic spirit types so you always have something on hand to suit a wide variety of tastes and cocktail applications.

Most popular and classic cocktails can be made with a handful of common spirits, what I call the big seven:

  • Gin
  • Bourbon Whiskey
  • Scotch Whisky
  • Tequila
  • White Rum
  • Dark Rum
  • Vodka

Modifiers — If you’re keen on making a wide variety of cocktails, there are some essential modifiers that you might consider. With these and your basic spirit range, you’ll have a bunch of different cocktail options to choose from.

  • Vermouth (dry and sweet)
  • Cointreau
  • Campari

Mixers — Again, personal choice plays a big part in choosing your mixers. But, like with your basic seven spirits, it’s good bar practice to have a selection of common favourites on hand, particularly when you’ve got a bunch of people coming around. Here’s a good starting selection:

  • Soda water
  • Cola
  • Tonic water
  • Lemonade
  • Fresh juices: orange, tomato, pineapple

Bitters — You might think there’s only one kind, but not so. Aromatic bitters refers to a type of high-proof alcohol infused with herbs or spices that are used as an additive to drinks, and these days there are bunches of different types to try. To keep it simple, start with the one you most commonly find in Aussie pubs, Angostura.

Garnishes and cocktails ingredients — Even many relatively common drinks like gin and tonic, martinis and mojitos need a garnish, so it’s good form to have at least the common types on hand. You also might want to keep some of the more common cocktail ingredients on hand. Here’s a good starting point:

Common garnishes:

  • Lemons and limes
  • Mint (keep a fresh plant if you’ve got a bit of sunlight)
  • Cocktail olives
  • Onions

Common cocktail ingredients:

  • Sugar cubes or fine white sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hot sauce like Tabasco (if you’re a Bloody Mary fan)

Essential Home Bar Tools

When it comes to bar tools, gadgets and gizmos, you can do a lot with a handful of basic tools. But as your bar and your mixology skills grow, there are a bunch of tools you might consider adding.

The basic bar kit:

  • Corkscrew
  • Mixing glass
  • Jigger
  • Bar spoon
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Cocktail strainer (Hawthorne strainer)
  • Ice trays
  • Ice bucket
  • Citrus juice press
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Paring knife
  • Muddler set

Amazon Australia has a great range of bar tools and bar tool sets.

Other useful bar kit items:

Soda siphon — This is a great tool for making your own homemade mixers like soda water and even ginger beer. It’s also much cheaper than buying ready-made. SodaStream is a popular brand you might recognise in Australia.

Tip — Don’t forget a bunch of bar towels and a bin behind the bar.

Man Cave Home Bar Decor

The decoration of your home bar is where you can really let your personal style loose on the world. Things like traditional branded bar mats, coasters, signs, posters and your choice of other knick-knacks and accessories all work to make your bar feel like home. Here are some ideas to get you started. (The sticky floor and musty smell is up to you.)

Home bar signs and posters — Signs are a man cave bar staple. Types to consider include old beer and product signs, neon signs, old maps and posters are just some ideas. Personalised bar signs with your name or the name bar are another popular idea and pretty easy to get.

Bar mats, coasters and stubby holders — Your traditional beer-branded bar mats, coasters and coolers are perennial man cave bar favourites. Though if you’re not keen on ‘borrowing’ these from your local, there are other options. It can also be surprisingly cheap and easy to get your bar accessories like personalised coasters and coolers. A bar coaster or stubby holder collection is always a good talking point.

Sports paraphernalia and collectibles — Sports collectibles like signed jerseys, flags, bats and balls, and more can all give your man cave bar a real sports bar feel.

Stuff stuffed and mounted — Mounted skulls, horns and antlers, or that special fish that didn’t get away, can also make a great talking point in your man cave bar.

Check out Etsy for personalised home bar decor and sports bar decor, and Pinterest, Amazon and eBay for ideas.

Tip — Pick a theme, say your football team or a particular hobby, and pack your man cave bar with pieces based on your theme or collection. Think about all those great bars you’ve seen or visited with stuff packed to the rafters. Visitors love it.

Some Cool Home Bar Theme Ideas

Here are a couple of theme ideas that might get you thinking about how to make your man cave bar something special.

The Home Brew Bar — If you’re a keen home brewer, why not make that a special feature of your man cave bar? Keep a barrel of your latest brew creation on the bar top for that old-school British pub feel.

The Tiki Bar — The thatched hut-style tiki bar is an old favourite among man cavers. A couple of tropical plants, a bit of thatched roofing and a bit of bamboo panelling will get you started. Add a little Easter Island statue or two and a few Polynesian images to finish it off. The tiki theme is popular all over the world, so it’s often easy to find tiki bar decorations.

Here are some other guides you might like:

Man Cave Fridge Buyer’s Guide

Man Cave Gifts: Ideas and Inspiration