Raising the Bar

Straight up, neat or with a twist, custom bars inside man caves always mix

written by Jennifer Colosimo | photos courtesy of Chip Wade; Daylight Basement Company; Randy Shaw; Jennifer Colosimo; Milton Cuisine & Cocktails; Ballast Point

Raising The Bar August 2015Not everyone dreams of mixing cocktails one day, but most men can appreciate an awesome spot to entertain friends and family. To be the most sought-after watering hole in the – err – cul-de-sac, you need a plan, not to mention essential barware and craftsmanship. Here, we talk shop with local experts on how to do just that.

Before you invite the entire neighborhood for a round on you, the big question is: Can you knock this thing out before dinner or is this one better left to the guys with a license?

HGTV star and Northside resident Chip Wade said, “This question is best answered by style and complexity. If you like the more traditional approach to bar design with the dark, stained wood, burnished metallic accents and more of a pub feel, that can get a little taxing to try to handle yourself. If you are open to a more casual or modern approach with smooth planes, fun materials and simple accessibility, this could be the perfect DIY project.”

Wade advised DIYers to start by considering what countertop material you want. As the spotlight feature of any new bar, it’s going to see a lot of wear and tear, whether you’re serving the most sophisticated snifter or a “whatever you’ve got” kind-of guy.

“The best functioning material for any counter surface usually goes to quartz composite,” Wade said. “Personally, I love bringing in different materials for bars that are interesting to look at, like weathered steel, leather and exotic materials, but you have to cover them with half-inch glass or thick epoxy for resiliency. Don’t count out stainless steel and concrete as great options as well.”

Also, consider what you want to accomplish as a bartender. Do you need a sink to rinse mixers? Do you want to keep ready-made drinks cold, offer brews on tap or collect and store your favorite varietals? There are several custom elements that you can choose to have, or not to have, so this is where the grand plan should begin.

“You have to make sure that whatever you’re designing looks like a bar, and not just a kitchen,” said local builder and owner of Bars Pubs, Randy Shaw. As the head of his own in-home bar in East Cobb, he said that every design plan should include ideas for the front and the back of the bar. “It should have features that make you want to sit there and have a drink.”

Function-wise, Shaw said the fundamentals are a sink, a refrigerator and an icemaker. Design-wise, he emphasized that an architectural feature above the bar is key — like a unique light fixture or an ornamental canopy. He also admitted almost every bar he designs has a television on the must-have list.

Ray Pavlovich of Daylight Basement Company added that one of the latest trends is a bar with two levels. “I work with customers from start to finish and by the time their bar is done, it’s exactly what they were looking for,” said Pavlovich who has been designing homes in the Northside for the last 25 years.

Bar G1

To approach the earlier question again — can we knock this out before dinner? Assuming you’ve got the carpentry skills (or maybe you hired some) and the materials ready to install, you can have it done by dinner … a week from Friday. In other words, Wade suggested allowing four days for someone who knows what he or she is doing. Shaw adds on a few weeks to his estimate for the idea to go from paper to production, noting it takes experience to build a great bar. So, maybe schedule that party for next month instead of next week, and give your new toys a dry (or, should we say “rye”) run first.

The old adage “If you build it, they will come” certainly applies to home bars, so once your man cave becomes the new neighborhood hangout, you might as well be ready to entertain the masses.

Kristine Cholakian, co-owner of the fun accessories line Charlotte Lane said, “Man caves are about surrounding yourself with items you enjoy to create a space to hangout with friends, relax and unwind.”

Cholakian’s fiancé and business partner Kenneth Cooke suggested adding sophistication. “Use heirlooms and vintage pieces and stock an amazing bar. A couple special pieces like custom art or a hanging flag make a bold statement.”


Above all, the Atlanta-based couple believes that less is more. “Minimalism is masculine,” Cholakian said. “The must-have items are a bottle of your favorite booze (you know, the good stuff), some cool glassware, decanters and a multi-tool to open bottles and brews.”

Owner of MDC Interiors Mona Patel added, “A man cave doesn’t have to mean cave man. Your bar should be inviting and a place to seek respite. Our own has a ‘Mad Men,’ retro feel, and we’re always on the lookout for vintage utensils like old-school lime juicers, classic martini glasses and shakers. They’re all housed in our mid-century mini-cabinet. It’s nice when a cocktail or a delicious brew can transport you to another place and spark your imagination to think outside of the present environment and space.”

One resident at Big Canoe chose a very different era, adopting a unique theme (and almost a year’s project timeline), rather than a contemporary style. What resulted is a storybook bar that looks like a Wild West saloon-style tribute to John Wayne. Its “founder” James Cochrane, dubbed it the Double Eagle Saloon — named for the twenty-dollar coin from the mid-1800s.

“I have a really big interest in gold and mining, especially being so close to Dahlonega which has a lot of mining history dating back to the Civil War,” Cochrane said of his idea for the Double Eagle. Along with artist and builder Sean Powell of Portrait Painter, the two brought the Western feel to life, tenfold.

Powell remembered Cochrane as a kid in a candy store when he told him he could bring the Western feel to life, using reclaimed wood from Louisiana and creating custom pieces like saloon doors and a handcrafted bar top.

From the ground up, you’ve got a stellar spot to entertain. Now, it’s time to serve up to the standards you’ve set. We’ve lined up recipes from some of our favorite mixologists to help.


At The El Felix, they’ve nailed the concept of understated style, boasting as many bright colors as it does leathers and metals and doing so with a wink at the vintage. General Manager Bradley Wyatt created something specifically to look good in a glass too. It’s called the Mezcal Smash. theelfelix.com
5 mint leaves
1 thick slice orange
1 slice lemon
1 slice lime
½ ounce agave nectar
2 ounces Sombra Joven Mezcal

Muddle mint and fruit with agave in a mixing tin. Add Mezcal and shake with ice. Strain over crushed ice into an old fashioned glass.

If you’re a gregarious mixologist with a green thumb, gather inspiration from the garden for a drink that has been a favorite for years. Milton’s Cocktails & Cuisine pulled seasonal ingredients from their backyard acre to make a man cave mash-up that’ll jump-start your reputation. miltonscuisine.com

3 ounces bourbon
2 large sage leaves, ripped into thirds
2 large cherries (not maraschino), pre-soaked in cherry bitters
Large orange slice
Splash of apple cider
Orange bitters-soaked cinnamon stick

Combine ingredients in a highball glass and squeeze orange slice. Top with cider. Add ice and garnish with an cinnamon stick.

JAMAICA MULE Fugu_JamaicaIf the hottest drink to order these days is a Moscow Mule, imagine the attraction when named after a tropical destination! On the heels of its incredible success in the Atlanta craft beer market (Grapefruit Sculpin, anyone?), Ballast Point is now stocking local shelves with spirits. While the vodkas in these recipes might come from their delicious “Taco Shop” series, they go equally well with football season. ballastpoint.com

1 ¾ ounces Ballast Point Fugu Jamaica Vodka
Ginger beer
½ ounce fresh squeezed lime

Pour Fugu and lime juice into a highball glass with crushed ice. Fill the rest of the way with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wheel.

1 ½ ounces Ballast Point Fugu Piña Vodka
4 basil leaves
½ ounces fresh lemon juice
½ ounces fresh lime juice
¾ ounces simple syrup
Soda water

Build lemon and lime juice along with simple syrup and three basil leaves in a cocktail shaker. Muddle these ingredients. Add Fugu and ice cubes. Shake until cold and pour into a highball glass. Top off with soda water and garnish with remaining basil leaf.

2 ounces Fugu Horchata Vodka
1 ounce Kahlua
1 ounce half and half (or milk)
2 ounces Coke

Build Horchata Vodka, Kahlua and half & half in a Collins glass with crushed ice. Top with a splash of Coke.