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A wet bar is a room or structure designed for the storage, mixing, and dispensing of alcoholic beverages. The term “wet bar” can also refer to appliances such as sinks, ice bins, blenders, coolers, dishwashers, and glass racks which are used in the areas of food service where liquor is served.
Following World War II, home wet bars became popular among builders because they allowed homeowners to entertain guests more easily. Home wet bars were given names like “butlers pantry”, “servants hall”, “pantry” and “powder room”. These terms were phased out by the 1960s due to changing social conditions. Today’s home wet bars are simply referred to as bars or wet bars.
The term wet bar is also used to describe a small, portable form of the traditional bar. A person could carry it with them and set it up at various events or gatherings where liquor was not present. Some bartenders who do not want to mix drinks carry pre-bottled beverages that they can serve by simply opening the bottle.
A home wet bar is typically an enclosed room adjacent to the kitchen, outfitted with either imitation wood or metal cabinets for liquors and glasses. Appliances may include ice makers (though these are rare in homes), dishwashers, soda fountains, wine coolers, and food preparation surfaces such as a sink or countertop. The use of copper piping above the bar and behind the bar is not only decorative but also functional: it provides a backup water supply for an ice maker or dishwasher, as well as an ad hoc fire suppression system.
Bar sinks are often separate from the main sink in the kitchen. Often this pair of sinks is the last set before the house plumbing drains into a septic tank (if applicable) or city sewer. Frequently one side will have hot and cold taps to allow washing of beverage containers and glasses prior to filling with drinks.
Wet bars typically have stools so guests can sit while they drink their beverages, although some bars do not have seating because they are located near eating areas where people can sit. If there is no counter space on which to place glasses, cabinets or shelves can be added. Storage can also be added in the form of wall mounts and movable carts and islands which increase storage space and add flexibility to the floor plan.
Today it is common practice to build a home wet bar with recessed cupboard doors rather than with open shelving. If the wet bar does not have enough room for a refrigerator, an ice maker can be installed under the counter adjacent to it. The entrance area just outside of the wet bar (and even within it) may contain some sort of seating such as chairs or stools that guests can use when putting on or taking off their shoes when entering or leaving the house.
A well-equipped home wet bar is also known as a wet or bottle service bar.
In addition to home use, many bars and restaurants have wet bars for the preparation of drinks. In some cases, these are not actually wet bars but simply tables with stools where patrons can sit while they wait to be served. Usually, a server delivers drinks that have been prepared by someone behind the bar at that location. The bartender may or may not mix drinks in front of the customers, depending on the arrangement between the establishment and its employees.
A restaurant’s wet bar is much more likely to offer seating to diners than a private residence’s because people do not typically invite guests into their homes unless those guests are well-known family members or close friends.
The term wet bar is also used in some homes to describe a small outdoor sink and counter located near the hot tub or pool. This allows homeowners to enjoy beverages near their spa and gives them easy access to the water source.
Some liqueurs such as Amaretto and Irish Cream are considered “dessert” drinks and therefore often served after dessert at weddings. It is becoming more common today for guests at home receptions to be offered these types of beverages as well. Home wet bars give hosts the opportunity to offer these types of drinks to guests who may not want another alcoholic beverage, but still wish to enjoy something sweet at the end of a meal.