It's nice to get each arriving guest their first cocktail or refreshment, show them where to find the food, make an introduction or two and then turn them loose on a self-serve bar for subsequent drinks.
Here is a quick how-to on setting up a well stocked self-serve bar:
Out of the main "flow" of the party. People will go out of their way to get to the bar, and some will tend to gather there, so there is no need to make it super central or it can clog up the energy and flow of the party space. The kitchen is a natural spot to set it up, providing there is enough room. If not, a table off to the side or in the corner of the main party room, pushed up against a wall (for stability) will work best.
A Basic List:
Scotch, Vodka, Gin, Tequila, and Rum
Wine, Red and White
Club soda, cola, diet cola, tonic, lemon-lime, ginger ale
Orange and cranberry juice
Champagne, Pernod, Brandy, Pimms, Clamato
Glassware or cups
A tea towel or two for spills
Jigger (measuring glass)
Fruit - (cut up the lemons and limes ahead of time)
Lots of Ice
A small trash container under or next to the bar table.
Glasses to one side on the main surface.
Napkins, ice bucket, tongs, garnishes, measuring glass and shaker in the front row.
Sodas, juice and mixers in the middle row.
Liquor and wine bottles at the back.
Beer in a cooler or bucket/container with ice beside or below the bar.
Photo: Simeon at stock.xchang