Wet bar vs. dry bar – that’s the ultimate showdown you’re faced with.
You want to incorporate some relaxed drinking areas in your home, but you don’t know which to choose.
I’m going to tell you right now that there is just one single difference between the two. While it seems simple, it’s actually a bigger contributing factor to your decision than you even realize right now.
We’re going to break down that difference and the rippling effect that it has on your bar choice, as well as a short list of pros and cons on each. This is everything you need to know about dry bars, wet bars, and which one is right for you.
- 1 What is a Wet Bar?
- 2 How is it Different From a Dry Bar?
- 3 How Difficult is it to Install a Wet Bar?
- 4 Pros and Cons of Wet Bars
- 5 Pros and Cons of Dry Bars
- 6 Spicing Up Your Home One Way or Another
What is a Wet Bar?
Wet bars include plumbing of some sort.
This is most commonly a small wash sink to clean out margarita pitchers, shakers, and shot glasses. Wet bars will typically have a dish drying rack or cotton rags to manually dry off dishes, so that they can be immediately replaced in their respective areas.
One common misconception is that if you have a bar, and it has a kegerator (one that’s powered by electricity that keeps the keg cold), that it constitutes as a wet bar. That’s not the case.
How is it Different From a Dry Bar?
A sink. That’s literally the only difference. If it has a sink, it’s a wet bar, but if it only has dry storage for liquor bottles and a shelf for glasses, it’s a dry bar.
While that’s technically the only difference, it’s not the only thing different that people do with their dry bars and wet bars. Typically, if someone has a wet bar, it’s for a reason.
You can include margarita machines, blenders, and shakers for mixed beverages, all because you have a sink handy to clean them out in. Nobody wants to do laps from the basement to the kitchen to just to wash their dishes, only to have to bring them back down.
A dry bar is going to have more shelves, most likely, but you can also use the counter space to store bottles, glasses, and rags to dust your equipment.
Lastly, it’s common in wet bars to also have mini fridges to store non-alcoholic ingredients for mixed beverages. This is where you would stick lemons, limes, and fruits/fruit concentrates for blended beverages.
The difference is a sink, but the utility that a sink and any plumbing in general offers is startling when you really think about the possibilities that open up.
How Difficult is it to Install a Wet Bar?
It all depends on how capable you are with tools and plumbing knowledge.
To be honest, most of us don’t know anything when it comes to plumbing, which is why online tutorials are so popular. Broken down into less than six minutes, This Old House showcases every step along the way for a double-bowl sink.
If you want a full wet bar with an Island Oasis machine or something of the sort, you’re going to need to run additional water lines (these machines self-rinse the pitchers when you place them upside-down on the console).
The difficulty lies in the plans you have for your bar. The easiest route to take is a dry bar, but the utility difference might not be appealing to most people.
Pros and Cons of Wet Bars
We all want to have more drink options, a better in-home bar, and all the options under the sun, just like a real bar. Except… that’s a lot of work, you know?
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows when you try to install a wet bar in your home, so we’re going to take an objective, practical look at wet bars so you can see if it’s something you can really implement in your home.
Pro – Better Drink Menu
Even if it’s just for you, wouldn’t you like to have options instead of warm Jack Daniels?
No hating on dry bars here, but sometimes it’s nice to say “This week was terrible, but at least I can make a proper mimosa to settle down.”
You deserve to have more options available in your party, entertainment, or relaxation space. In this regard, since you’re only going to be using it for personal use, the costs to maintain it don’t really run that high.
Con – Doing Dishes During the Party
You’re entertaining, you’re having a good time, but now you have to clean out pitchers.
You have to wash those margarita glasses before they become absolutely caked with the sugary blend and stick to the side of the glass. If you don’t do it, you’re going to have to pay later on with all the dishes stacking up that you didn’t take care of.
Pro – Entertainment is More Effective
Are you kidding me?
I would love a margarita. Who wouldn’t?
I haven’t met a single soul in all my life that would turn down a homemade, free margarita, even if it isn’t their forte.
Wet bars offer so much more access for entertaining. A dry bar is fine if it’s just you and the boys having a poker night ten feet across from the bar counter, but is that really enough to entertain other people?
Eh, not really.
Con – Costs Money to Run
Margarita machines need maintenance. It costs money to install a sink and the water lines. You have to buy new filters for those water lines, and pay the additional money in your utility bill for the running water.
Altogether, it’s more expensive to run, because a dry bar is literally dirt cheap to maintain. If you have a wet bar, you likely have a fridge or kegerator as well, meaning you’re going to run additional electricity costs on top of that.
Pro – Bartender Training
Did you know that bartenders can actually pull in more than most minimum wage jobs across the country?
Many of them receive decent wages (not waiter/waitress wages), and it’s something you can moonlight as.
It sounds fun, but if you’re going to take the bar exam (different bar exam, obviously), then you need to know what you’re doing. Having a full at-home wet bar, which emulates almost every bar out there today, is going to train you for such an occasion.
Pros and Cons of Dry Bars
Dry bars aren’t as exciting as wet bars, but if you’re not going to utilize all those drinks that wet bars offer, then it’s not really worth putting your time into one, you know?
There’s nothing wrong with just having a dry bar with empty glasses and liquor bottles lining it up. You could even supplement it with a small ice machine (one that doesn’t require a water line) to have it on the rocks if the mood strikes.
But the thing is, even with less to worry about, there are problems that dry bars have. Let’s be objective about this and not put more stock in one type of bar; it’s about what you will get the most use out of, and nothing more.
Pro – No Maintenance Costs
Once it’s done, it’s done. You don’t have to pay for that additional water line, or all the machines that can be hooked up.
You’re just free to replace bottles as needed, but without having to change water filters, run refrigerators, and all that exhausting, high-maintenance work that can go with a wet bar.
Con – Mixed Drink Additives Are Cheap
If you’re only serving warm beverages, that’s fine. No harm, no foul. But that’s straight alcohol, so you can literally count the dollars poured into every single glass.
With a wet bar, where people typically make mixed drinks (or at least make them look fuller with ice), you spend less on the actual alcohol costs. Many mixed or blended beverages are going to be cheaper than serving straight-up liquor.
Pro – Requires Less Space
A dry bar is literally just a bar with a counter on the interior side, stools, and a shelf with alcohol bottles and glasses on it. That sounds pretty simple, yeah?
You can even buy pre-made bars and just install them here.
They don’t have to be huge. With a wet bar, you need additional room for a decent-sized sink, countertop space for ice machines, margarita machines, and even undercarriage spots for a mini-fridge or wine cooler. That’s a lot of work, isn’t it?
Con – It Can Look Cluttered
When you have all this extra space in a wet bar, you can find more spots to store glassware and alcohol bottles. It looks sleek, sophisticated, and designed to be that way.
A dry bar can arguably look cluttered with all the glasses stacked up, and the three-tier bleachers of booze bottles lined up in a row. Think about the typical way that outdated bars have their bottles lined up and their bars organized, and picture that in your basement or living room.
Pro – Very DIY-Friendly
Not comfortable installing a water line or an electric outlet in an unfinished basement area?
We don’t blame you. The average person has to learn how to do it, we’re not just walking around with that knowledge. That’s okay, because with a dry bar, you don’t have to worry about a lot of installation issues.
In fact, you can install it in about four hours if you’re anchoring it to the floor or wall, if you buy a premade bar. Heck, even if you want to cut the wood and stain it yourself, it’s still easier than doing all of that and then adding a sink into it.
Spicing Up Your Home One Way or Another
To sink, or not to sink? It all depends on just how you want to use the space. Are you entertaining, or is it just for you? If it’s just for you, do you care about frozen drinks and rinsing out pitchers, or is a clean stack of shot glasses and a bottle of Jack all you really need to worry about?
Now you know the differences, and based on how you like to enjoy drinking, you’ll be able to make a decision. Wet bars are going to be a bit more pricey, but if you’re getting use out of them, then it’s money well spent.