As a kid, going to a friend’s house is how you discover that your tiny, homebound microcosm of an experience is not quite how the rest of the world is. The range of ways people move through the world is big and vast — as an example, just look at how other people stack and stock their cupboards and fridges!
My first foray into my BFF’s home was one of wonder. A grand staircase punctuated the spacious home, where I was sure that if I yelled, I’d hear an echo of my voice. What impressed me and imprinted on me most, though, was the fridge tucked away in the garage.
It was a whole separate fridge just for drinks. The options were luxurious (like Diet Coke) but also down to earth. Nothing too fancy, like imported drinks. This glorious touch made me feel like a welcome guest.
In my childhood home, we always drank beverages with our meals. Elsewhere, most of the time, I would find myself sitting at dinner tables devoid of glasses. And being extremely shy, I always felt awkward having to ask for something to quench my thirst.
At her house, I was never thirsty. Never wanting. I was taken care of, always. So this ability to put others at ease? I knew I had to have it for my future adult self.
Now I’ve made that beverage-fridge-lifestyle dream a reality. I don’t have an extra full-size fridge, but I’m proud of my multiple mini fridges. And I’m here to share the art of keeping a fridge stocked, so you, too, can be a great host and friend.
My worst fear as a hostess? Having to tell someone, “Oh, sorry, I don’t have that.” So here’s how I like to make sure everyone is happy:
- Stock lots of classic soda since soft drinks are versatile, great for mixing with liquor, and universally liked.
- Save a bit of room for some out-of-the-box options, and buy beverages in bulk and on sale when possible.
- I typically budget about $25 per grocery shopping trip for beverages, but I’ll hold off if absolutely nothing is on sale or my fridge doesn’t yet need a refill.
- Keep extras in storage (if you have the room) for quick restocking as needed.
Soda: Get the classics: Coke, Pepsi, 7-Up, and ginger ale. Have a mix of regular and diet sodas on hand — people are particular.
Water: Don’t you dare fill up your fridge with bottles of water. As one Reddit user said, “Bottled water companies do not produce water, they produce plastic bottles.” Get a water filter jug instead.
Wine: I rarely find myself needing to buy wine — chances are your friends will help you stock the perfect wine selection. But don’t keep wine in your beverage fridge until you have a gathering on the horizon. Open bottles of wine go in the fridge, and you can keep white and bubblies at room temperature until hours before guests will arrive.
Juice: Keep a few juice boxes in stock for friends with kids or friends who are kids at heart. Might I suggest Capri Sun? You’ll all have fun in your futile attempts to puncture the pouches!
Beer: While I think beer tastes like armpit juice, I always have beer on hand for guests. So, for the beer drinkers, I buy a few nonstandard brews (craft beers or options from local breweries).
Kombucha: This light, fizzy drink is beloved by yogis and new-age hipsters. It’s also great for digestion and highly palatable (as long as you pick the right flavors — anything containing citrus is bound to be a hit). It’s an expensive choice, so buy it when it’s on sale.
Wild cards: Go for it. Grab that blueberry wine you spotted at the grocery store. Try that sparkling pear drink you were offered at the farmers market. Stock your fridge with weird soda varieties and unique juice blends. People love to peruse a selection of never-before-seen drinks.
Alternatively, stick to this rule of thumb: What would make your friends happy? Envision it. Buy it. Damn, you’re a great friend!
Pro tip: Be careful when setting your fridge’s temperature. Set it too high and cans and bottles may explode inside. If you notice your beverages have a slushy consistency and there’s a lot of frost buildup in the fridge, turn the temperature down.
“Why bother?,” you might ask. Well, cans and bottles take up a whole lot of refrigerator real estate, leaving you little room for bulky produce. So having a designated spot can help keep things neat and tidy and prevent items from being forgotten or leading to spoilage and food waste.
Plus, a spare fridge prevents guests from rummaging through your main fridge (especially if it’s a shared one).
The ideal size
The behemoth in my childhood BFF’s house beckoned guests with its glowing interior light reflecting off shiny, crisp-looking cans, but it would have been a bit big for an apartment or a garage-less home. My size rule for a beverage fridge is 12 cans — enough to mix and match.
But don’t forget to measure your space before bringing it home! Does the door open to the right or to the left? Can you adjust its placement? A unit with an interior light doesn’t matter if you can’t open it all the way (and you can always light around the fridge instead).
Put it in a high-traffic area
A high-traffic area is ideal. This is wherever you tend to congregate with your friends. In my case, that’s the kitchen. Your friends shouldn’t have to search the deep, dark depths of your closet to quench their thirst.
And if it’ll be in full view (which it should!), pick something sleek. A see-through door, which is a standard for most wine fridges, can be a nice touch. Or pick whichever one feels like its smooth-talking you, like Hal 9000. That’s the one.
Steph Coelho is a freelance writer focusing on home and garden, health, wellness, and other lifestyle topics. When she’s not click-clacking away on her keyboard, she’s digging in the garden, sautéing in the kitchen, or nose-deep in a good book. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.