This holiday season, whether you're having a few friends over for a casual dinner or a houseful of guests for a formal party, make sure your drinks table is worth toasting.

This holiday season, whether you're having a few friends over for a casual dinner or a houseful of guests for a formal party, make sure your drinks table is worth toasting.

Here are a few tips for creating a bar or coffee service that is as stunning as it is serviceable.

The secret to making a lovely drinks station is the same as with any other display: Pick a fabulous focal point, use a variety of heights and textures and add luscious layers.

But your drinks table must be as functional as it is beautiful, so pick your accents with great care. Here are a few of my favorites:

-- If you want to hold glasses or supplies in style, a beautiful tray is a must. It will make the overall display look more cohesive and aesthetically pleasing.

-- Chill out with a lovely ice bucket, whether you need it for ice service or to cool drinks. A glass ice bucket will complement bottles and decanters, but I'm also a huge fan of silver and aluminum ice buckets.
 
-- Beautiful decanters and pitchers give your drinks station a touch of class. Whether it's authentic crystal or great fakes, be sure to work in lovely glassware that will add sparkle and flash. Use decanters to hold liquor or flavored coffee syrup on a coffee bar.

-- Stately risers add drama. I think anything looks regal if it's placed on a riser. Cake plates, books, capitals and even plant stands make wonderful risers for a drink table.

Is your event formal or casual? Make sure your drink table matches the mood. If you're throwing an elegant soiree, bring out your most beautiful pieces, including crystal and silver, polished to the highest luster. Even if your event is casual, you can use your best pieces.

For a more festive and less elegant feel for your drinks table, consider getting seasonal barware -- mugs emblazoned with holiday artwork, holiday cocktail napkins with a humorous message or whimsical hand towels.

Instead of trying to make your drinks table as well stocked as the corner bar, why not come up with a signature drink? It will give guests a chance to try something new and streamline your shopping list and prep time.

I'm a huge fan of sparkling wine. If I were on the Forbes list of the world's richest people, I would serve the best Champagne at all my events. But I'm not, so I've found a fabulous alternative: Prosecco.

The popularity of this Italian sparkling white wine has skyrocketed in the past decade because it offers the fun of Champagne without the high price tag. To make your Prosecco even more festive, drop a fresh cranberry in each glass, and it will turn the drink light pink.

No matter how lovely your drink table is, it can't do its job if it's not properly stocked. Make a list of everything you'll need for your featured drink or for your bartender to mix up guests' orders. Are there plenty of fresh cups or glasses? Spoons or stirrers? Mixers and ice?

It's no fun to drink on an empty stomach, so consider putting out some munchies. If it's a bar, I might include a bowl of nuts, a three-tiered server loaded with fresh fruit or even a platter of delicious cheeses and artisan breads.

If you're setting up a hot drinks bar for coffee or cocoa, use a silver vase to hold candy canes or a dessert server filled with chocolates or fancy cookies.
    
This column has been adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at www.nellhills.com. Reach her at marycarol@nellhills.com.