How To Build A Hidden Cocktail Bar

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With its inlaid lighting, this countertop made the perfect setting for a truly luxurious touch — a hidden cocktail bar. I took a simple cabinet box, stirred in a motorized TV lift and added a splash of creative wiring to give this garage an entertaining twist.

Tools Required

  • Basic carpentry tools
  • Drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Orbital sander
  • Oscillating multi-tool
  • Pocket hole jig
  • Router
  • Table saw

Materials Required

  • 1-1/4” trim screws (8)
  • 1" pocket hole screws (box)
  • 1/2-in. oak quarter-round
  • 1/4" tempered glass (1)
  • 18 gauge wire
  • 1x10 x 4' oak boards (2)
  • 27" TV lift (1)
  • Limit switch (1)
  • Momentary switch (1)

Meet the Builder: An editor for Family Handyman, Jay Cork loves tinkering in his garage as much as he likes relaxing after.

Cocktail Bar CutlistFamily Handyman

Bar Cabinet DiagramFamily Handyman

Project step-by-step (14)

Step 1

Make the base

  • I fashioned a base for my cocktail bar by tracing the section of countertop editor Mike Berner made in his “Workbench to Bar Top” article.
  • I used the same butcher block material and cut out the shape with a jigsaw.

Make the BaseFamily Handyman

Step 2

Assemble the cabinet box

  • Using one-inch pocket hole screws, attach the top and bottom parts to the sides.
  • The back slips into the box instead of resting on it.
    • Pro tip: I used pocket hole joinery just in case I needed to disassemble the whole thing, and I’m glad I did. There was a miscalculation and I had to remove the box and cut it down by a few inches. If I had used a different joinery method, that would have been far more difficult.

Assemble the cabinet boxFamily Handyman

Step 3

Install the LED lights

  • The next step is to feed the power cable through a small notch in the back of the cabinet.
  • Stick the LED light strip to the inside top of the cabinet, snug to the back.
  • Hide the LED strip with a piece of oak quarter-round, directing light down, not out.

Install the LED lightsFamily Handyman

Step 4

Prepare the cabinet

  • To retrofit a TV lift into the cabinet, cut away the cabinet’s top stretcher.
  • A jigsaw didn’t let me get close enough, so I finished with an oscillating multi-tool.

Prepare the cabinetFamily Handyman

Step 5

Level the lift

  • With the lift fully extended, use a scrap piece of countertop to position the lift level with the rest of the work surface.

Level the liftFamily Handyman

Step 6

Attach the lift to the cabinet

  • Secure the lift to the back of the cabinet with one-inch screws.
    • Pro tip: A magnetic torpedo level helped me keep everything plumb.

Attach the lift to the cabinetFamily Handyman

Step 7

Install a hidden switch

  • The lift came with a remote, but here’s an alternative way to operate it: Wire a round momentary switch ($12 online) to the control box, concealing it under the lip of the countertop.
  • Rout a small channel on the underside of the countertop for the wires and drill a hole for the switch.
  • Now the switch is perfectly concealed yet always within reach.

Install a hidden switchFamily Handyman

Step 8

Mount the power supply

  • Mount the power supply near the front of the cabinet so the cables won’t impede the travel of the cocktail bar.
  • Bundling the cables with hook-and-loop wire wraps keeps them clear of moving parts.

Mount the power supplyFamily Handyman

Step 9

Wire the light switch

  • For a little extra pop, I installed a limit switch ($7 online) to automatically turn on the LED lights as the cocktail bar rises and turn them off again as it descends.
  • The power runs to the LED strip through the black wire, so I spliced that wire to the switch. When the bar goes up, the circuit closes and power flows to the lights.
    • Pro tip: Before you install the limit switch, test the setup with a scrap piece of LED light and the switch hooked up to the power supply to make sure everything is wired properly.

Wire the light switchFamily Handyman

Step 10

Position the base

  • With the lift fully extended, set the base onto the lift cradle and attach it using one-inch screws.
    • Pro tip: I used playing cards to help maintain an even gap.

Position the baseFamily Handyman

Step 11

Attach the box to the base

Attach the box to the baseFamily Handyman

Step 12

Position the “lid”

  • With the lift in the lowered position, use double-sided tape to help position the lid.
  • Set the countertop lid onto the box and attach it with trim screws.

Position the lidFamily Handyman

Step 13

The lift

  • The TV lift I used is available for $560 at There were lots of sizes to choose from, and the staff was really helpful. If you can use a screwdriver, you can install one of these.
Step 14

Final fitting

  • The final installation was a little difficult because the cocktail bar was heavier and deeper than a skinny flat screen TV, exerting more leverage on this lift than it was designed for.
  • But with a little shimming and trimming, I was able to get the base and the lid to sit perfectly flush with the countertop.

Final fittingFamily Handyman