Locking Out the Mystique of the Liquor Cabinet

While one wants to promote a culture of trust and independent decision making in one’s home, an open, unlocked liquor cabinet poses certain challenges.  While your own teenager might not be inclined to take liquor from your cabinet, his friends very well might be.  You do not want your home to become known as the house with the abundant, unlocked liquor cabinet.

While preventing teen drinking requires a lot more than a locked liquor cabinet, the old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind,” does apply.  Closed, locked and out-of-the-way will give you the baseline security (and legal defense) that you at least attempted to control and restrict access. Here are a few liquor cabinet options that work with various home aesthetics:

Adding a Lock to an Existing Cabinet

I don’t suggest that you simply chain and padlock your console or buffet.  Such a modification could insult your teen, or incite exactly the kind of curiosity that you aim to prevent.  It’s also not aesthetically pleasing.  If you currently store your liquor in a buffet, the securest option is to install a pin tumbler lock on the cabinet door.  These locks are similar to the lock mechanisms used in U-shaped bicycle locks, and can be installed to fit in fairly seamlessly with your cabinet facing.

Biometric locks, also known as “keyless locks,” are a higher-tech option.  In lieu of a key, they read your fingerprint.  Much like a standard deadbolt, they stick out from the surface of the door. Therefore, a biometric lock would make it quite obvious that you are storing something valuable inside of a cabinet.  Such a technologically-advanced lock on a liquor cabinet could possibly draw attention to your cache, but it does offer keyless convenience.

Two-Drawer Filing Cabinets

File cabinets are no longer limited to grey steel.  A locking wooden two-drawer file cabinet can serve as an excellent piece of multi-tasking living room or dining room furniture.  The advantage of using a file cabinet as a liquor cabinet is that the depth of the drawers can accommodate standard size bottles.   Most wooden, or wood faced, file cabinets have one locking drawer and one drawer without a lock.  The unlocked drawer could provide welcome storage for table linens or paper goods.

Custom Cabinets with Secret Locking Compartments

An alternative to installing a lock on an existing liquor cabinet or buffet is to install a custom secret locking compartment inside of the cabinet.  Carpenter Kevin Stevens of KMS Woodworks, who builds custom cabinets, said, “I have known of many custom cabinet manufacturers who have designed false panels and secret storage areas in many custom pieces.  Others have incorporated unique magnetic or ‘puzzle’ latches to limit access.”

Ditch the Home Bar

Nothing says “drinking” like a designated home bar.  Although locking portable home bars are on the market, they’re probably not the best choice if you’re looking to minimize the appeal of alcohol in your home.  Yes, you could lock away your liquor in one, but the presence of a bar in the home sends a certain message to your adolescent.  According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 75 percent of teens report that their parents’ behavior affects their own drinking behavior.  A designated home bar area makes a statement that drinking is a viable recreational activity.

Anecdotally, I went to a high school where drinking was quite prevalent.  Most of the students who drank at home had parents who kept large stashes of alcohol at home and/or had designated bar areas.  I remember overhearing a conversation between two classmates about drinking from their parents’ respective exotic vodka selections in their home bars.  My own parents didn’t have an exotic selection of vodka in the house, and the one bottle of Stolichnaya they kept around for guests collected dust.

If You Don’t Want to Lock It Up

My parents (who admittedly are not big drinkers and only kept hard liquor in the house for guests) stored their alcohol in a high kitchen cabinet, which also housed toxic cleaning supplies.  Storing booze and corrosive cleaning agents in the same rarely-opened cabinet sent a strong message to my three siblings and me: This stuff is poison.  None of us were particularly interested in the contents of the poison cabinet, and we were not inclined to raid it.

It’s known by marketers that abundance is appealing.  Want to get people to eat more?  Pile more food on the platter and stock the buffet.  The one time in my youth that I drank a bottle of my parents’ wine, it was because three bottles of wine had been sitting out on a book shelf for months and I figured that one of them was fair game.  Dusty old bottles of poisonous-looking hard liquor mixed in with bottles of Murphy’s Oil Soap and silver polish were far less appealing to my teenage appetite than the casually displayed group of bottles of tasty-looking wine.  Keep this in mind: If you always keep cookies and cakes out on the counter, your kids will be tempted to graze on them.  Likewise for booze: If you display it proudly in abundance, somebody might actually want to consume it.

A Final Caveat

I write from the perspective of a home improvement editor, not a psychologist or addiction counselor.  I look for practical ways that homeowners can improve their quality of life via home renovation and decorating.  If you suspect that your teenager is binge drinking, you’ll need to do more than install locks on your cabinets.  Teens don’t just procure alcohol at home – they get it from older friends, peers and sometimes perfect strangers.  Visit Mothers Against Drunk Driving for realistic advice on how to talk to your teens about alcohol.

Young People Are Always Going to Drink, But to What End?
Talking to Your Children About Past Drug and Alcohol Use
Blackout in a Can: Should Stupid Alcoholic Drinks be Banned?
Image: Russelljsmith/Flickr


LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you for info.

LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you for info.

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

Dad always let me have a sip whenever he had a drink. Extremely watered down perhaps but it took away the desire to sneak behind his back. He did the same with my girls. Somehow they seemed to be the only ones that realized when the punch was doctored or someone was "playing" around. They could pick up the alcoholic taste. No big drinkers among us. Even socially--there is no big allure. It's like been there done that.

Lika S.
Lika P7 years ago

Well, you know, if we just removed the taboo, it wouldn't be an issue. Bente S. has a great solution, and for non drinkers, there's your perfect answer.

My son gets wine with his holiday meals and other extra special occasion, such as my grandparents' turning 98 last year, weddings, etc. Because he doesn't need to sneak because the special occasions are there to remove the curiosity, it poses much less of a problem for him.

Of course I can't say what will happen with other teenage friends... I have to hope that they're just as able to deal with it as we do...

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson7 years ago

thanks for the post.

Kaitlyn K.
Kaitlyn K7 years ago

Great article, and great reminder to parents. Especially when there are so many horror stories close to home concerning alcohol abuse.

Mary L.
Mary L7 years ago

Sorry, but if you have a visible lock on the typical liquor cabinet it has lots of thin pretty glass to show off what's in there. Glass breaks. If a parent is that worried the need a far less visible stash or get rid of it all together.

Brian M.'s solution is the one I was raised with and raised my children with. It worked in my case and my children's as well.

They didn't see a lot of drinking or on a regular basis. However Sunday dinner I got and they got very watered wine growing up. No big deal, never was in either house.

xxx y.


Trish K.
Trish K7 years ago

Very good ideas and suggestions.

Robin Turner
Robin Turner7 years ago

The best way to discourage your children from drinking is to let them taste your wine (a nice dry one) when they're small. They'll go "UUUGH!" and won't regain their interest in alcohol until they're at a suitable age to start drinking.