It’s time to get the party started. It’s also time to stop spending $18 per cocktail when you meet up with friends. Invite them over—and put your home bar to use! You don’t even need that many supplies or bottles to mix the perfect drink. Just be sure to round out the hardworking hard liquor with a few favorite accessories so your bar cart is a marriage of the practical and personal, whether you’re hosting a crowd or making mojitos for two.
So what else do you need to turn your bar cart into entertaining central?
Your bar cart is also a spot where you can show off your decorating style. “Make it personal,” says Vanessa Dina, author of The Art of the Bar Cart: Styling & Recipes. “I like to add framed photos, vintage matches, bowls of citrus, and potted herbs or flowers for color.” When it comes to the drinks themselves, Tyson Buhler, beverage director of Death & Co. in NYC, says to simplify things and complete these steps ahead of time: “Make a batch of simple syrup, juice citrus, and decant liquids into decorative bottles for easy pouring,” he says. “When guests arrive, you’ll be all set.”
Think about everything you might need, and then all the things you actually want to display. Some items that are useful for cocktails aren't super pretty (like that old bottle of coconut rum you got at the airport on the way back from vacation), and might be best left behind cupboard doors. Choose the prettiest or most unusual bottles to keep on display and put the other ones away. If you have a favorite liquor that you like to have on-hand at the end of the day, decant it into a lidded carafe so it's easy to access.
When it comes to decor items as well, it's good to be selective about what you put on the cart. It's a small space, after all, and you'll want to keep things easy to find. Stash smaller items like bottle openers, wine stoppers, and other useful tools in decorative boxes or bowls. If you have space, you might want to keep some glassware on-hand, but chances are you'll have more space for for that set of eight champagne flutes in a cupboard where there's a bit more space. Don't forget some purely decorative items like a flower in a bud vase, a candle or a vintage objet that you picked up at a flea market.
“The vast majority of classic cocktails can be made with just a few bottles,” says Buhler. In addition to the hard stuff, make sure to have on hand ice, bubbly (we love Veuve or Moët), and soda water (LaCroix, anyone?).
These essentials are the foundations for classics like the Manhattan, mint julep, and piña colada.
For a refreshing cocktail like a citrus-spiked gimlet or margarita, go with one of these tried-and-true liquors.
These herbaceous varieties are great for guests who like lighter drinks. “You can make an excellent spritz with just Campari, orange zest, and soda water,” Dina says.
To get you started on the bar cart of your dreams, we've rounded up everything you'll need to stock up on!