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.
Stock these spirits on your bar cart
“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?).
Dark: Bourbon, Whiskey, Rum
These essentials are the foundations for classics like the Manhattan, mint julep, and piña colada.
Light: Vodka, Gin, Tequila
For a refreshing cocktail like a citrus-spiked gimlet or margarita, go with one of these tried-and-true liquors.
Sweet and Bitter: Campari, Aperol, St-Germain
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!
Round Gold Mirrored Bar Cart
First things first—you have to choose the cart itself. We love the clean lines of this round version, and the fact that it can easily be tucked in the corner of a small space.
SHOP NOW: World Market, $399.99
Tatiana Bar Cart
If a rectangular cart is more your thing, this one offers clean lines paired with warm, natural wood, for a look that can skew either modern or boho depending on the accessories you add to it.
SHOP NOW: Urban Outfitters, was $279, now $249
Stainless Steel Cocktail Straws
These sleek, reusable straws are both good for the environment and pretty enough to be used as a double duty drink stirrer. Display a cluster in a vintage glass or small vase.
SHOP NOW: Terrain, $16 for 4
Fender Secret Book Box
Stash wine keys, bottle openers and extra drink stirrers in a decorative box that masquerades as a pretty book.
SHOP NOW: Wayfair, $20.99
Waterford Elegance Short Decanter
This smaller-scale decanter is perfect for storing whiskey, cognac and other spirits.
SHOP NOW: Bed Bath and Beyond, $159
Coasters are not only useful for keeping marks off of furniture, but they also can add color and pattern to surface of your cart.
SHOP NOW: Neiman Marcus, $68
Hawkins New York Marble Nesting Bowls
Stock an assortment of bowls in different sizes to hold limes and lemons, mixed nuts, or other bar snacks.
SHOP NOW: Food 52, $60-$130
Tina Frey Ice Bucket with Leather Handles
This hand-sculpted ice bucket is made of super-durable resin, which makes it perfect when it's time to roll the cart on to the porch for an outdoor soirée.
SHOP NOW: Tina Frey Designs, $140
Metallic Bar Cocktail Shaker Set
This shiny set has all the tools you need to create the perfect cocktail, from a multi-sized jigger to measure out spirits to a mesh strainer and long stirring spoon.
SHOP NOW: Urban Outfitters, was $39, now $29
W & P Design Pineapple Shot Glasses
A few slightly kitschy objects will add a touch of whimsey to your cart. It's even better if they're useful as well, like these cute, fruit-shaped shot glasses.
SHOP NOW: Food 52, $35 for 2
A mix of decanters (in different shapes and sizes) are perfect for storing whiskey, cognac and other aromatic spirits.
SHOP NOW: Crate and Barrel, $29.95
Palm Tree Candle Holder
To make your bar cart feel unique, throw in a few unexpected objects like vintage candlesticks, decorative book ends and other sculptural pieces. This quirky brass piece was created by British designer Matthew Williamson and helps to give your cart a tropical, Palm Beach vibe.
SHOP NOW: CB2, $49.95
Prowl Gold Cocktail Stirrers
Add some unexpected whimsy to your drink with these mythical stirrers, (choose from a dragon, jaguar, snake or scorpion). Cluster in a vintage vase or display on a small, decorative tray for easy access.
SHOP NOW: CB2, $24.95
Where Bartenders Drink. by Adrienne Stillman
This comprehensive guide gathers insider info from some of the world's best bartenders and includes their favorite essential drinking spots you have to hit when traveling. Bonus- the graphic cover and decorative edge makes it another decorative element to add a pop of color to your cart.
SHOP NOW: Amazon, $16.69
Reidel Veritas Coupe
Super thin and delicate in design, this elegant glass is perfect for serving bubbly.
SHOP NOW: Bed, Bath and Beyond, $59.99 for two
Godinger Dublin Double Old Fashioned Glass
Keep these gold-rimmed glasses on hand for classic drinks like Negronis or Bourbon on the rocks.
SHOP NOW: Amazon, $27.58
Laurence Mid-Century Bar Cart
With two spacious glass shelves to keep everything organized, this cart offers up more than enough space for stashing all your liquors and accessories.
SHOP NOW: Wayfair, $113.99
Simca Double Old-Fashioned Glasses
The handmade feeling of these cups are perfect for a laid back, al fresco cocktail party.
SHOP NOW: Anthropologie, $40 for a set of four
Copper Kingdom Moscow Mule Mugs
Taking cues from a vintage design from the 1940's, these shiny cups will look great on both your cart and your table.
SHOP NOW: Food 52, $63 for four
Borosil Simple Glass Tumblers
These slim, modern glasses are made of durable borosilicate glass and are just the thing you need for taller drinks like mojitos and gin fizzes.
SHOP NOW: Food 52, $32-$40 for a set of six
W & P Mason Jar Cocktail Shaker
For a rustic-chic vibe, swap out your traditional cocktail shaker with this mason jar-turned-shaker set.
SHOP NOW: Food 52, $34
Agate Bottle Opener
Add some sparkle to your cart with one of these natural stone openers, which are accented with brass-plated stainless steel for extra shine.
SHOP NOW: Anthropologie, $16
Tiled Margot Monogram Coaster
Choose a range of letters in these mosaic-inspired coasters to personalize your cart (and keep your guest's drinks off the table).
SHOP NOW: Anthropologie, $10
Hella Bitters Mini Bitters Variety Pack
Bitters are the mixologist's secret weapon—they add flavor and tang to everything from Pisco Sours to a classic Old Fashioned. This assortment includes the flavors Smoked Chili, Ginger, Orange, Aromatic, and Citrus.
SHOP NOW: Food 52, $35
Bertie Bottle Stopper
This sculptural wine stopper is crafted out of luminous mother-of-pearl with a durable metal and silicone base for keeping air out of the bottle.
SHOP NOW: Anthropologie, $16
Kate & Laurel Caspen Serving Tray
Make sure to have a good mix of trays (in both round and square shapes) for corralling bottles and glassware. You can't go wrong with this shiny gold and crisp white combo.
SHOP NOW: Wayfair, $55.99