A well-stocked home bar is a grown-up rite of passage, signaling an end to the days of serving guests vodka that’s been in the back of your freezer for years or a random bottle of wine that you got as a gift—both of which would likely have been sipped out of mismatched glassware or worse, Solo cups.
But if a full-scale libation station doesn’t fit in your current residence, does that mean you’re not a real adult? Of course not! A bar cart (whether you buy or DIY) is the perfect space-saving solution—not to mention it gives any room that sophisticated, soirée-ready feel.
Before you go wild tricking out your tipple trolley, keep in mind that you’re working with limited space. That said, whether you like your cocktails shaken or stirred, there are a few staples no bar cart should be without. Of, course you’ll want some glasses, mixology tools, and booze, but what exactly constitutes an essential? What’s a must-buy and what can you do without?
We asked design-savvy bloggers to share their suggestions for creating the bar cart of your dreams. Consider this your crash course in barware basics 101.
When it comes to crafting cocktails, you can have all the alcohol and mixers on the planet, but if you don’t have the right tools for the task, how are you supposed to properly execute the recipe? Every bar cart needs a jigger, strainer, bottle opener, stirrer, corkscrew, shaker, ice bucket, and tongs. Sometimes these items can look a little cluttered, so Brittni Mehlhoff of Paper & Stitch recommends keeping them in a chic container or purchasing a set with a stand, which keeps your cart organized and your tools accessible.
: A jigger is a mixologist’s tool of choice for precision measuring and pouring. And if it’s double-sided, even better.Muddler: A muddler releases flavorful juices and oils. Look for a dual-sided model—either wood or metal works—with pointed teeth for crushing and a smooth for herbs.
: Look for a dishwasher-safe strainer that fits inside your shaker to strain cocktails directly into glassware.
: Save space on your cart by buying a corkscrew with built-in foil knife and bottle opener.
: Essential for housing, well ice, but when not in use, a bucket can serve as a home for your tools.
: Skip the ice scoop. Tongs allow you to select individual ice cubes—including specialty shapes, like spheres and diamonds.
A top notch tipple should be sipped out of something equally as special. But glasses are not one size fits all. Different drinks are designed to be served in different manners of glassware.
: Go classic or statement-making with an ombre fade and gold rim.
: Also known as Old Fashioned or rocks glasses.
: Whether you like it dry or dirty, martini glasses are non-negotiable.
: In most cases, a standard set will do. But if you’re a connoisseur of a full-bodied Malbec or Cabernet, consider investing in separate glasses for red and white wine.
: This is great for booze that links to breath. Pro tip: If your favorite spirits don’t come in pretty bottles, you can pour them into decanters for a more cohesive and uncluttered look. A little DIY vinyl label or clay tag will help you tell them apart.
Top-shelf bottles of vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey, and vermouth will allow you to craft a wide range of cocktails—not to mention look beautiful atop your bar.
: This neutral grain spirit is a must for making everything from Moscow Mules to Bloody Marys.
: Because what’s better than a G&T or a classic martini? You’ll need gin for both.
: Distilled from the blue agave plant, tequila can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in a classic margarita.
: You’ll definitely want a bottle (or two) of whiskey, but there are tons of different types—rye, scotch, bourbon, etc.—so what you choose will depend on personal preference.
: This sugarcane-derived spirit is a requisite in tropical tipples, like daiquiris and mojitos.
: You’ll find this aromatized, fortified wine in both sweet and dry varietals. Grab one of each.
Because you need something to mix with your booze… “It’s best to stick to a few mixers and get a few bottles of each to arrange in rows. Pretty packaging is key. Look for artisan tonic, soda, juice, syrups, and bitters at specialty shops, as they tend to have some very tasty and modern-looking mixers,” says Kara Whitten, blogger behind A Kailo Chic Life.
: When it comes to juice, fresh is best. Ok, so this technically isn’t something you’ll keep on your cart at all time (as it needs to stay chilled), but you should have orange, grapefruit, and cranberry in your fridge, ready to pull out whenever company comes over.
: Stock up on plain soda, or seltzer, and flavored varieties.
: Fever Tree makes one of the best tonic waters on the market and the bottles are chic and elegantly-designed. (They also make a great ginger beer!)
: Every bartender’s BFF, bitters have a concentrated flavor that instantly gives drinks that extra special touch. “I go back to Cecil & Merl Fruit-Infused Cocktail Bitters again and again, because they taste delicious and look great on a bar cart,” says Brittni Mehlhoff, blogger behind Paper & Stitch.
Finally, it’s time to add a personal touch. This can be anything from colorful straws to patterned mini bowls for garnishes.
: A pack of cocktail napkins is an easy way to add some personality to your cart. Plus, you can match them to your party theme.
: “I keep a handful of mini bowls handy for garnishes, like fruit and edible flowers,” says Mehlhoff.