If there is one thing I know by now, it’s what to have on hand in terms of entertaining and the proper bar cart essentials for whipping up fancy cocktails. Let’s face it: these ingredients have been coming in quite handy these past few weeks and I’m thinking more happy hour hosting is in our future = patio sitting with the hubby enjoying these beautiful spring afternoons and evenings is just what the doctor ordered.
There is something so chic and Hollywood about bar carts to me… the glamour of gorgeous glassware + fun mix-ins and it totally gives me Mad Men vibes, right?!?!?! Playing hostess with the mostess all for the sake of blogging material… don’t mind if I do!
I had a number of you asking for help in assembling your bar cart… what liquor to have, what add-ins are necessary to make tasty cocktails, and of course the pretty glassware and bar tools for one winning cart of fun…
First and foremost, you’ve got to have a KILLER bar cart. We grabbed this bamboo bar cart a few years ago from Ballard Designs and I’m still in love with it to this day. It’s currently on sale for under $400 and the quality is EXCEPTIONAL… I also love that it features aluminum + glass shelving and has a ton of room for storage without looking big and bulky. If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect cart for your casa, here are a few more winning options:
Now let’s move onto the actual contents: my top five essentials to the best bar cart ever… and of course, an easy to reference cheat sheet:
One. The Booze Basics
I know stocking the bar can get super expensive, but if you’re starting out with a new bar cart, just grab the basics… the essentials include vodka, gin, rum, tequila and whiskey. Other people say to grab at least three bottles: something clear, something brown and something fun. And of course I’ve listed out our favorite brands for each for easy reference:
TWO. Tools of the Trade
Yes, you’re going to need a few handy dandy tools to get you moving and grooving and easily mixing the perfect cocktails. Here are a few worth investing in:
JIGGER | I prefer a double jigger for measuring the right amount of liquid for cocktails, and this gold one we have from Target is just $6.
COCKTAIL SHAKER | There are a ton of options, styles, colorways and looks, but classic is best in my mind. We have this simple stainless steel one and it’s easy to use and clean.
STRAINER | Filter that ice out and keep the good stuff in… just like the professionals do. This budget friendly find is just $7 and pairs perfectly with the shaker + jigger seen above!
BOTTLE OPENER | Classic stainless silver with a slight hammered finish + just $12–another bar cart must-have for those pesky beer bottles and fancy glass soda bottles.
ICE BUCKET + TONGS | Classic gold = a win in my mind. We use ours all the time and it’s definitely a fun item to jazz up your cart with. We have this gold variety and also stumbled upon a bubblegum pink one from a local store so we have two = it was pink so I HAD to have it ;).
MUDDLER | To mash up all that fruit + herbs you may be planning to incorportate — the perfect tool for mojito magic!
BAR/STIRRING SPOON | Mix it all up before serving… whether you’re stirring a pitchell full of margaritas or a single cocktail, a long-handled spoon is a barcart essential.
THREE. The Icing on Top
Yes, sometimes you need to have a few extra add-ins on hand to concoct something special and truly out-of-this-world tasty. Here are a few more additives for the utmost in fancy schmancy drinks to devour:
FOUR. Serve It Up
Next in line, you’re going to need glasses… again, this is where it can get super expensive, so you can start with a few simple options and add to your collection later. I’m notorious of asking for special glassware for birthdays and it’s something that I can add to each year. Here are a few types of serveware you’re going to want to have on hand:
HIGHBALL | The simple, classic tallboy glass you’ll most likely use most when creating killer cocktails. I love this set because it’s timeless and chic and it’s $24 for a set of 6 glasses.
OLD-FASHIONED | I personally love the look of mixing and matching serveware, so this hobnail set is totally up my alley. It has a bit of detail to the outer edge of the glass and makes it stand out, too. They are also dishwasher safe which is a must in my book!
WINE | Technically, there are RED wine glasses and there are WHITE wine glasses… if you’re confused as to the difference, basically remember this: red wine glasses are usually taller and have a larger “bowl” — most red varietals are bolder than white so larger glasses allow the aromas and flavors to open up. You don’t have to include both in your bar, but of course the more the merrier just in case. P.S. I also prefer stemless because accidents might happen!
CHAMPAGNE | At my house, this is probably the glass I use the most frequently because I’m a champs girl through and through. Plus they are pretty to look at and are great for mimosa mornings as well.
SHOT | Truth be told, we definitely don’t use shot glasses as much as we used to because well #parenthood. But I definitely think a fully-stocked bar cart needs shot glasses… Cinco de Mayo tequila tasting or late night party fun = you just never know!
COUPE | Hands down, my favorite type of glass = the coupe. It gives me Gatsby inspiration and is perfect for ladies who lunch and drinking a few French 75s when you’re feeling fancy! Not a staple by any means, but super special and fun just the same.
DECANTER | Yes, it’s for looks but it’s for practical purposes as well. For storing your most-sought after bourbon, this etched glass version is perfect for gifting, too. I’f you’re a wine drinker, I’d also recommend investing in a simple wine decanter for airing out bottles and blends before you drink them up!
FIVE. Crafting the Cool Cocktails
One thing I LOVE is cookbooks… cocktail + bar books included! I’d suggest grabbing one or two simple recipe books to have on hand just to get you working on your skills. The Essential Bar Book is one that has a ton of easy to follow recipes and gives you the history behind some of the most notorious cocktails! Here are a few more finds worth adding to your cocktail collection:
Finally, here are a handful of my go-to cocktail recipes that are easy, delish and household favorites at the Stoneking home sweet home:
What are you bar cart essentials? Let me know in a comment below!