Bar Cart Basics

Decatur Bar Cart from Corpus Studio

Bar carts have become a staple in modern homes all over the world. People who entertain guests regularly should always have a bar cart handy. Not only does it add a touch of style to your décor, but it also has great utility.

These mobile beverage stations have become increasingly handy over the past year. “Mad Men,” a 2007 seven-series tv show set in 1960″ is responsible for the resurgence of its popularity. Still, the COVID-19 pandemic made imbibing at home more appealing, and just like that, the Bar Cart has become essential. However, bar carts have been a hub for home entertainment since the Victorian era of the late- 1800s. During that time, they were called “tea trolleys.”

I am in the process of finalizing my design for a built-in at-home bar. Still, bar carts are an efficient, moveable alternative worth creating. And for example, placing my bar cart by the sofa for a casual cocktail hour or putting it in my backyard for alfresco entertaining has been an excellent way to utilize mine.

I used to think getting started with my bar cart/console table was about buying what I liked and building it up over time. But years later, after styling my bar cart, there is so much more I would tell someone who is starting.

Paul Costelloe bar cart

With my tips, you can create a bar cart that fits your needs, style, and budget.

Start with the basics, of course, and implement these tips. Over time you will have an enviable collection of spirits for any cocktail you want to try. Remember, a bar cart needs certain basics; however, it does not need to look basic.

Let us start with a few Money Saving Tips:

  • Do not purchase flavored liquors—well, at least not at first. Instead, focus on buying base spirits like Whiskey, Vodka, Tequila, Gin, and Rum. It is easy to make your syrups or infuse your Liquor if you want something flavored. Look at our previous article, “How to Create an at-Home Bar,” for a simple syrup and sour mix recipe.
  • When trying a new recipe with several ingredients, buy baby bottles (1.7 oz) instead of full size. Then, after you have mastered your latest recipe, you can invest in larger bottles.
  • Build ingredients around the cocktails or drinks you love the most. Investing more in your favorites and being thrifty with the rest is best. For example, if you are a Vodka or Whiskey drinker, spend more on those bottles and collect your favorites.
  • If you are on a budget, do not be afraid to start small. There is no need to go all out from the beginning. Creating any home bar, including a bar cart, is a considerable investment; therefore, treat it as a collection, buying a bottle or two at a time.
  • Think Quality and quantity. There is no need to buy the biggest bottle available. I usually aim for 750 ml bottles (aka “a fifth”), but if it is a specialty liqueur or something with a shorter shelf-life, like vermouth, then I size down.
  • I sometimes use Cognac, brandy, vermouth, sherry, and Bourbon in recipes for cooking, making it an extra incentive for me to keep these stocked or at least a few of them.

If you want to create a bar cart, this guide is all you need. First, remember, you do not need to spend a lot of money on assembling your stylish yet super-functional bar cart. With a few basics, you can make an ever-ready budget-friendly bar cart.

Here are the top eight essentials you need to create a fabulously stylish bar cart:

When styling a bar cart, a selection of core spirits is fundamental. But you will need more than your core spirits to create a stand-out and fully stocked serving station. A fabulous mix of the right tools and accessories paired with a few practical things and some fantastic things will elevate your next at-home soirée, which can be super-affordable. Visit our Amazon Storefront for our curated list of at-home bar tools and accessories.

The Right Bar Car

First, you have to find a bar cart that excites you or one that you see the potential to be unique. In my experience, anything can be used as a bar cart. I have used a console table I purchased from HomeGoods for $199.00 for many years. I believe there is a bar cart for everyone regardless of space, style, and budget. Here, you get to be creative while making sure whatever you choose goes with your current style and decor for cohesiveness. You can select many stylish and practical options from Luxury to creative DIYs and everything in between.

I suggest you search Instagram and Pinterest for ideas. Some of my favorite stores to browse for bar carts are IKEA, Target, William Sonoma, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Z Gallerie, CB2, Crate and Barrel, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, HomeGoods, Wayfair, Amazon, etc.

However, you decide to approach finding the perfect bar cart for you; I know it will be amazing. Below is a slide show of a few bar carts from Z Gallerie, Walmart, Target, Overstock, West Elm, The Home Depot, and Anthropology.

  • Metropolitan Bar Cart from Z Gallerie
  • Chelsea Lane Grosseto Champagne Gold Bar Cart from Walmart
  • Wood & Gold Finish Bar Cart - Threshold™ from Target
  • Metropolitan 36'' Wide Bar Cart from Overstock
  • Terrace Bar Cart from West Elm
  • Gold Glass Top Metal Bar Cart from HomeDepot
  • Oscarine Lucite Bar Cart

Essential Cocktail-Making Tools

Having the right set of tools in your bar cart will ensure you enjoy a fuss-free cocktail hour (plus, it will save you all the annoying trips to the kitchen). Visit our previous article, “How to Create an at-Home Bar,” for a complete list and links to some favorites.

For starters, you can add:

  • bottle opener
  • shaker with strainer or a cocktail mixing glass [I prefer the latter]
  • corkscrew
  • jigger
  • muddler
  • bar spoons
  • and a stopper. Also, do not forget a good, sturdy ice bucket and a pair of tongs.

Styling Tip:

  • An ice bucket looks gorgeous on the lower level of the cart, especially if you are pinched for space and do not drink Champagne daily. Using my ice bucket as a vessel for fresh flowers is something I enjoy doing as well. I adore a cocktail mixing glass in addition to a shaker. A mixing glass is elegant and so grown up. Mine is monogrammed and fabulous.
  • Look for bar tools in your favorite finishes or color to display your style and a sense of cohesion.

Core Spirits

Obviously, who wants an empty bar cart. A fabulous and versatile collection of alcohol is a MUST to please every palate. There are mainly five types of spirits that you should have on hand—I call them my Fab Five. Stock one bottle of each of the basics:

  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Vodka
  • Tequila
  • and Brandy.

I always have Bourbon on hand for cooking. And I have recently started enjoying Whiskey, which I have added to my collection. But, of course, most people I know have Gin, Rum, Vodka, Whiskey, and Tequila.

However, if you are on a budget, you can also stock your bar cart with any three. Remember to stock what you drink the most.


  • Stock your opened bottles on the top of your cart so that you know to finish them first each time. Also, make sure that you store your spirits away from direct sunlight. And remember, once Liquor is opened, it begins to lose its color and flavor. So aim to replace your bottles every one to two years.
  • It is also lovely to have specialty spirits on hand as well. A dry and sweet Vermouth is an excellent start. And should be refrigerated after opening for up to one month.


A few basic mixers will help you create a wide variety of drinks that will make your guests ‘wow’.

There are some excellent bitters out there as well—many are almost like collectibles. Look for the intriguing ones. I love Angostura and Peychaud, which are great for making popular drinks. But I also love grapefruit and smoke orange.

Tonic, soda water, ginger ale, and coke are essential basics that you must always have on hand. You can also add a few cocktail syrups, canned sodas, and sour mixes. Keeping your mixers updated with seasonal favorites is also a great idea.


You can create cocktail syrups and sour mix at home. It is a beautiful way to save money and create something delicious. If you have not read our last article, you will find it here, and it has a simple syrup and sour mix recipe.


Garnishes do two things for a cocktail; it gives it a pop of color and unique flavors. It is an excellent idea to stock citrus: like limes, lemons, oranges, or grapefruit, and herbs like mint, thyme, or rosemary to add the best natural flavors.


Look for stable ready options to add to your bar cart that you can use over time. These may include olives, Luxardo Maraschino cherries, dehydrated citrus, pineapple slices, a jar of dried herbs, and edible flowers. A budget-friendly tip is dehydrating your citrus at home in a dehydrator or oven. And herbs can be dried at home.

Styling Accessories [Adding Personal Touch of you]

A few accessories on your bar cart can help bring it to life. It will also add a personal touch that your guests will not forget for a long time.

You can add high-quality swizzle sticks, cloth cocktail napkins, coasters, and more. For a few extra dollars, you can also get your cocktail napkins monogram with your initials for an elevated look and feel. It’s a great party accessory to have each time!

Styling Tip:

  • I love adding a few books to my bar cart for style and inspiration. I have ones about cocktails and bar carts. Here are a few of my favorites.
  1. The Bar Cart Bible: Everything You Need to Stock Your Home Bar and Make Delicious Classic Cocktail
  2. The One-Bottle Cocktail
  3. The Home Bartender
  4. Fancy Af Cocktails: Drink Recipes from a Couple of Professional Drinkers
  5. Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist
  6. Cocktails: Modern Favorites to Make at Home
  7. The Art of Mixology; Classic Cocktails and Curious Concoctions
  8. The Craft of Cocktails: A Completely Mixology Guide To More Than 95 Artisan Drink Recipes
  • I enjoy having a vase of fresh flowers for a pop of color and nature. A letter board is easy to add your favorite quote or saying. I have one that says “Bar.” It is fun and an excellent addition. I love a nice tray.
  • Remember to keep it simple—you do not want a cluttered Bar Cart.
The Mist Bar Cart from West Gate

Basic Glassware

Oh, glass is essential. The vessel you serve your cocktails in matters, so glassware is VERY important. It can instantly make a drink more appealing. It can take a basic cocktail to something outstanding. You can find a variety of glasses for different types of beverages. However, if you want to stock bare essentials, I recommend cut-glass tumblers, double old-fashioned glasses, and a few wine glasses. These work well with every drink.

I have a few that I love, but here are two of my favorite old fashion glasses from Crate and Barrel and Amazon.


If your Bar Cart is a bit on the smaller side, it is best to plan your drink menu ahead of time; that way, you can edit your cart to complement the guests you are entertaining at the moment.

Dish Towel

Making cocktails at home can be messy. I am never as smooth as my favorite bartender. So I keep a complimenting dish towel drape over the side of my cart for easy cleanup or spills.

Style Tip:

Select a dish towel that matches your style. You can add hooks to your bar cart to display your dish towel, drape on the side or roll it up as a space-saving option.

And, you are all set to entertain your friends and family for an evening or day to remember. Do not forget to visit us every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday for new articles.

Nat C.


No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply