In this era of entertaining at home, the bar cart has emerged as an essential component of any host’s arsenal. Essentially a multi-tiered trolley with open shelving, the bar cart provides a home for all of the essential tools, spirits and other accoutrements necessary for making and enjoying cocktails. And for many, it also serves as a creative decorating project, begging to be styled, snapped and shared on social media.
With that said, one must first outfit their bar cart with the right tools to get the job done right, and to allow for the perception that one takes home mixology seriously.
According to Damiano Coren, bar manager and wine director at Macao Trading Co. in New York, NY, such essentials include a shaker, measuring tool, mixing glass and bar spoon for stirred drinks, a cocktail and a julep strainer, and an ice scoop. A fruit knife and handheld juicer are also recommended for cocktails that require a little twist.
“A good set of basic tools that, while important for the creation of a drink, don’t have to be extremely expensive. I’d rather have a good quality item and spend little more money for presentation. Think about a nice set of glassware for martinis or adding in some vintage pieces,” he said.
Coren recommends adding what he explained is the “classic four” glasses — a rocks glass for on the rocks and neat pour; a Collins for long drinks; martini glass for the stirred cocktails and champagne flutes for bubbly concoctions.
Meanwhile, Clair McLafferty, bartender and author of “Romantic Cocktails” and “The Classic & Craft Cocktail Recipe Book,” agreed that basics can certainly get the job done, however, mixing in a few professional tools will certainly help elevate the experience.
“A well-stocked bar cart will look more handsome and more complete with some professional tools. Invest in a set of jiggers that are quality controlled — the freebies found in liquor gift sets can range widely in the volumes that they actually measure,” she warned. Another tool she recommends for budding home mixologists? A Hawthorne strainer or two.
“They fit most shaker tins and mixing glasses, and keep ice shards from continuing to dilute your drinks,” she said.
As for the types of spirits that should be stocked, Coren suggested that consumers first focus on their taste and that of the majority of their guests to gauge just what to bring in.
“When you’re first stocking your bar, start off with a couple bottles that you enjoy. Whether that’s whiskey or gin or vodka, make sure it’s something that you will drink and experiment with. Campari and/or a bottle of vermouth will never go astray if you like more spirit forward cocktails,” Coren said.
And when it comes to styling the bar cart, Coren noted that keeping fresh citrus will not only add visual interest through pops of color, but also allows for a squeeze of fresh juice for libations at a moment’s notice.
While the centerpiece of the bar cart should be bar essentials, it should also reflect the style of the home. Designer Lori Paranjape, principal of Nashville, TN-based Mrs. Paranjape Design + Interiors, also suggested nesting citrus, as well as fresh flowers, in a decorative bowl or vase. She also said to mix in statement making accessories such as a marble or wood cutting board, based on personal preferences and taste. She also likes grouping tools and accessories into vignettes that help tell a visual story.
“Use a small tray to group a set of pretty towels or set of highball glasses. The tray helps keep things tidy and also makes the glasses feel like a set. It can also be fun to buy colorful glass bottles of sodas as mixers. The color will make drinks feel more festive,” she said.