Bar Cart Essentials


By Dane Feldman
Photo courtesy of Wicker Paradise.

Welcome once again to Thirsty Thursday here on Dish + Drink! Lately, I’ve been working on downsizing and reorganizing my living space, which has led me to the conclusion that I really do want a simplistic and functional apartment when I move in the coming 6-8 months. Of course, it’s a dream of mine to have a gorgeous and intelligently designed kitchen, but with the sizes of most affordably priced places in NYC, I’ll likely have to settle for a functional kitchen. For the time being, it seems to make most sense to keep my liquor cabinet to the bare necessities and, well, out of the kitchen cabinets. Lo and behold: the ever stylish and wildly efficient bar cart.

What’s great about a bar cart is that you can really make it your own and give it personality without losing the functionality of a standard liquor cabinet. In fact, I think a bar cart is more useful than a liquor cabinet because it allows you to keep all the necessities in one place.

A basic bar cart should have at least one tier, although the more shelves it has the more useful it is (consider two or three). For instance, if you have two shelves, the top should hold the liquor, liqueur, and mixers. The bottom shelf should hold a small ice bucket, stemware, shaker, and garnishes. Of course, you can organize your cart however you like, but it should at least have these elements.

As far as spirits go, tequila, rum, whiskey, gin, and vodka are necessary. What kind you use it up to you, but you’ll want to have the elements that are most used by you and your most frequent guests. I rarely make rum or tequila cocktails, so I will probably be skipping these two when I first unveil my cart. As for whiskey, I’ll be using bourbon.

You’ll also want to keep versatile ingredients on your cart so that you can make enough of the basic drink requests. Tonic water, club soda, Rose’s lime juice, both sweet and dry vermouths, bitters, and simple syrup or sugar cubes. Limes, lemons, oranges, and olives are also a must. Bonus points if you have space for Cointreau, Campari, cocktail onions, maraschino cherries, ginger ale, cola, and mint, but these things aren’t absolutely essential. Of course, the point is to only have the bare necessities for the drinks you consume most often.

Having a small cutting board, a knife, a shaker, a muddler, and drink stirrers will also be of help to you when making cocktails right at your cart. Lastly, you’ll want at least two of each kinds of standard stemware: martini glasses, highball glasses, rocks glasses, and shot glasses.

This seems like a lot of stuff to keep on one little cart, but bar carts are built to hold all of this. Once you set up your cart, you will find that this is still the bare minimum and you’ll likely use it all. If you want to take your bar cart another step further, put your liquor in designated decanters. You can also change your cart to match the seasons. If you are more likely to put sparkling lemonades in your cocktails than sweet vermouth in the summer, there’s no reason not to switch the vermouth out for the hotter months.
It may take some experimenting to get your cart how you want it, but it’s absolutely a fun and helpful way to spice up your at home bar set up.