Outfitting your home with a bar cart seems like such a grown-up thing to do. Liquor, mixers and the tools to make and serve a well-crafted drink can really elevate your being-an-adult game to the next level.
Having a well-stocked bar cart doesn’t have to be an expensive task either. With a few well-picked essentials you’ll have everything you need to make a well-crafted cocktail. Below is the easy way to stock your own bar cart.
What to Use
There are some great options out there if you’re buying new, but anything with a surface large enough to hold a couple bottles of liquor and some glasses can look great as well.
Some examples are:
- Bar Cart – Usually specialized with trays, glass/bottle holders and on wheels. You can wheel this guy around the party as needed.
- Wine Bar – A concealed piece of furniture that usually has a drop down door you can then use as a surface to mix drinks.
- Dresser/Bookshelf – repurpose a couple shelves for your drinks and glassware and you have a nice little bar area without the need to purchase anything
- DIY – Many people find old carts or cabinets at garage sales or flea markets and spruce them up for a nice vintage look
The Essential 3
The easiest way to figure out which bottles to buy first is to ask yourself what are your three favorite drinks?
For example, we love old fashioned’s, tequila soda lime and a vodka soda. So our essential 3 bottles are Whiskey, Tequila, and Vodka. The idea is to have the 3 bottles you are most likely to use so they don’t just sit there untouched.
You probably already have your favorite brands when dealing with the main types of alcohol, but if not, a good guideline is to purchase bottles from the “middle-shelf” or higher. These are going to be of better quality, better tasting and more enjoyable for both yourself and your guests.
Now that you have your first 3 bottles figured out it’s time to consider what other ingredients will be needed to craft your cocktail. This could be as easy as some soda water and a lime wedge.
In our case, the old-fashioned requires:
- Bourbon Whiskey – We like Forty Creek
- Sugar – some people use sugar cubes and mix that up, but in our case, we use what’s called “simple syrup” essentially just sugar dissolved in water. This makes things quicker and still makes for a great drink
- Bitters – In this case “Angostura”.
Think of bitters like the salt and pepper of the drink world. They are liquor based and made from aromatic herbs, bark, roots, and fruit, helping to enhance and round out the flavor of the alcohol they are mixed into
So on our cart, we will need some simple syrup and Angostura bitters, these will be our mixers.
It all comes down to looking up the recipe for your drink, find out what mixer/s your going to need and carry on!
Tools of The Trade
At this point, you have the means to whip up your cocktails of choice. The process, however, can look a lot more professional and downright classier with a set of specialized bar tools.
Now you can definitely get away with using some items you probably already have but if you want to channel your inner bartender then a lot of these items can be had for a really reasonable price (they also usually come in a set).
Some things to consider are:
- Jigger – a measuring tool, can be 1 or 2 ounces ensures a precise pour
- An alternative – measuring cup
- Cocktail Shaker – pour the ingredients in and shake away James Bond style
- An alternative – mason jar
- Stirring Stick – nice, decorative…stirring stick… there’s not much to it but it’s nice and it works.
- Alternative – knife
- Muddler – used to crush things up like mint leaves (Mojito) or fruit
- An alternative – mortar pedestal
You can use what you have at home, pick up some items or get an entire set. Whatever your style it’s what works for you!
It’s a good idea to have a couple different sizes and shapes of glassware at the ready. The good thing is you’ll probably already have these on hand.
- Something Short – Lowball, Old fashioned glass,
- Something Tall – Highball or Collins glass
- Something unique/specialty – Martini glasses, Copper mugs for a Moscow Mule
It’s also a good idea to have some wine glasses/pint glasses on hand for those wine and/or beer nights.
You’ve equipped your cart with essentials.
You’ve got the booze. The mixers. And the tools.
You have the means to craft a killer cocktail and look good while doing it. Sweet. This is where you can take things up a notch.
Below are some suggestions to build out what you already have:
- More Alcohol – Building beyond your essential 3 might not take you too long, whether it’s through a gift or just picking something new to try. A good idea if you are planning on branching out is to buy a smaller bottle, this way if you don’t like it your not stuck with it sitting on your bar for the next 100 years.
*One thing I’d recommend staying away from is those exotically flavored alcohols, it’s one thing to have say a lemon or strawberry flavoured vodka around but when you start to dive into “Iced Cake” or “Bacon” those are really one time novelties and are sure to come back around the next morning.
- Wine/Beer – Having a bottle or two of wine and a 6 pack around is nice especially when your having people over or “entertaining” (is that what’s its called when you’re an adult?). This gives everyone some options beyond hard alcohol.
- Different Bitters – There are a ton of different bitters out there all adding a different flavor to your cocktail. Trying out some new ones along with different alcohols can be a great way to enhance your drink-mixing skill.
- Decanters – Primarily used as something that looks good (at least for hard alcohol). Pouring some nice whiskey into a decanter can make for a classier presentation. In the case of a wine decanter not only does it make things look good it actually enhances the flavor of the wine (a whole topic on its own)
As a side note watch out for the type of material your decanter is made from. A classic crystal decanter uses 24% lead, though it makes it “crystal” clear it has now been shown to leach into the alcohol.
- Ice – Often times neglected, the quality of your ice actually has a big impact on how your drink tastes. When you think about it, that ice will eventually melt into your drink and if IT tastes bad then surely your drink will as well. Using filtered water to make ice at home is ideal. You can buy it at the store but it usually melts quite quickly. You can opt to buy an interesting ice cube maker as well, large spheres/cubes or skulls will add some personality to your drinks.
Happy Hour Hero
Whether your looking to make up that Friday end of the work week drink or inviting friends over for a little socializing if you start with some basic essential items you can have a well-equipped bar in no time.