Dining & Entertaining
How to Stock Your Bar Cart
Be the Hostess with the Mostest
Once a staple in any hostess’s entertaining arsenal, the bar cart is once again becoming a popular household essential. Having a well-stocked and curated one is a tell-tale sign you have entered adulthood. Filled with an organized variety of spirits, mixers, and bar keep essentials will let you create and serve delicious drinks and cocktails to please even the most discerning of guests.
The best bar carts have wheels for portability, have multiple shelves for storage, and handles for easy maneuvering. Though its main role is to serve as a mobile beverage bar when entertaining friends and family, a bar cart can fulfill many uses in your home. Here’s some reasons why bar carts make our list of home essentials.
A portable bar cart makes it easy to serve guests a variety of beverages.
They’re portable and easy to stash away
Thanks to its mobility, a bar cart can go wherever the party is taking place and migrate from room to room or out to the patio. When you’re not using it, a bar cart can be tucked away into small nooks, closets, or in your kitchen or pantry, and be used for added storage.
There’s a style to match any décor
No matter your style, you can find a bar cart design that complements your home’s décor. You’ll find them made of classic brass, rustic farmhouse wood, industrial steel, sleek modern glass and chrome, retro, casual, funky, or formal. Bar carts also come in a variety of shapes, including round, oval, and rectangular, and sizes to fit any need and space.
They keep your liquor within easy reach
Everyone loves to indulge in a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, or a shot of hard liquor from time to time. When your favorite beverage of choice is within an arm’s reach away, it’s a win-win. A bar cart lets you conveniently have a mini home bar in a dining room, a living room, an outside lounge area, or a game room.
They make it easy to serve guests during parties
When entertaining be it a birthday party, summer cookout, holiday gathering, or a weekend family get-together, a bar cart lets you easily bring the refreshments to your guests. No more worries about spills when carrying glasses of beverages on a handheld platter or tray. With a bar cart, you can load it up with cocktails, glassware, and hors d'oeuvres, then wheel it out where the party’s taking place.
The right tools let you prepare a variety of popular drinks.
The Right Tools for the Job
Once you have a bar cart, you will need to stock it. Besides liquor, you will need the proper tools to mix up your favorite cocktails and drinks. Here’s some of the more commonly used tools to have on hand.
Every bar needs a cocktail or mixed drink shaker when it needs to be shaken and not stirred. This two-piece item comes in three different types: cobbler shaker, Boston shaker, and French/Parisian shaker.
The most common and easiest to use is the cobbler shaker. It consists of a metal tin, cap, and built-in strainer. The 10 oz cap also allows you to measure recipe volumes without a jigger. The cobbler shaker comes in different shapes and sizes, requires no additional tools to use, and looks nice displayed on your cart. It does take a little longer to shake and strain. The strainer holes are larger and will allow some ingredients such as larger pieces of fruit pulp to pass through.
The Boston shaker is the choice of most bartenders. It consists of a metal shaking tin and a mixing glass. Unlike the cobbler shaker, it has no built-in strainer and requires a Hawthorne strainer to be purchased separately. It requires more skill to use since you must place the glass container against the metal tin and tap the backside of the glass to seal it against the tin before shaking. To unseal it, you tap on the metal tin. The sealing process must be done carefully to avoid breaking the glass or spilling the contents.
Although the French or Parisian style shaker has been around for centuries, it is harder to find and more expensive to purchase. A cross between the cobbler and Boston shaker, the French shaker is shaped like a cobbler but without the built-in strainer. It is easy to open, reuse, and clean.
A type of sieve, a cocktail strainer is another essential bar accessory. If your shaker doesn’t have a built-in strainer, you will need to have a separate one on hand. Strainers are used to remove ice or filter out fruit seeds, pulp, and larger particles from mixed beverages as they are poured from the shaker into a serving glass.
Every home mixologist knows a good cocktail needs to be measured correctly. A jigger lets you do just that. This handy gadget measures up to 2 ounces in half-ounce increments to ensure precision in mixing the ingredients in any drink recipe.
Not any spoon will do. The bar spoon will making stirring any mixed drink easy. Its long handle will fit into even tall glasses and the twisted design facilitates the laminar flow, keeping liquid together while it runs down the thread to the bottom of a glass. Some beverages such as a Tequila Sunrise requires sending liquid down the spoon into the bottom of a poured drink. The bar spoon is just the tool for this task.
Another bartender’s tool, the muddler is used like a pestle to mash or muddle fruits, herbs, and spices in the bottom of a glass to release their flavor. A muddler is a necessity when preparing mixed beverages such as a mojito, a mint julep, or an Old Fashioned.
Although a small paring knife can be used to slice lemon and limes, a bar knife made especially for bartending duties does much more. This multi-purpose bar tool can feature a pronged tip or garnish spear that allows you to pick up cherries, olives, and other garnishes for your mixed drinks. Other designs have blades with a flat corner for picking seeds out of fruit and a sharp corner for slicing and notching fruit.
Different cocktails require specific types of glassware.
Serve It Up with Glassware
Once you have your bar tools, the next items to have on your bar cart or stocked nearby are glasses in which to serve your drinks. Here’s some of the common types of glassware to consider having on hand.
These basic drink glasses can handle just about anything. Lowball glasses are short tumblers used for a variety of beverages from spirits served neat or on the rocks (with ice cubes) to some mixed drinks such as Old Fashioneds. They have a wide brim and thick bases, allowing you to mash non-liquid ingredients with a muddler right in the glass before the main liquid ingredients are added.
These glass tumblers are taller and narrower than lowballs. They are typically used to serve cocktails and mixed drinks that are poured over ice and contain a larger percentage of a non-alcoholic mixer. They are the glass of choice for gin and tonics, rum and cokes, Mojitos, Tom Collins, Bloody Marys, Long Island Iced Teas, and other drinks mixed with tonics, sodas, and soda water.
Not everyone prefers hard spirits or cocktails, so it’s a good idea to keep a variety of wine glasses on hand to serve favorite vintages. Red wine glasses have larger, rounded bowls to easily swirl the wine and help aerate it. White wine glasses have a smaller mouth opening. This prevents the wine from oxidizing too fast in order to retain the lighter, more delicate flavors of these wines. Flute glasses are used for champagne and other sparkling wines. These glasses are tall and narrow to help preserve the bubbles, enhance the flavor, and keep the wine from going flat.
Certain cocktails deserve their own special glassware, especially if you want to make an impression while entertaining. Some types of specialty glassware to consider stocking are copper mugs for Moscow mules, silver cups for Mint Juleps, conical martini glasses, margarita glasses, short stemmed brandy snifters that allow your hand to warm the liquor, heat-resistant Irish coffee glasses with handles to hold the hot drink comfortably, pint glasses and Pilsner glasses for ales, stouts, and beers, and shot glasses for tossing back a shooter or two.
Keep your bar cart stocked with your favorite spirits and mixers.
Every well-stocked bar will have three to five of the basic spirits. Most cocktail recipes will use one of these liquors: vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, and tequila. Served straight up or mixed in cocktails, you can’t go wrong having these favorites on hand. Depending on your budget and tastes, you may want to keep a bottle of top shelf and a bottle of a less expensive variety of each in your stock.
Whether you pick a basic variety or a flavored one, vodka usually mixes well in any cocktail. A clear spirit, vodka is the liquor of choice for a variety of mixed drinks. A vodka-based drink can be as simple as a vodka and soda or as popular cocktails such as a vodka martini, a cosmopolitan, a Bloody Mary, or a Black or White Russian.
From the venerable Tom Collins to a Singapore Sling, gin is the go-to ingredient. This clear spirit is distilled from juniper berries and other botanicals. It is found in a variety of cocktails including a gin martini, gimlet, gin fizz, gin rickey, and the ever-popular gin and tonic.
A product made from distilled sugar cane, rum is aged in oak barrels to give it a distinctive flavor. Light rums are usually mixed in cocktails while golden or dark rums tend to be consumed straight (shaken with ice and strained to remove the ice before serving), neat (without a mixer or ice), or on the rocks (served with ice). Popular rum cocktails include a Pina Colada, strawberry daiquiri, Cuba Libre, and a Dark ‘n Stormy.
Whiskey, Scotch, and Bourbon are all made from a fermented grain mash including barley, corn, rye, and wheat. The distilled liquid is then aged in wooden casks to give it a golden color and characteristic flavor and aroma. For guests who don’t drink their whiskey neat, you can use it in a variety of delicious cocktails including a Manhattan, hot toddy, whiskey sour, mint julep (usually Bourbon), Irish coffee, or Scotch and soda.
A by-product of fermented agave plants, tequila is the main ingredient in a margarita. You will also find the liquor in a Tequila Sunrise, a Paloma, Texas tea, and a Negroni. Or, you can try shots of tequila straight up. Just make sure you have plenty of limes, lemons, and salt on hand.
Mixers & Liqueurs
Besides the main spirits, your bar should contain a variety of mixers, specialty liquors, and ingredients used in many cocktails. Make sure you have a selection of simple syrups, bitters, lime juice, tonic water, soda water, and juices. You can also add specialty boozes such as vermouth, sherry, Cointreau, cognac, and others depending on your individual tastes and preferences.
Along with the items mentioned above, you will also want to stock plenty of limes, lemons, olives, mint leaves, and other fruits to use as garnishes and cocktail add-ins. You can adjust quantities and varieties of items to suit the type of party you are hosting, the taste preferences of guests, and your budget. Have fun trying your hand at mixing up cocktail recipes that everyone can enjoy.