How to Style a Chic & Functional Bar Cart



With the passing of the Thanksgiving long weekend, we were reminded of the joys of entertaining indoors. In addition to spending time gathered around the dining table with family and friends, we particularly enjoyed chatting and lounging around a living room with the clink of glasses on the bar cart announcing the arrival of cocktails. As we speed through October and head towards the beginning of the holiday party season, we feel it’s an opportune time to get ready for the festivities and a bar cart can be a chic but incredibly functional addition to your living or dining room. The beauty of these wheeling wonders is that they are as aesthetically pleasing as they are handy plus, they come in a variety of styles and can be styled to suit your personal tastes. Here’s what we suggest…

#1 – Select a Bar Cart That Speaks to You

It’s funny how when we come across a bar cart these days, our minds automatically go to cocktails and scenes of Mad Men. In reality though, the accessory has quite sober origins. In the Victorian era, the bar cart was actually known as a “tea trolley” that was wheeled around in order to deliver tea, biscuits and tea sandwiches to ladies of a certain class. The tea trolley remained straight -laced for quite some time until the Prohibition of 1920s, during which time its role started to shift. With the emergence of speakeasies and people who simply wanted a cheeky cocktail at home, the tea was gradually tossed in favour of hooch. As a result, by the time 1933 rolled around and Prohibition ended, the tea trolley had become a bar cart or cocktail cart… but we digress! The point is, although we like the odd cup of tea, we much prefer the cart’s post-Prohibition purpose and adore the fact that they come in so many fabulous shapes, sizes and forms. Step #1 of this process is simply about selecting a bar cart that speaks to your personal tastes and works well in the space in which it is to live. Above are a few that caught our eye; a deco-inspired cart from West Elm, an acrylic piece off of Amazon and a rattan cart from CB2.

#2 – Edit Your Glassware & Accessories Accordingly

When selecting the glassware and accessories to display on the bar cart, you first need to think about what you wish to serve and this may vary from one evening to the next. Perhaps it’s a set of simple coupes for a splash of bubbly? Alternatively, you may require a set of rocks glasses to serve an Old Fashioned or two, while others require martini glasses. Whatever the case may be, edit things down and only select glassware that makes sense and will be used. Remember, the bar cart isn’t the place for storing all of your items but rather a beautiful, functional and temporary space to ease the process of serving drinks for an occasion. Once your glassware is selected, consider what else is required to concoct your beverage of choice. Do you need cocktail shakers? Strainers? Do the drinks require a garnish? If so, select an eye-catching bowl to display them. If non-alcoholic mixes are needed, pour them into carafes that are in keeping with the general look. Arranging and styling these items should be treated the same way as you would arrange trinkets on a coffee table or a built-in shelf. Once the needs are addressed, think about composition, verticality and contrast in order to entice your guests to imbibe.

Image Courtesy of Palm Beach Illustrated

#3 – Display Ingredients Based on Looks, As Well as Taste

Although bar carts serve a very practical purpose, they can also be a striking focal point in a room so when pulling ingredients to display on your cart, keep the look of said items in mind. If, for example, your cocktail requires gin, instead of sticking a dusty old bottle of mediocre quality on your cart, consider springing for something that is just as lovely to look at, as it is to drink. Hendricks is a simple but striking bottle that also happens to be incredibly refreshing with its cucumber infusion. Monkey 47 is another excellent choice with a bottle that is just as whimsical as the name and a lingonberry taste that is completely unexpected. The point is, the bar car is not the place to scrimp and save. After all, chances are it won’t be used on a daily basis but rather for more festive occasions. When it comes to the non-alcoholic ingredients and garnishes, the same applies. Fever-Tree tonic water, for example, has great branding and adds a wonderful spritz-y flavour to a drink. If a recipe calls for cherries, instead of your standard maraschino, try using Amarena cherries for  the beautiful blue and white vessel they come in as well as a more complex flavour.