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Anatomy of a Practical Bar Cart

Bar carts are one of those home decor items that so easily become a disaster, at least if you actually use them. You want to have out all your glasses and booze and bar tools and all of a sudden it’s a cluttered mess. So, I want to walk you through some basic bar cart styling that is actually practical. 

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Have you ever searched for Pinterest bar cart inspiration and saw nothing but carts filled with flowers and pretty things and the actual purpose of said bar cart is a tiny percentage of what’s using space? Yeah, me too and it’s so frustrating! This is just some simple tips to have both form and function.

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Before we can dive into styling a bar cart, we need to know the history! A quick low down is bar carts first became popular in the Victorian era, but were tea trolleys. The cart would be wheeled in during afternoon tea and house all the accoutrements. It wasn’t until Prohibition was lifted that the tea trolley transformed into a bar cart. I mean, fuck tea when we can legally have booze now! By the time the 1950s rolled in people were full on obsessed. If you entertained guests, i.e.the middle class and rich, you had to have one. It was a status symbol to have your little bar set-up. Then all the bar cart craze died in the 70s with the introduction of the wet bar. So sad. However, they’re back and more popular than ever and I personally think anyone who keeps alcohol in their house and likes a nice cocktail should have one. Look, most humans can’t afford a wet bar, but a bar cart? Well, it’s certainly much cheaper than it once was. Hell, you can thrift everything you need! This was a roundabout way of saying that the reason I think a bar cart should be function over form because it serves as a bar for most people. If you have a full bar or plenty of space for all your alcohol and glassware and tools, then roll out the bar cart at parties with only the pretties. If not, we need this to work!

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I’ve laid out a diagram of the items I think should live in your bar cart, starting with the basics. You obviously need alcohol and simple mixers. I only keep spirits out that are used often, which also goes for the mix ins. Dave is a big bourbon drinker, so I keep things handy like bitters and vermouth to make old fashioned and manhattans. For me it’s generally some gin and wine. Store alcohols you don’t use often and bring them out when need be. I also keep fresh fruit on hand, particularly citrus as it’s what I tend to use most often. 

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Then you need your bar tools. This means a cocktail shaker, spoons, straws, juicer, jigger, etc. Anything you reach for often. And don’t forget a towel!

Glassware is an obvious must, so pick something you love! The key here is not to leave too much glassware out. I tend to do max 8 glasses, which is two of each for my most used items, like martini glasses and coupes. Keep out what you need for whomever lives with you. You can always rearrange and add more for parties. 

Then things start to get fun! I’m a firm believer in decanters and carafes. They just look so classy on a bar cart. I like to keep Dave’s special occasion liquor in my decanters. Then the layering of aesthetics begins. I like to keep my fruit in a pretty bowl, I include something living to  freshen it up like flowers or a plant, I use a tray to keep my bottles tidy and to break up the space, I like to keep a book because I use books in all my decor and it adds a height level, a decorative object like my hourglass and I top it off with something sentimental. This can be a number of things. It just needs to be meaningful. For me, I hung a photo of Dave’s great grandfather who was the ultimate pillar of class. I just love this element  because it makes your cart a little bit special and unique.

I mean, that’s it. So simple and sooo functional! Also, I’m including some shopping links below to items I really love, mostly at CB2. They have a very midcentury vibe and, in my humble opinion, make the prettiest barware. I’ve bought a lot of pieces there over the years.  

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