Bar Cart Essentials For The Perfect At-Home Happy Hour

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Did you know November 12th is National Happy Hour Day? Of course it’s easy to go to your neighborhood watering hole to celebrate, but it’s just as simple to host a perfect happy hour at home if you’ve got the right set up. Thanks to shows like Mad Men, home bar carts have made a comeback over the last few years — especially since we spent a large chunk of time at home over the last two years. 

Bar carts evolved from tea trolleys used during afternoon tea service in the late 19th century and hit their peak of popularity as a staple in homes in the 1950s after the Great Depression when everyone was ready to party and let loose. Overtime they fell out of use as people were creating wet bars at home or living close enough to bars and restaurants that they were entertaining at home less and less. But just as most trends go, the bar cart is coming back around and finding new life as a centerpiece in many homes.

Once your bar cart is set up with the essentials, it makes happy hour at home a total breeze. Here are five easy steps to setting up your bar cart.

1Get a Bar Cart

These days bar carts are fairly easy to find at stores like West Elm, Crate & Barrel, JCPenney, and even Amazon has a huge selection. Want something a bit more vintage? Scope out thrift stores, garage sales, or estate sales. While you’re at it, consider grabbing a cocktail book or two to not only help you create great drinks, but they make for stylish decor. Check out the latest from award-winning bar Death & Co.: Modern Classic Cocktails or The Japanese Art of the Cocktail.

2Gather the Necessary Tools

In order to make cocktails for your guests (and yourself), you’re going to need some basic bar tools. Snag a set of barware from your local home stores — think Target, Walmart, or JCPenney — or grab something a bit more craft from brands like A Bar Above, Brass Monkey, or Cocktail Kingdom. When it comes to bar tools you’ll need a shaker, a mixing glass, a bar spoon, a strainer, and perhaps a muddlers. 

3Stock Your Bar With Liquor

Can’t make drinks without spirits. Start your collection with a least one bottle of each type of spirit. For rum consider something light like Bacardi, Captain Morgan, or Havana Club and for a darker rum try Zacapa, Diplomatico, or Appleton. Smooth vodkas that always please a crowd include Grey Goose, Tito’s, or Ketel One. When it comes to whiskey go classic like Jack Daniels or Johnny Walker or try something a bit more craft like Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey. Gin lovers go crazy for Roku, Bombay Sapphire, and Beefeater. Don’t forget the agaves: tequila and mezcal — try Casamigos, Teremana, Vida Del Maguey, and Dos Hombres. While big names are easy to find at stores like Total Wine, experiment a little and check out distillers local to you as it’s a great way to support small businesses and find a new favorite drink.

4You Need Modifiers

Modifiers are the liqueurs, syrups, and bitters that you need in order to balance your beverages. A few staples that are easy to use and can make dozens of cocktails come to life are St. Germain, Martini & Rossi vermouth or Dolin (you’ll need a dry and a sweet), Lillet, Disaronno, Ancho Verde. When it comes to syrups, you can make your own simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar combined), or opt for something a bit fancier like Nickle Dime. For bitters, a little bit goes a long way. You’ll definitely want the classics Angostura and Peychards. Other fun things that add a bit of pizzaz to your bar cart and your cocktails are things like fancy salts for rimming or cotton candy glitter bombs (like these from Art of Sucre) that make any glass of champagne sparkle.


You can’t make a proper cocktail without something to put it in! On your bar cart, you’re going to need just a few types of glasses that can be used to serve dozens of cocktails. Glassware makes a huge difference in not only the presentation or your drinks but the taste. Make sure you have rocks glasses, collins glasses, coupes, flutes, martini, and wine glasses on hand. 

The fun thing about a bar cart is being able to make it your own. Personalizing your selections to your taste and your home’s decor is what really makes the bar cart a special moment all on its own — that and the great memories you’ll make entertaining your friends and family.

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Written By

Amber Love Bond

Amber Love Bond is a Miami-based hospitality and lifestyle writer that’s always on the go and searching for her next adventure. See Full Bio

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