We’re always looking for new bar cart styling tips, whether that means browsing through magazines or looking to our favorite bloggers for advice. But having a bar cart is about more than just style, especially during the busy holiday entertaining season; you want something that’s functional too, so you can easily whip up cocktails for you and your guests. Here are the essential items you should have on your bar cart so it’s ready for the holidays.

1. Glassware

Normally you should have about four glasses on your bar cart, ideally ones with a little bit of style. You can go with sleek rocks glasses, crystal coupes, or Champagne flutes — whatever vessel you need for the drink you’re most often imbibing. If you’re using your bar cart during a party and not just for casual evening cocktails, add more glassware as necessary. And if you’re really having a big to-do, consider replacing the glass with some upscale single-use cups instead.

2. A cocktail shaker

We like a classic cobbler shaker for the bar cart, preferably one with a stainless steel interior. They come in all sorts of styles, from bedazzled to matte black, so choose an option that suits you and your holiday party decor.

3. A fancy bar spoon

A long bar spoon for stirring cocktails is essential. It’s part of the ritual of making a fine drink, so don’t be afraid to splurge on something that really feels good in your hands.

4. Swizzle sticks

Keep some swizzle sticks on hand for spearing Maraschino cherries, olives, and cocktail onions, and so guests can stir their drinks if the ingredients start to separate. They come in tons of different colors and materials, so you can use this as an opportunity to add some character to your cart.

5. Cocktail napkins

A stack of swanky cocktail napkins is a must-have. Choose something festive but holiday-neutral, like napkins with touches of gold or glitter, and you’ll be able use them even after the holidays are over.

6. Signature cocktail ingredients

You don’t want to overload your bar cart with too many bottles, which is why we suggest selecting a signature cocktail or two that you want to serve. Then you can leave those bottles on the cart while the rest can remain stored in a liquor cabinet, and wine and beer can be served in the kitchen or dining room. Not sure which drink to choose? Experiment with these simple cocktails, and furnish your cart accordingly.

  • Martini: gin (or vodka) and dry vermouth
  • Negroni: gin, Campari, sweet vermouth
  • Old Fashioned: Angostura bitters, bourbon or rye whiskey, sugar
  • Boulevardier: bourbon or rye whiskey, Campari, sweet vermouth
  • Manhattan: rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters
  • Margarita: blanco tequila, Cointreau, lime juice

7. An ice bucket and tongs

Keep a quirky or chic ice bucket on your cart, along with some tongs, so you can chill drinks properly. Just don’t forget to empty, rinse, and thoroughly dry it at the end of the night.

8. BITTERS, SIMPLE SYRUP, AND EXTRAS

The final touch? The extras. These ingredients are what can bring a simple cocktail, like a vodka soda, into tasty territory. Sample ingredients include bitters of any flavor you like (there’s so much available these days beyond Angostura), a bottle of simple syrup, extra-fine granulated sugar, sugar cubes, and Maraschino cherries and other garnishes that don’t need refrigeration.

Once your bar cart is stocked, you’ll be all set to treat your holiday guests and yourself to a finely crafted cocktail in style.

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(Photo via Jennifer Pallian / Unsplash)