When we’re straight out of college, a six pack of beer and a boxed wine is more than enough to get the job done. But if we want to be taken seriously as an adult, it’s time to up our home bar game as well.
You want your bar to look great but also be functional; a good bar cart always starts with the essentials. We recommend curating a selection of bottles, spirits, mixers and bitters that will inspire you to shake and serve like a true adult.
Stock the basics
“Make sure to have to have one of each key spirit on your cart: vodka, scotch, bourbon, tequila, gin, and rum,” says Lara Crystal, co-founder of Minibar Delivery.
Your consumed liquor bottles don’t need to be on display! “A young Lauren once filled hers with water and a highlighter cartridge, then placed a black light over them for a full-fledged neon artistic installation. Don’t be a young Lauren. Instead, up-cycle a nice bar cart with a spritz of colorful spray paint and create a server bar for you and your guests,” says Lauren Makk, Yelp’s Home expert.
While vermouth is essential to mixing classics recipes like a Negroni and Americano, sweet vermouth can also be sipped and enjoyed on the rocks. Tracy Jenkins of Nicky’s Coal Fired, Nashville’s most-loved Italian restaurant, suggests sampling a bottle of Alessio, Mancino, or Carpano Antica, a popular Italian vermouth with bursts of vanilla, clove, orange peel and toffee.
A Bitter Aperitif
Apertifs are another great multi-purpose essential which can be used a mixer or drunk alone. Campari and Aperol are the most well-known but two of Tracy’s favorites are Gran Classico and St. George Bruto Americano. Mix with equal parts Rye Whiskey for an easy Boulevardier.
Amari are bitter Italian digestifs that are great for sipping after a meal, but Tracy suggest adding amari to classic cocktail recipes (like a Manhattan!) for a deeper flavor profile. CioCiarro, a good starter amaro that is slightly less bitter than more traditional versions.
A Sophisticated Orange Liqueur
Ditch your old bottle of triple sec in favor of a more refined and less sweet flavor. Tracy’s favorite is Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, an orange flavored liqueur with aromas of orange blossom, candied orange zest and notes of toasted wood. This refreshing mixer is a perfect substitute in margaritas, sidecars and Mai Tais.
Add some good looking bottles
“St. Germain has a beautiful bottle and makes every drink taste better,” says Crystal.
Complete the drink
“It’s good to also have some specialty bottles like vermouth for a martini or Aperol in the summer for a Spritz,” says Crystal.
Invest in Barware
You must have a bottle opener, a jigger, and a shaker. Glasses complete the cart. “Mix and match highball, lowball and martini or other specialty options. Not only are they functional, a mix of glassware will add visual intrigue,” says Crystal.
Choose a statement piece of flair.
“Try a fun ice bucket, a small succulent, or one of the Absolut Elyx copper gnomes,” says Crystal. And add some additional personality – Cocktail napkins or coasters are affordable and fun.
Fresh is better
Lemons and limes look nice and the fresh fruit juice tastes better than store-bought options so if you’re hosting, be sure to pick some up in advance.