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How to Build a Better Bar Cart: Stock it


I recently fielded a reader request/question about my bar cart, a topic I can expound upon for days. Or weeks. Or do an entire series of posts about.

Welcome to "how to build a better bar cart" episode one.

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing my own cart (above!), tips for creating your own home bar, what to stock it with and of course, some seasonal items to mix up once your new bar is in working order.

My own bar cart journey started at Brimfield (annual antique bazaar), where I found this lucite beauty for a song. It is a wonderful vintage fixture that adds a much needed modern air to my wood paneled dining room, where it is currently parked. Luckily, cart options of the non-vintage/antique variety abound at many retail locations this season.

My cart, like my home, is stocked with a little bit of the new, a lot of the vintage, and a little bit of the crazy. I never have a method to my madness but I always find a place for my random purchases, such as a candle decanter I recently had to have from Anthropologie. Along with real decanters from Homegoods, bar tools, an ice bucket, shaker and assorted vintage wine openers.

This opening post is devoted to the back bone of your cart though, what exactly you need in terms of liquor, mixers, bitters, and bubbly to get off the ground.

Start with the basics, good quality spirits. There are tons of fun, small batch, local artisinal makers out there, I suggest you start with some of those and see what you like. They are often very high in quality and low in price. In generic terms, here is what we repeatedly purchase for booze (along with a basic brand you should be able to easily find):


Gin (Hendrick's)

Vodka (Grey Goose, I also really like Tito's!)

Rum (Pyriat)

Tequila (Patron Silver but any 100% agave is a good starting point)

Cognac (Hennessy VSOP)

Bourbon (Wild Turkey)


Now for some fun stuff, the mixers.


Cointreau/Triple Sec (work horse of your basic margarita)

Sweet and Dry Vermouth (ahem, classic martini!)

Camapri (essential apertif in our house, put to almost daily use in the summer with a Campari margarita, or give Campari's cousin Aperol a try)

St. Germain (Elderflower deliciousness, I like it in a gimlet or with champagne)

Bitters (Angostura and Peychauds are classics, but I use a bitter orange by Fee Bros the most, a must for a proper Manahatten)


Advanced moves:


Lillet Blanc (try in a Vesper)

Creme de Violet (the piece de la resistance in an Aviation)

Green Chartreuse (for the classic, The Last Word, which I blogged about here)

Luxardo (used shockingly often, but my favourite is in Hemingway's Daiquiri)

Amaro (Italian digestif, typically drank after a meal, you will hear about a lot this season, pairs well with whiskey, as in this recipe)

Champagne (pairs with just about anything, though my favourite is the French 75)


Some sides & garnishes:


Soda water

Club soda

Lemons & Limes!

Maraschino cherries (preferably Luxardo)

Simple syrup

Assorted sodas (I like to get fancy soda on the cheap at Homegoods, dry lavender, vanilla bean, all fabulous, but don't forget the basics like gingerale and cola).

Juices (pineapple, cranberry, etc)



Now I know, this is a lot to buy and all this booze carries a hefty price tag. We did not amass all this in one trip! I suggest you focus a cocktail at a time, get the ingredients to make it, and then see what else you can make with those same mixers. Once you start swirling and shaking it up, the possibilities are truly endless. We tend to change things up seasonally, from margaritas in the summer to warming whiskey options in winter.

Next up, where to shop for your cart and supplies, and some recipes to test out, after all, you need to reap the rewards of all your hard work! 

For more in the Build a Better Bar Cart Series:


Build a Better Bar Cart

Build a Better Bar Cart: Stock it

Build a Better Bar Cart: Drink it! Maple Bourbon Cider

Build a Better Bar Cart: Ginger and Mint Simple Syrup

Build a Better Bar Cart: Drink it! Fall in a Champagne Flute

Build a Better Bar Cart: Drink it! Sicilian Cowboy

Build a Better Bar Cart: Brewing Bitters

Build a Better Bar Cart: Drink it! Ginger Slipper

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