Sipping in high style needn’t be confined to a local bar or your favorite restaurant. Whether it’s an actual home bar, a cart, or something more inventive for a small space, a beverage station adds instant glamour to your living or dining room. If you’re ready to “raise the bar” on your home’s style level (sorry, we couldn’t resist), here are a few tips on what to look for, and how to set up your home bar.
Bar carts originated in the Victorian Era as tea carts, but really got off the ground in 1930s Paris during the enchanting Regency Revival period. They continued to gain popularity and became almost an institution in the homes of the 1950s – think Frank Sinatra in High Society, Old Hollywood glamour, Don Draper’s office sideboard, and retro Art Deco style.
Or, think now. Far from existing only as a de rigueur accessory for bachelor pads, bar carts are all over houseware stores — famous furnishing purveyors like Restoration Hardware sell multiple models of bar carts — and popular sites, like Pinterest.
What to look for in a bar cart
Although the cart’s style may be what makes it fun, bar carts first and foremost should be highly functional – a place where you can stash alcohol, glasses, and bar tools all in one convenient location. The best carts have two levels so that you have room for everything you could need to concoct a cocktail. Also, look out for those with swiveling casters and high gallery rails. That way you can wheel the cart from room to room — wherever the party moves to — without worrying about the necessary accessories (or breakable glassware) falling to the floor.
Bars for small homes
Even the smallest home deserves a great bar and — unlike a buffet, which also makes an excellent place to store drinks and glasses — a bar cart takes up minimal space. Its maneuverability also makes it ideal for small city apartments. But what if you live in, say, a 475-square-foot studio, and space is really at a premium? You can still create a chic home bar using a folding tray, and storing it away when it’s not needed. Look for those that are tall so that you can easily mix cocktails for your guests.
If a folding tray still might take up too much space, carve out a nook in a bookcase, keep essentials on a tray, and display them on your table or hang shelving. Floating shelves — especially those that hold wine glasses by the stems from the bottom — are a great way to store your liquor and tools. They’re easy to find, and often inexpensive.
Setting up your bar cart
Form meets function with a home bar. Whether you opt for a cart coated in brass or chrome, or a stunning silver tray, your bar can shine bright – as will the items you place on it. Gleaming cut crystal decanters, etched highball glasses, and shining polished nickel ice buckets can illuminate a room, while showing off your personality and style.
If you plan on entertaining, keep your bar stocked with one of each of the basic liquors: vodka, gin, whiskey or scotch, and tequila. Rum, bourbon, tonic, soda, an elderflower liqueur, and an orange-flavored liqueur will enable you to make a wide array of cocktails.
As for tools and glassware, keep the following on hand:
- Ice bucket and tongs
- Bottle opener
- Champagne flutes
- Shot glasses
- Martini glasses
- White wine glasses
- Red wine glasses
A good rule of thumb is to keep what you can fit on your bar without overcrowding it – a bar area that’s too full isn’t as functional, and doesn’t make for a stunning display. Also, your cart shouldn’t look like a liquor store. Decanters, for example, help break up the liquor bottles, and festive straws, stirrers, polished nickel coasters, as well as cloth and monogrammed cocktail napkins work to personalize the space. Following these guidelines can make a soireé or a relaxing night in extra fun and “high society.”