Part of the joy of living in a big city is the endless bar and restaurant options. But especially as the weather turns colder, you might not feel like going out; after all, the drinks get pricey, the best places get crowded, and sometimes, socializing just isn’t the mood. The solution? Building an at-home bar cart that rivals even the chicest cocktail bar in town.
A well-stocked bar cart ensures a perfect nightcap on a rainy day when cozying up on the couch seems like the only thing to do. It’s also handy for entertaining guests. But a good bar cart requires love, care, and investment; it can’t be whipped up overnight. And this is coming from a pro: Vogue asked Ryan Chetiyawardana of Dandelyan in London—#1 on The World’s 50 Best Bars—to share his tips for building a full bar at home. (It’s easier than you think.)
Below are the 5 simple tips for building a perfect at-home bar cart.
1. Start with the cart
A good at-home bar starts from the ground up. Literally: you’ll need the actual cart first. Luckily, there are a bevy of bar cart styles to choose from, and it’s easier than ever to find one that suits your interior. “Think on the practicalities of how you want to use it,” Chetiyawardana says. “Will it be more of a sideboard that gets wheeled across, or do you have the space to have something a little more elaborate? My main advice is make sure it’s not rickety; a vintage cart is super cute until it wobbles and smashes your fave bottle of whisky.” Consider an Art Deco-style cart in gold, which will undoubtedly serve as a focal point. If space is an issue, look to a smaller, circular style with two tiers, making full use of vertical storage.
2. Stock up on the essentials
A bar cart needs a good variety of liquor—especially when you’re entertaining guests who have a wide variety of tastes. But the types of liquors to shelve all depends on where the bar cart is situated. Chetiyawardana explains: “Tableside margaritas are best prepared in the kitchen where the requisite fresher—and messier—ingredients are more at home.” As for a living room bar cart? “I think stirred or built drinks are best, and if space allows, have something that allows a bit of customization, and the ability to serve a group,” he says. “A mature scotch, tequila and cognac fit the bill nicely, as does a balanced gin and vodka that suits a variety of serves. Then small bottles of vermouth, bitters, and quality mixers are useful.”
3. Get the right tools
If at-home cocktails are on the menu, your bar cart will need the right tools to get mixing. Don’t know where to begin? “Keep it pared back,” says Chetiyawardana. “A mixing glass, barspoon, jigger, peeler, bottle opener and a julep strainer should do you well.” To take it to the next level, he also suggests having dasher bottles in stock, and a small sealable bottle, which makes the addition of bitters and modifiers (such as vermouth or Campari) “more elegant and controllable.”
4. Don’t forget the finishing touches
Want to really impress house guests? Having finishing-touch ingredients stocked on your bar cart will bring any cocktail to new heights. “Quality makes all the difference here, so invest in the ones you love,” Chetiyawardana says. “Some good staples are Angostura bitters, Regans Orange Bitters, Peychaud bitters, a dry and sweet vermouth (store in fridge, and decant into small bottles with little air/head space), Campari, Luxardo or Fabbri cherries, unwaxed citrus, and quality olives in brine.” He suggests keeping these ingredients in small containers and out of light or in the fridge—then, when people come over, transferring them to the cart.
5. Invest in glassware
An elegant finishing touch for a bar cart? Unique glassware. “These details make a huge difference,” Chetiyawardana says. “Not only the weight, rim, fineness of your chosen ones, but the style, too.” The right pieces can not only enhance the drink itself, but heighten your home’s overall decor factor: a sculptural decanter looks good empty or filled with wine, for instance, while colored glasses infuse a pop of color. Chetiyawardana suggests purchasing glassware based on personal drink preference. “Think on what you love to drink, and what you’d love to showcase to your friends, and work from there,” he says. “If you like Martinis, invest in some fine, small ones. A coupette can set the feel of a drink just right, and nosing glasses are better for neat spirits than a rocks glass.”