Bar carts are a very versatile and handy piece of furniture to have when you are entertaining.
They look great, can be moved to wherever the party is and can be styled to match any entertaining situation.
On the flip side, because they are so versatile (and generally not very big), it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to decide what to put on them.
Read on to find out how to style a bar cart and overcome these issues.
Decide on a Theme
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Since bar carts generally have limited surface areas, they work best if you pick a theme (eg. traditional mixed drinks) or a specific drink (eg. Bloody Mary) that you will serve from it.
Then have everything that you need to make that drink easily available on the cart.
That will create a stand-alone drink station where your guests can easily help themselves.
Put Function First
While it would be nice to have some purely decorative touches to your bar cart, I always leave those kinds of accessories to the end.
In my book, it is more important that the bar cart has everything on it required to make the drink being served from it.
If you have to keep running to the kitchen to get the orange juice for your Mimosa bar cart, it kind of defeats the purpose of having a standalone serving area.
Keep The Necessities on the Top Shelf
I usually have all of the “must-haves” for the drink service available on the top shelf of the cart.
This includes the alcohol, mixers, glasses and any bar accessories (such as a shaker, shot glass, or bar spoon) that are required to make the drink.
Keep Extra Glasses, Refills and Large Items on the Bottom Shelf
On the bottom of the cart, I stock all of the re-fill items (extra glasses, juice or less-used mixes) as well as large items (such as an ice bucket) that take up too much room on the top shelf.
Use Decanters and Carafes
While I believe that the bar cart needs to function well, I also want it to look good.
One of the easiest ways to do that is to serve the alcohol and mixers in decanters, carafes and pitchers rather than using the bottles or containers they came in.
Since most bar carts have mirrors or glass as the shelves, the light will bounce off the crystal and glass of the decanters and provide that extra sparkle.
Make sure to include signs on the decanters so that everything will know what is in them.
Tall and Thin Saves Surface Space
When you are looking for containers and pitchers to use on your cart, tall and thin options will allow you to fit more into that small space.
Use tall narrow pitchers instead of the round, wide ones.
Wine coolers make good ice buckets since they tend to be narrow and tall.
More glasses will fit on the cart if you use champagne flutes rather than the traditional coupes.
Use glasses that go with your decor
You can bring the party decor to your bar cart by using glasses in colors or style that go with your theme.
Contemporary gold-stemmed glasses work well with this margarita station.
Blue and gold champagne flutes match the decor for this Memorial Day brunch.
Wine Bottle Coasters Make Great Rimming Dishes
If you are serving a drink that usually has a salt or sugar rim on the glass (such as the celery salt rim on a bloody Mary or the salt rim on a margarita), make sure to provide easy access to the rimming salt.
I have found that wine bottle coasters (that are supposed to be used under a wine bottle to keep from dripping on the table) are the perfect size for “rimming”.
Have slices of lemon or lime handy. Run the lemon or lime slice around the edge of the glass and then dip it into the rimming salt.
Add Color With Garnishes
Cocktail garnishes such as olives, maraschino cherries, lemons, limes, strawberries and other fruit can add pops of color to your cart.
Pick the ones that are often served with the drink you are making and include them on the cart.
Serve a Drink With Straws
If you pick a drink that people like to drink with straws, you can easily add incorporate your color scheme.
Straws come in so many different colors and add some extra interest to your cart.
Use pretty serving dishes to hold condiments
Add to the decor by using pretty serving dishes for your condiments.
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This post was originally published on September 7, 2015 but was updated with new content on January 21, 2024.