We jumped at the opportunity to curate bar carts of our own! Something about concocting a drink with the help of a vintage-inspired bar cart is just so much more sophisticated than digging through your cupboard for the rum you were gifted last Christmas -- even if the ingredients are identical. But with all of the elaborate recipes and drink combinations out there, the world of alcohol can seem a bit daunting. The good news is, once you purchase a bar cart to fit your aesthetic taste, curating your liquor collection is much more fun than it is mind-boggling! Here are our tips on how to go from starting your bar cart to hosting a party with the perfect selection of drinks for family and friends.
Starting a bar cart:
1. Once you find the bar cart you’ve been searching for, begin by purchasing a bottle of your favorite alcohol. It might be tempting to go straight for something fun (like limoncello), but start with a simple base you can use to make a wide array of cocktails. Love tequila? Pick your go-to brand. All about rum? Select a bottle to christen your new bar cart.
2. Splurge on the right things. Don’t add a fancy, imported whiskey to your bar cart if you don’t know anyone who will use it! Start with base liquors you’re certain you or your friends like, and spend more on alcohol genres that adhere to more of a hierarchy as you move up the shelf. Save where you can on alcohol you’ll be mixing, and spend a little extra on liquor that is often enjoyed neat.
3. Take your time and build your bar cart collection slowly -- it’s much more fun that way! You won’t feel overwhelmed by the assortment and will learn just how versatile each alcohol is. It’s surprising just how many drinks you can make with each type of liquor, so get creative with what you’ve got!
4. If you love drinks made with clear alcohol, make sure there’s still a brown liquor option in your bar cart for future guests. On the contrary, if you’re a bourbon lover, pick up some vodka for friends who prefer something clear. Having both categories of liquor represented will insure there’s something in your bar cart for everyone!
5. Not sure which alcohol to start with? Pick a few common cocktails or ones you know you’ve enjoyed in the past, and buy the base alcohol used in those recipes to begin your bar cart. From there, you’ll discover new drinks that incorporate those alcohols you have on hand!
Upgrading your bar cart:
1. Ready to make your bar cart more advanced? Test out some new alcohols! Start with small bottles to discover your preferences, and once you know you love a liquor, you can upgrade to a bigger size.
2. Experiment with flavored liquors, syrups, ingredients and methods. Try making that margarita blended, or pick up some coconut cream to add to your standard rum and pineapple juice.
3. Are you the DIY type? Search for simple recipes on how to make syrups at home to add to your drinks, or learn how to garnish your glasses with colored sugar or fruit!
4. Invest in tools to help you create an even wider variety of cocktails with the ingredients you have in your bar cart and fridge. Cocktail shakers, muddlers, strainers, fancy corkscrews -- these tools help stretch the contents of your bar cart and don’t cost a fortune.
Readying your bar cart for a party:
1. Make sure you have the aforementioned tools on hand even if you’re still starting out with your bar cart. Start with a cocktail shaker and the necessary bottle openers, and add those strainers, muddlers, and other tools if you want make the experience feel even more authentic. You can always improvise if you’ve forgotten to pick up a tool, so don’t fret!
2. If you have extra time and money (and don’t already have some at home), hunt for some fun, inexpensive glasses to pair with the cocktails you have planned. Glasses are another thing you can collect gradually -- just add to your collection as you spot glassware at antique markets and local stores. Over time you can build a selection of glasses specific to the drinks you tend to make with your bar cart!
3. To spruce things up even further, add little extras like bitters, fresh lime, olives, lemon, mint, maraschino cherries, and sugar cubes to your bar cart display. Don’t worry about having all of these things on hand -- the selection should depend on the alcohol you have available in your bar cart and the drinks you have in mind.
4. Stock your fridge with plenty of mixers. Thankfully, mixers tend to be very affordable, so make sure there is enough soda water, ginger beer, tonic, juice, cola and so forth to accommodate your bar cart. Remember that some ingredients, like grenadine, will also give guests who prefer soft drinks the option of preparing their non-alcoholic drinks some extra flair.
5. Display is key! If you want to make your standard grocery store juice or other mixer appear a little fancier, pour some into a cute pitcher for a homey touch. Transfer lower-shelf alcohol to hand-labeled bottles and display your garnishes in decorative ramekins. No one will know if you purchased your ingredients on a tight budgets!
6. If you and your guests are coffee lovers, take things to the next level by stocking Bailey’s or Kahlua in your bar cart to have on hand for after-dinner drinks.
Now the only thing left to decide is if you’d like your drink shaken or stirred! Cheers!
This post originally appeared on February 4th, 2014