Every gentleman needs a bar, but no bar is created equal. There are several essential elements that need to be included in each bar cart for it to be considered a success.
This guide explains exactly what you need to mix the perfect drink, with a few options to splurge on the really good stuff.
Ready to get started?
The foundation of all bar carts will contain, obviously, the most important selections you’ll make for your cart. The liquors you choose to stock will set the tone for your cart and the type of offerings you can create.
A comprehensive liquor selection doesn’t necessarily have to be expansive. The following are the fundamental liquor options that should be included in your bar.
Scotch, Whiskey and Bourbon
Only a novice would categorize them together – and that’s not you. As you well know, the difference between the three is simple:
- Scotch is whisky made from malted barley in Scotland, and
- if your liquor is distilled in Ireland, it’s whiskey,
- while bourbon is whisky made in the U.S.
See – not hard at all!
- The Essential: Jameson is a faithful and delicious whiskey go-to. It has a high-end flavor that keeps whiskey lovers happy and coming back for more. Show off your bartending skills with an Irish Mule. – $25
- The Splurge: Pick up a bottle of Redbreast 12 Year. If your boss stops by, I promise, he will be impressed. – $63
Typically distilled from potatoes or grains, Vodka is a bar staple and choosing the right one to fit your needs is a fairly simple task.
High-quality vodka—no matter what the price—should have minimal taste, smooth texture, and won’t burn the palate. Vodka that meets this requirement has been filtered through activated charcoal to remove impurities while preserving the flavor characteristics.
Bar staples like Bloody Mary’s, Black and White Russians, and Screwdrivers include vodka as their main ingredient.
- The Essential: Tito’s Handmade is a corn-based vodka still made in small batches. – $33
- The Splurge: Known for its smooth finish, Stolichnaya Elit Vodka is a Russian vodka that’s distilled four times, to perfection some say. – $60
Thank the juniper berry for this popular libation. Gin, unlike many spirits, is made to be mixed with cocktails – not to be consumed on its own. That’s probably why this specific spirit is the one that’s a primary ingredient in most classic cocktails.
So, whether you’re looking for that distinctive pine flavor or a mix of citrus undertones, Gin is an essential element for your cart.
- The Essential: Tanqueray is an old faithful for a reason, so stick with it – it’s good! – $25
- The Splurge: Hendrick’s is traditional and perfect for mixing your favorite cocktails. – $42
Notorious for shots and margaritas, tequila is a necessary addition to every man’s cart. Made from the blue agave plant, tequila can be divided into five categories: Silver, Gold, Reposado, Anejo, and Extra Anejo.
- The Essential: Stick with something simple like Espolon Tequila Añejo. It’s aged for 12 months and has a smooth flavor. – $25
- The Splurge: Try a bottle of Partida Reposado. Its signature flavor is a hint of sweetness, which is perfect for La Paloma. – $63
Who knew that this tasty liquor is fermented from molasses? Depending on the aging processes, consumers can choose between light or dark rum to add to their personal collection.
With tasty cocktails like Mojitos and Dark and Stormy’s on the line, rum should definitely be included in your inventory.
- The Essential: If you can swing it, get a light and dark rum like Kinkylux White and Kinkynero Dark. – $60 for both
- The Splurge: Angostura 7 Year Dark Rum is your best bet. This dark rum is aged a bit longer than average and has hints of maple, toffee, honey and chocolate. – $32
Your cart and your cocktails would be incomplete without these staple mixers. These classic three will go a long way to meeting all of your cocktail needs.
Vermouth (dry and sweet)
Your martini game would be nowhere without this addition.
- The Essential: For the most classic choice, try Martini Rosso. It’s a fan favorite. – $10
- The Splurge: Test your palate with Vya, the most distinctive tasting vermouth on the market. – $20
Cointreau, triple sec, or Grand Marnier
Your margaritas will fall flat without this game changer.
- The Essential: Fee Brothers Curacao Triple Sec is needed for a successful margarita. – $10
- The Splurge: Grand Marnier will take your cocktails to the next level. – $22
Only a dash or two will do the trick.
- The Essential: As long as either Angostura or Peychaud’s make the cart, you’re doing just fine! – $5 each
Aside from these alcoholic mixers, add your favorite liquors and cordials, like limoncello, Bailey’s Irish Crème and Grand Marnier. Also, always have a variety of grocery store mixers added to your cart. You can’t go wrong with Coke, orange juice, ginger ale and tonic.
Presentation is everything, my friends. Whether you’re reaching for Waterford or are content with the perfect pint, the vessels in which you poor each boozy creation is very important.
Obviously, only invest in what you and your guests will use. If you don’t plan on having champagne in stock, displaying flutes in your cart is a waste of valuable space and money.
- Pint Glass – Because you can’t pour the perfect pint without the glass.
- Wine Glass – Sometimes you just want to kick back with a glass of Merlot.
- Shot Glasses – That tequila isn’t going to shoot itself.
- High-Ball – For any variety of mix drink that your heart desires.
- Old-Fashioned – Neat or on the rocks, this glass is perfect for your single malt scotch.
- Champagne Flute – So you’ll always be prepared for a toast.
- Cocktail Coupe – Just in case you ever get the urge to redecorate in an Art-Deco theme.
If you’re trying to live a stylish life, having the right glass for the right beverage will up your game. Depending on your level of fancy, this could get pretty pricey. – $200+
Congratulations, men! Your bar is almost complete! All that’s left is a couple of essential tools to complete your work station.
Your toolbox can be extensive or simple, depending on your bar tending needs. Let’s meet in the middle with the most common tools you’ll need to mix up a great cocktail.
- Cocktail shaker, mixing glass and strainer – Shaken or stirred – however you like it!
- Jiggers – For all your measuring needs.
- Bar Spoon – To meet all your stirring, mixing and layering needs.
- Cutting Board – Those lime wedges aren’t going to cut themselves.
- Ice Bucket – Unless you have a wet bar with a fridge, an ice bucket is a necessity!
For a finishing touch, add monogrammed bar napkins or your favorite sport’s team logo to the bar. It’s your space, right? For a cool $50, you can have the toolbox of your dreams.
A final tip for every budget: Make a list of what you’re going to get before you get to the liquor store. It’s easier than you realize to go grossly over budget without planning.
That’s it! You’re armed with all the components necessary for a bar cart of epic proportions. Stock wisely.