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How to Style a Top-Shelf Bar Cart

How to Style a Top-Shelf Bar Cart

How to Style a Top-Shelf Bar Cart

When it’s time to entertain, here’s how to make it extra enviable—with our CEO and founder (and his fiancé Ross’) tips for creating the best looking bar cart.

Anyone who knows me knows that I appreciate an exceptional drink—and an impeccably styled bar cart. As important as it is to craft a cocktail, it’s just as important to craft the place where you store them all.You can’t just stock every spirit, mixer, and stirrer on your bar cart or cabinet and call it a day. So here are my tips—and those from my expert better half Ross Matsubara, Vice President and Style Director of Nike Communications, to mixing up the perfect bar situation.

Rule 1: You definitely have the space.

Noa: A dedicated bar cart highlights you as a pro-level entertainer. It makes drinking an occasion—something even the smallest spaces deserve. If you only have a tiny spot to dedicate to cocktails, skip angular furniture and opt for a small rounded option or layer a tray on a credenza and work with what you’ve got.

Rule 2: Stock Smart (and disguise when you can’t)

Noa: Obviously, I gravitate towards aesthetically beautiful bottles, so I focus on my staple/favorite choices and then layer in some statement-worthy spirits. There’s no excuse for having an ugly bottle. There are so many bespoke brands on the market that you can avoid something less-than-stellar looking. If you must stock a sub-par looking spirit, move the less gorgeous to the freezer or decant it, which adds an extra luxe layer to your bar cart.

Ross: You should always have a great gin, scotch, rum, vodka, tequila, and whiskey or bourbon on hand. What’s left, you ask? Infinity and beyond. You should also have a few liqueurs, depending on what cocktails you like including St-Germain elderflower liqueur, Campari, vermouth and cherry bitters. Store the generic-rubbing-alcohol in the cupboards for when your guests are too wiped to appreciate.

Rule 3: Edit, Edit, Edit

Ross: I highly recommend keeping your bar cart selection simple and edited. A lot of people think hoarding and displaying a menagerie of bottles is the way to go, but you don’t need several bottles of each spirit, just your favorite brands that work for the cocktails you personally like to imbibe. Spending less also allows you to invest in really high quality spirits, which is paramount when making great tasting cocktails.

Noa: While you might feel inclined to keep your wine here, I recommend moving it to a separate place—just to keep things from feeling overwhelming.

Rule 4: Splurge on tools you’ll actually use

Noa: Once you have the right ingredient set for guest to choose their own adventure, give them everything they need to mix a drink right there. I like having crystal ware, like Riedel, on the bar cart because it elevates the entire experience adds sparkle. An ice bucket means you don’t have to tarry to the kitchen to mix it up. You want the entire drink prep experience to be a one-stop shop here—down to providing a coaster so when they take their drink they have a place to put it down. And pro tip: I love having metal straws for mixed cocktails. They keep your drink cold and work as chic stirrers.

Ross: Stock basic-but-beautiful cocktail tools—shaker, jigger, citrus squeezer, long stirrer, etc—selected for the drinks you tend to consume on the reg.

Rule 5: Height matters
Ross: Organize your bottles by spirit so it’s easier to pull and arrange taller bottles in the back and shorter, high quality spirits in the front. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised.

Rule 6: Style for the cart you have

Noa: Not all bar carts are created equal, and you shouldn’t style them all the same either. Work with the shape and style of your furniture. If you have a mid-century-inspired piece, you’ll want to keep the effect more classic, with fewer bottles that feature clean-lined, simple silhouettes. But if you have an antiqued gold bar car that feels more hedonistic, you’ll want it brimming full of options and dramatic black glassware.

Rule 7: Set the drinking mood

Noa: Since you’ve edited your selection down, you have a little bit of room for accents. I like to put a source of light on the bar cart so it catches and flickers off the bottles. It’s particularly twinkly if you’ve got some crystal there as well. A lamp or a selection of votives gives cocktail hour a romantic mood.

Bonus tips

Ice is important

Ross: My friends know this, LARGE and FRESH ice cubes are the foundation of any great cocktail. Large ice cube molds are inexpensive and minimize the water dilution in your drinks. And, why would you invest energy into having great spirits, liqueurs, glassware, and a bar cart only to throw it all over old (and smelly) ice? I can think of nothing worse.

Noa: Early guests get the best stuff. Serve the best cubes to the first arrivals, by the end of the night you’re fine to switch to less-pretty ice.

Choose your go-to cocktail

Ross: Definitely a classic “French 75” made with Moët Champagne, Bombay gin, lemon juice and sugar—straight up, extra cold, with a twist. It’s like a classic James Perse white t-shirt that never gets old and always feels juuust right. Plus: one should always have at least one bottle of Moet Champagne chilling in their fridge. It’s the easiest and chicest way to entertain at the drop of a hat and who doesn’t love bubbles?

Noa: If you’re going to entertain you need to know how to make a good martini. Vodka sodas are boring—a good martini is classic and worth the effort. Wet the glass with vermouth and dump it out, shake the vodka (I like Grey Goose) so it’s super frothy and cold, buy vermouth in small amounts (since it doesn’t keep forever), and save your less premium vodka for your after party friends.

Ross: Noa’s extra dirty Goose martinis are not for the faint of heart. His cocktails are like a Homepolish experience – perfectly designed for one’s personal taste yet powerful enough to knock your socks off.