We’re not afraid to say it: Everyone needs to have a bar cart in their home. Imagine all of the scenarios where a neatly organized, well-stocked adult beverage hub comes in handy: Perhaps you may need to start a dramatic diatribe or morose monologue—where else would you make cocktails for you and your guests as your sermon builds up steam? Where would you cosplay as the various hard-drinking characters from Mad Men? How would your friends and family know that you don’t, in fact, drink too much, and that you’re actually a sophisticated boulevardier [swirls glass] who simply enjoys
getting hammered a well-made alcoholic beverage from time to time?
But, I keep my booze in a cabinet above the sink, you might be thinking. Well, while having a liquor cabinet is all well and good, that’s all it should hold: liquor. Your booze reserves, to be more specific. Your bar cart, however, is where a person of culture proudly displays their collection of barware, glassware, and top-shelf spirits—which, ironically, tend to reside on the bottom, sturdiest shelf of your cart. [Editor’s note: It is, however, best practice to keep at least one bottle of *very nice* liquor tucked in a cabinet for pulling out with a flourish at the end of a night or to commemorate a special occasion.] Your bar cart can be as elaborate or as minimalist as you’d like—and while balling out on alcohol-related gear is as noble of a pursuit as they come, stocking your home’s boozy command center doesn’t have to be expensive.
But I don’t even drink!!!, you might think. Great news: There’s never been a better time to be a teetotaler, since the non-alcoholic spirits world is thriving, and there are loads of booze-free, healthful, and even adaptogenic beverages that you can still serve in style (and of course, display on a bar cart just as dashingly as a bottle of St Germain). Whether you’re an aspiring mixologist or even if you’re a stalwart sober king, a bar cart will serve the same purpose: to elevate your experience of feeling like an adult, dammit, in your domain, and add ambiance for all of your guests.
We’ve compiled a short list of some of our favorite carts, gear, and glasses to help get you started on your journey, but it’s important to remember that you should build your bar cart to match your specific drinking preferences. Love margs? Stock your cart with citrus squeezers, shakers, and lots of tequilas. Do old fashioneds call your name? Better have a bar spoon, bitters, and a rocks glass handy. So kick your feet up, pour yourself a stiff one, and peruse this assortment of boozy gadgets—and no matter which direction you take, just remember: Everyone should have a signature drink and a set of coupe glasses.
The Best Bar Carts
Realize your mid-century modern dreams
This leggy, eucalyptus bar cabinet is for the MCM heads out there. It holds up to seven wine bottles, all the cocktail glasses you own, and still has loads of room for spirits and barware. Plus, there are doors to protect your bottle collection from pets or errant children. Its sophisticated look will fit seamlessly into any part of the house—even your bedroom (no shame).
This no-frills rolling bar cart is perfect for an evening of
gimlets in front of the television entertaining your in-laws, Feeld date, or local Dungeons & Dragons tournament. Start off with martinis in the living room to warm up, then roll on over to the dining table for a wine and cheese pairing to go with your dinner of exorbitantly expensive takeout, and finish the night off with a nice digestif in the garden.
Art Deco action
In pursuit of that Gatsby energy? Pick up this metal three-shelf bar cart, from which you can hang your coupe glasses upside down, pour vermouth, and dispense Luxardo cherries (just a few ideas to get you started).
In addition to industrial-retro good looks, this Henrijs Bar Cart from Wayfair features three tiered storage shelves, along with racks that can store up to 21 stemmed glasses and 14 bottles of wine. It’s also on wheels, so you can sidle it up to wherever you are in the house—like, next to your sofa, where you’re WFH on spreadsheets.
The Best Barware
Shake it ‘til you make it
Using a Boston shaker is the simplest—and one of the most classic—ways to shake a cocktail. It’s simply a weighted metal cup that fits over a shaker pint (your average beer glass you’d get at any American bar) or a smaller metal cup. Simply whack ‘em together, shake, whack ‘em apart, and voila.
For a little more complete setup, a three-piece shaker like this one from Williams Sonoma is a space-saving tool that combines a shaker, jigger, and strainer.
Don’t strain yourself…
… Strain your cocktails instead. If you’re using a classic Boston shaker or mixing glass, a Hawthorne strainer is an easy way to keep muddled ingredients and ice out of your final pour.
For a thicker, creamier texture in a cocktail, using a Hawthorne in conjunction with a fine mesh strainer can help you achieve a fluffier final product with a dense layer of foam on top—especially in drinks that call for frothy egg white, such as whiskey sours.
Mix things up a bit
For spirit-forward cocktails (Negronis, Manhattans, martinis), having a mixing glass and swizzle stick—those long, twisty bar spoons that let you twirl them more effectively—is a must. Plus, doesn’t the diamond cut on this mixing glass look sick?
Welcome to pound town
For any drinks where you’ll want to lightly crush herbs or citrus inside your shaker or glass, you’ll want a muddler. While all muddlersl do pretty much the same thing, your main choice is whether to go stainless steel or wood. Stainless steel is great since it’s easy to clean, goes with everything, and is usually on the affordable side. Wooden muddlers look cool, but are only really good if you’re going to be using them for one drink or ingredient, since the porous fibers of the wood will pick up the flavor of whatever you’re muddling.
Uncork the magic
The wine key (a.k.a. the waiter’s corkscrew) is like the Swiss Army knife of wine drinking. Almost everything you need to enjoy a glass of wine is conveniently stored in this multipurpose tool from West Elm—from start to finish.
For your nicer bottles—or older vintages that might have dried-out or fragile corks—this two-prong extractor helps keep your corks intact when removing.
Get your flair on
Ever wonder how those bartenders on Instagram do all that high-pour flair? Well, pour tops certainly help—and they’re essential for quickly measuring shots and parts while keeping the spillage to a minimum. A handy-dandy trick we’ve picked up is to count “one-one-thousand” to pour around an ounce of liquor when using one of these bad boys.
Speed sticks slap
Having friends over to crack open a few cold ones while you show off your newly stocked bar cart is pointless if you can’t open said cold ones. This three-pack of stainless steel bottle openers will ensure the popping of any and all crown-top bottles in the vicinity.
Do a little jig
Fun fact of the day: Named after the smallest mast on a ship, the “jiggermaster,” the jigger originally referred to a sailor’s daily ration of rum, traditionally served in a metal cup. These days, it’s a staple in every mixologist's bar kit. (We call that character development.) Jiggers are key for accurately measuring small amounts of liquors, juices, and syrups—and unless you’re an expert, they’ll be an indispensable tool in crafting the perfect cocktail. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on these, but it helps to get a well-crafted jigger with clear measurements in various increments if you plan to make cocktails with more than a couple of ingredients.
If there’s one tip we’d give any home bartender looking to take their cocktails to the next level, it’d be to only use freshly squeezed citrus. Dump the sickly sweet Rose's lime juice and any squeeze bottles that lived in your parent’s refrigerators growing up, since using fresh citrus is a) easy when you have one of these affordable juicers, and b) helps you achieve bar-level cocktails in your own home. A hand squeezer will do the trick for lemons and limes; a larger citrus strainer can accommodate more types of fruit and handily store the juice in a well until you’re ready to measure it out.
The Best Glassware
Proper wine glasses, dangit
Guzzling boxed wine out of coffee mugs is a rite of passage, but there comes a time when you and your vino-loing buddies want to upgrade to classic, stemmed wine glasses. We recommend buying two sets: one that’s unbreakable (for larger/rowdier gatherings or clumsier company) and a fine glass set for smaller dinner parties and special nights in. For the former, check out our guide to unbreakable wine glasses, or keep it simple with this Spanish-style stemless set (which, by the way, you’ll see filled with pêt-nat in the backyards of many of Brooklyn’s hottest restaurants right now).
Cookware brand Made In makes this elegant stemmed set that you’ll bust out when you track down a funky new orange wine or the good malbec. All you need is this set of both white wine glasses (good for everything from Chablis to Champagne) and red wine glasses for your bigger, bolder bottles.
The only cocktail glasses you’ll ever need
While we’re big-time glass collectors at Rec Room—and as much as we’d love to shove Nick and Nora glasses down everyone’s throats—you only have a certain amount of space on your bar cart, so if you only snag a few cocktail glasses, we recommend the following: rocks, coupe, and highball. These Ramona coupes—affordable dupes of the popular Mamo glasses—are perfect for cocktails served “up,” or “neat,” meaning sans ice. They also double as martini glasses and Champagne vessels.
Rocks glasses are short, squat glasses meant for enjoying drinks “on the rocks,” or with ice. They’re the traditional (and ideal) way to serve old fashioneds, negronis, margaritas, and whiskey. This set from Viski is resistant to chips, breakage, and scratches, making them safe to use even when you’re a few G&Ts deep.
Highballs are going to be your catch-all glass. They’re the glass of choice for anything that instructs you to “top with soda” or other carbonated beverages, and shine when used for palomas, gin and tonics, and other mixed drinks.
The nice-to-have cocktail glasses
Poco Grande glasses are a must when slammin’ pretty much anything Tiki-related, whether it’s a Mai Tai, a piña colada, or a Singapore Sling. There’s just something about the curvy shape and volume of the glass that speaks to our inner beach bum. Plus, the wide mouth lends itself to outfitting with paper umbrellas, bendy straws, and an assortment of fruit garnishes. To get the best bang for your buck, purchase them from a wholesale restaurant supplier.
Glencairn glasses are the whiskey-lover’s best friend. Originally designed for drinking Scotch, the Glencairn is great for all types of whiskey, since the inwardly curving glass concentrates the aromas of the spirit.
The martini, above all, is a drink for people who want to get hammered, but want to look sophisticated while they do so. A classic crystal martini glass always looks very Bond-chic, but serving martinis in a coupe glass—preferably with a fancy cocktail pick—is a more 2022 vibe.
These Viski martini glasses have a short and wide stem, giving the traditional cocktail a modern twist, and provides some sturdiness to a normally dainty glass.
There you have it: a complete bar cart, locked and loaded—just add the booze (or Ghia). Cheers.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.