How To Setup A Bar Cart: 5 Tips To Impress Guests

How To Setup A Bar Cart: 5 Tips To Impress Guests - Nathan James

Every home needs its own bar. This is the perfect place for entertaining guests or winding down after a long day. But, not everyone has enough space for a built-in wet bar. Luckily, bar carts are making a comeback. Trust us when we say you'll want one in your home.

Not only are these great for serving guests, but having your own bar cart creates an atmosphere of luxury and sophistication. It's a symbol of prestige—even if you live in a small space.

If it's your first time owning an at-home bar cart, you probably have no idea how to set it up. Below, you'll find a beginner's guide to setting up a bar cart. We'll cover all the essential items you need on it. We even included some design ideas to help spruce up your bar cart and make it the center of attention of all your dinner parties.

And if you want to know where to get the best bar carts for the best price, read until the end!

How Do You Set Up A Bar Cart?

Every bar cart contains six essential items. We've listed these essential items below, including what they're for and how they're used. Once you've gone through this list, you'll be the head bartender of your home, ready to impress all the guests.


First and foremost, choose the spirits you want to display on your bar cart. Even if you only enjoy one or two types of alcohol now, that's totally fine. Besides, liquor is expensive, so don't be afraid to start small. Once you've experimented with mixing some of your favorite cocktails, you can begin to expand your collection.

When you start making cocktails, you'll gain an appreciation for the craft of mixology. And sooner or later, your taste for liquor will start to expand too. If you have no idea what spirits you enjoy now, here are some of the primary spirits used in classic cocktails:

  • Whiskey
  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Tequila
  • Brandy
  • Rum
  • Sweet Vermouth and Dry Vermouth
  • Liqueurs
  • Red Wine and White Wine (For people who don't like cocktails)


Bitters are high-proof alcohols infused with different herbs, roots, and spices. You usually don't drink them alone. Instead, they're used to add extra flavor and aroma to mixed drinks.

There are all kinds of bitters to choose. Angostura bitters are a classic. These have notes of cinnamon and clove that go well with whiskey or brandy. Peychaud's bitters are sweet and have notes of cherry and orange.

You will find hundreds of other flavored bitters on the market. Aromatic bitters (e.g. Angostura and Peychaud) and orange bitters are the most used bitters in mixology. As such, you'll want to have them in your mixing arsenal.


Mixers are any non-alcoholic beverages that you combine with liquor to create cocktails. Club soda, ginger beer, and juices are examples of mixers. Some of the common juices you can stock include orange, lemon, or grapefruit. However, if you're going to use juice in your drink recipes, you should use fresh ingredients rather than store-bought juices to get the best flavor.

Bar Tools

You can't make your cocktails without your bar tools. Not only are they necessary for shaking, stirring, and straining cocktails, but they also make your bar cart look incredibly classy. Here is a list of the essential tools you need in your bar cart:

  • Stirring spoon: This is not just any ordinary spoon. It is a long-handled bar spoon specifically made for mixing drinks.
  • Muddler: If the recipe calls for any mashed fruits or herbs, you use a muddler to mash—or muddle—the ingredients. It's similar to a pestle.
  • Jigger: Jiggers are used to measure your ingredients. They come in all sizes to ensure that your measurements are spot on.
  • Strainer: Hawthorne strainers for straining shaken drinks. Julep strainers for stirred drinks. Both are used to filter ice or any other ingredients you don't want getting into your glass. You may need one or both of these, depending on the drinks you make.
  • Cocktail Shakers: Shakers consists of a metal tin and a pint glass that you piece together and use to shake cocktails. Not every cocktail is shaken - some are stirred - so make sure you're following recipes closely!
  • Mixing Glass: A glass or metal container used for stirring drinks.
  • Hand Juicer: For juicing fresh fruits.
  • Paring Knife: Comes in handy for slicing up garnishes.


Every cocktail needs a garnish. You can use fresh fruit slices, the peel of the fruits, or herbs, such as basil, mint, thyme, or rosemary. Salt and sugar are also great for dressing up the rim of your cocktails. If you love bloody mary's in the morning, then keep a supply of cocktail olives, onions, horseradish, salt, pepper, and hot sauce.


Keep some glassware on your bar cart to keep yourself from going back and forth to the kitchen. There are several types of glasses you should know about if you're going to start mixing cocktails, such as:

  • Rocks Glass: Rocks glasses are the perfect size for serving drinks on the rocks. Any drink can be served in a rocks glass, whether cocktail or straight liquor. To serve a drink "on the rocks" means to serve it with ice.
  • Cocktail Glass: Also known as a martini glass. It's the classic v-shaped stemmed glass used for Martinis, Manhattans, Daiquiris, and so on.
  • Highball Glass: A highball glass is a regular glass tumbler used to serve drinks with a higher ratio of non-alcoholic mixers than liquor.
  • Wine Glass: Every bar cart needs a wine glass for white and red wine.
  • Flute: If you have champagne, you should also have some flutes ready. They're also great for Mimosas if you're planning to host a brunch in your home.

5 Ways To Jazz Up Your Bar Cart

Enhance your ambiance by sprucing up your bar cart with these stylish bar cart setups. There are so many ways to dress up a bar cart. From traditional to more modern chic styles—the possibilities are endless. Just choose the style that best fits your personality. So without further ado, here are five bar cart ideas to turn this functional piece into a super stylish focal point in your home:

Stay Organized

To keep your bar cart from looking cluttered, arrange your spirits, bar tools, and glassware neatly on your bar cart. You can use trays and baskets to help segment your essential items. Dedicate a zone for each specific essentials. Keep all your bar tools together on one side and your glassware on another. As long as your essentials are laid out nicely, you don't have to add any other decor unless you want to.

Use Plants & Florals

Put some life into your bar cart by adding some houseplants or a vase of your favorite flowers. If you want a splash of color, choose a bright bouquet of flowers. But if you want to keep things more muted choose white flowers. White roses are particularly romantic. Pair them with some sleek glassware and a bar cart with metallic accents.

Go Full Glam

Metallic accents will do the trick if you really want a bar cart that screams prestige. Go for an all-gold theme. Instead of using the usual silver mixing tools, use all gold mixing tools. Find a transparent ice bucket with golden rims and display a mix of transparent and gold glassware. You can also try rose-gold for a feminine touch or copper for a more rustic glam feel.

Show Your True Colors

Don’t be afraid to mix and match different colors for a super fun and bold setup. Most glasses are devoid of any color but take the time to find some colored glassware. You can pair them with colorful straws, and just like that, you've got yourself a playful, one-of-a-kind bar cart.

Stick To Traditional

You can never go wrong with traditional bar carts. You can find tons of vintage glassware at thrift stores. Place a vase with a lovely bouquet or a stack of books, and you'll have one very refined, elegant, and timeless setup.

Serve Your Guests In Style With Nathan James Rolling Bar Carts

Impress your guests with high-quality and incredibly stylish bar carts from the best modern furniture store online—Nathan James. We offer both glass and wooden bar carts, and they even come with a full set of wheels, so you can entertain your guests in any space. The best part is, you can get these for less than $200—what more could you ask for?

If you're looking to redecorate other spaces in your home, we also offer living room furniture, bedroom furniture, and so much more! You can also find other design tips in our blog, such as modern living room design ideas and modern bedroom furniture ideas.

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