How to Style the Perfect Bar Cart for Any Party

Top designers and bloggers share their tips on how to style the perfect bar cart for holiday and year-round entertaining.
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November 25, 2014

Photo By: Courtesy of Society Social

Photo By: Courtesy of Society Social

Photo By: Courtesy of Design Manifest

Photo By: Courtesy of The Life Styled

Photo By: Courtesy of The Life Styled

Photo By: Design by Emily Henderson

Photo By: Courtesy of Society Social

Photo By: Courtesy of Society Social

Photo By: Courtesy of The Doctor's Closet

Photo By: Courtesy of The Doctor's Closet

Photo By: Courtesy of The Doctor's Closet

Photo By: Courtesy of Society Social

Photo By: Courtesy of Maison 21

Photo By: Courtesy of Maison 21

Photo By: Courtesy of The New Traditionalist

Photo By: Courtesy of The New Traditionalists

Photo By: Courtesy of Society Social

Photo By: Courtesy of Society Social

Get Organized

Just like when you're designing a space in your home, a well-styled bar cart begins with a plan. Roxy Owens, founder of Society Social, advises, "Tres facile! It's easy. Use trays to help you divide the bar cart into zones and dedicate each zone to a specific essential, whether it's glassware, bottles or your own brass menagerie. You'll be simultaneously stylish and organized."

Look For Pretty Packaging

Color, pattern and texture all come into play when styling your bar cart. "Custom coasters add style and function," Owens says. "Cloth cocktail napkins are a small touch that can go a long way, and researching a small or local distillery can yield pretty packaging as well as equally delicious spirits."

Show Off

Your bar cart can be the perfect display space. Use it to present some of your favorite glassware and dishes. "My bar cart was super easy to style. It's vintage and has just the perfect patina, so just about anything looks good on it," says designer Naomi Stein of Design Manifest. "It's the place where I stock my favorite mixers and showcase my vintage glasses and fancy plates. Fresh flowers are a must to add beautiful aroma and color. The finishing touch for me is the painting above. It's like the cherry to my bar-cart cocktail."

Make It Work

Turn an antique bar cart into a modern treasure with a little elbow grease and a clear vision. Catherine Sheppard of The Life Styled transformed this flea market find into an antique focal point. "I scoured flea markets looking for something that had the look I wanted until I finally scored the perfect antique at a junkyard. It was tarnished beyond recognition ... and the handle was broken off. After a couple rounds of polishing, a trip to a brass solderer and a glassmaker, it came back looking like new."

Play Dress Up

"The best part was dressing it up with all my favorite treasures: unique bar tools, cocktail recipe books, glasses from various flea markets and only the prettiest liquor bottles," says Sheppard. "I love that it's the first thing you see when you walk into our home. It immediately invites our guests to enjoy themselves while they are with us."


Search vintage and thrift stores for stylish bar carts you can pick up for a steal. Here, designer Emily Henderson uses this glamorous, retro cart as one part console table and one part cocktail tray.

Add Wit and Whimsy

Another way to make your bar cart super stylish: Add personality to the wall behind it. Here, a chalkboard-painted wall adds a bit of humor to an otherwise traditional setup.

The Essentials

When stocking your bar cart, Beth Dotolo of Pulp Design Studios advises, "Much like your home design, your bar should be built for your needs and the beverages you like to drink and serve. I think it's important to not run out and break the bank to fill your bar cart with what you think you should have, but rather carefully think about what you will be serving."
Here are some basic tools and glassware to have on hand:
  • Blender
  • Shaker
  • Jigger
  • Ice Bucket
  • Strainer
  • Juicer
  • Muddler
  • Bottle Opener
  • Corkscrew
  • Highball
  • Lowball
  • Champagne Flute
  • White Wine Glass
  • Red Wine Glass
  • Cordial Glasses
  • Shot Glasses
  • Martini Glass
  • Pilsner

Infuse Your Personal Style

Monika Hibbs from The Doctor's Closet likes to hint at both masculine and feminine details in her bar-cart display. "When it comes to a bar cart, show off some personality and style. I like to display both my husband's serious, old-fashioned whiskies with my favorite flirty champagnes."

Master the Mix

With the holidays approaching, now is the time to mix family heirlooms in with your newer pieces for a bit of nostalgia. "Mix in the old — crystal glassware, mixing books, corkscrews — with the new — colorful napkins, straws and even fun bottles of water."

Festive Details

Hibbs' rule of thumb? "Always have a favorite bottle ready for a celebratory occasion." Beth Dotolo also suggests having items ready to display for holiday entertaining, "Festive straws, stirrers and napkins are great for adding a festive touch to your holiday entertaining. Consider taking your cocktails a step further by using fun-shaped ice cubes or by freezing colorful fruit in your ice cube trays. It will make for a stunning display on your bar cart when serving cocktails."


Think about both color and quality when selecting spirits. Here, a collection of all blue liquor bottles complements the styled stack of books on the lower shelf. If your favorite spirits come in less-attractive bottles, scour vintage stores for bright decanters.

Stocking the Bar

Now that your bar is beautiful, what should you serve your guests? Christian May of Maison 21 suggests mixing the practical with the unexpected. "Have a selection of basic liquors: vodka, gin, bourbon or whiskey and vermouth," May says. "Round these out with a few funky liquors in bottles with different shapes for visual appeal."

Less Is More

A stylish bar cart needs to be functional and beautiful, so be sure to add items in moderation. "Keep soda and tonic in multiples. Several of the same bottles will keep the bar looking welcoming and not overly cluttered," May says. "Part of the appeal of serving cocktails is visual, so keep you bar cart pretty, rather than overburdened with bottles."

Get Artisanal

Philip Erdoes, CEO of The New Traditionalists, knows exactly what goes into creating a great bar cart, and how to put it to good use. "Great barware is essential, and at The New Traditionalists we love vintage pieces. Artisanal cocktails always taste better in old-school glasses. Ebay has some sweet midcentury glasses and accessories."

Cocktail Menu

"A proper bar should always have a nice mix," says Erdoes. His preferred lineup? "Hendrick's gin, Maker's Mark, Hudson rye, Tito's vodka, Antica vermouth, Brooklyn bitters and salty snacks like popcorn with lime, hot sauce and sea salt."

Go Old-School

"A found treasure always garners a second look and a chic set of marvelous midcentury highballs or dapper decanters will also be a nod to the glamorous retro ritual of cocktail hour," Owens says.

Double Duty

When the party's over, you can utilize your bar cart in a whole new way. "Your dining room is not the only place you can use a stylish bar cart," says Manja Swanson, chief creative officer of Lamps Plus. "Try dressing up your office with a chic, metallic framed bar cart. It's a great way to free up your desk space while adding a pretty element to the room. Place your office accessories, like a notepad and picture frame up top with your favorite books on the bottom shelf."

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