Serious Eats / Kevin Liang

Building a home bar can be a bit of an undertaking. After acquiring all of the necessary tools, proper glassware, and bottles of liquor, things can, well, start to feel crowded. And of course, the deeper one gets into the world of spirits and mixology, the more it becomes clear that collecting bottles is a Sisyphean task. For organizing cocktail clutter, a bar cart is an obvious solution.

Bar carts can serve a multitude of purposes. Their primary function is to help home bartenders keep their supplies and tools stowed and organized. But they also serve an aesthetic purpose as a piece of mobile home decor and a way to display glassware and bottles. Many home mixologists even use the top shelf of their carts as a workspace to whip up cocktails. Of course, bar carts can be a bit of an investment, so whether you just need a stylish way to display your bottles or a portable bar top, you want to make the right choice when shopping. To find the best bar carts, we talked to a few bar industry insiders for their recommendations.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Bar Cart

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Choosing a bar cart that’s right for you presents a unique challenge. Functionality is naturally the first concern, but it’s also a piece of furniture, so aesthetics are worth considering, too. There is no one-size-fits-all bar cart on the market. “The most important thing is finding a bar cart that fills your style and your needs,” says Noel Savoy, lead bartender at Spring Place in Beverly Hills. “Evaluate your collection and what you’d like to display before buying a bar cart.” There are, however, particular design nuances that affect how useful a bar cart is.

Size: When selecting a cart, make sure it will be able to adequately hold your desired amount of bottles, bar tools, and glassware. And you should plan for some growth. “Never go for a small cart. You’d be surprised how quickly they fill up and begin to look cluttered,” says Ryan Bailey, partner at Kato in Los Angeles. “The perfect size should be able to hold eight to 10 bottles, at least four to six glasses, an ice bucket, and all your barware.”Bar top: Beyond storage, bar carts are often used as a portable bar top to mix drinks when guests visit. When selecting a cart, make sure that the top shelf has enough space to adequately hold a few bottles, and the necessary bar tools and give you enough space to shake a daiquiri or stir up a martini.Prioritize mobility: Mobility is an often-overlooked, but crucial function in bar carts. Carts with wheels make it so home bartenders can easily move the cart to wherever guests need to be entertained. When selecting a cart, opt for large, sturdy wheels. Avoid small, flimsy wheels if possible. “They’ll break and a non-moveable cart is way less functional,” Bailey says.Style: Ultimately design aesthetics are a matter of personal taste, but our experts recommend a sleek minimal design that prioritizes the bottles on display. “I prefer bar carts with simple lines so that the items on your cart can shine,” Savoy says. With distillers producing great liquors packaged in gorgeous bottles that really stand out, sleek, simple bar carts are inviting.”

Bar Cart Recommendations

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Shopping for bar carts can get a bit overwhelming. There are many options ranging from simple and affordable to bespoke and design-focused and just as many vendors that sell them. To help us navigate the world of bar carts, we asked our bartending experts (as well as a couple of Serious Eats staffers) for their favorites. Here’s what they recommend.

The Hugo’s angular metal frame provides a modern-looking twist on the traditional bar cart. The Hugo Metal Bar Cart from Pottery Barn is incredibly functional. It has three shelves, so there’s plenty of space for your collection of bottles, glassware, and accessories. This cart is super sleek and can go with almost any type of home decor and works well for those who like to switch up their interior design regularly.

Key Specs

Dimensions: 38 x 29 x 17 inchesMaterials: Steel, glassShelves: 3

“I’ve had this bar cart for years and have been immensely pleased with it,” says senior commerce editor Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm. “It has two wide, spacious shelves (truly, I’ve never run out of room), wheels, a handle, and an overall pleasing look to it that matches my home’s decor. With a little wood cleaner, the bar cart still looks as good as new.”

Key Specs

Dimensions: 32.4 x 19.9 x 32 inchesMaterials: Wood, brassShelves: 2Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Bar carts can get a bit pricey. Thankfully there are still stylish and functional options on the more affordable side of the spectrum. This bar cart from Honey-Can-Do has an angular metal frame and two faux marble shelves that evoke a fun prohibition-era, Art Deco sensibility. It has a slightly smaller profile than many of our other recommendations, but at just under $100, it’s one of the best deals out there.

Key Specs

Dimensions: 34 x 24 x 15.9 inchesMaterials: Metal, faux marbleShelves: 2

This bar cart from West Elm brings a little extra glamor with mirrored surfaces and gold railings but it still maintains a simple silhouette. “This can bring a little extra sparkle while drawing a little extra attention to your collection,” says Savoy. “It reflects light in a beautiful way if you’re just pouring yourself a glass of bourbon or entertaining a group.”

Key Specs

Dimensions: 31.75 x 27.8 x 14 inchesMaterials: Metal, mirrored glassShelves: 2

“This is a newer addition to my space, but it’s quickly become one of my favorite things I own,” Riddley says. “It has a flat top and comes with a tray for storing some bottles on top and six shelves for stashing drinks of all sorts. I keep bottled cocktails, seltzers, and wine in there. There are also two temperature zones (it can be set anywhere from 37ºF to 64º F and the fridge comes in three subtle, pretty hues.”

Key Specs

Dimensions: 34.5 x 24 x 16 inchesMaterials: Steel, glassShelves: 6Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

The Rosario bar cart from All Modern has a minimal, modern design with rounded edges and sturdy metal construction. “I love the shape of this All Modern bar cart since most liquor bottles are round,” says Savoy. “It plays up the curves and complements them so well.” It also has three shelves for extra storage and at $196 it won’t break the bank.

Key Specs

Dimensions: 34.5 x 30 x 17 inchesMaterials: Metal, glassShelves: 3

“I’ve had this IKEA bar cart/do-it-all-cart for six years, and it’s served its purpose well. Not only it is durable and practical (you can raise and lower the shelves to accommodate taller bottles), but it also has wheels, making it easy to roll over to your guests for tableside cocktail service (I’m being serious!),” says associate commerce editor Grace Kelly. “Plus, it comes in three colors (black, white, and gold) and has a timeless, clean aesthetic. Not to mention it’s only $40, so if you’re still deciding on a fancy bar cart to splurge on but need something to make do with in the meantime, this one is for you.”

Key Specs

Dimensions: 13.75 x 17.75 x 30.75 inchesMaterials: SteelShelves: 3
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Designed by a husband and wife team based out of Los Angeles, the Earl bar cart is customizable with multiple hand-cut finishes and metal details. “I love their cart because it’s solid wood with hand-cut joinery,” Bailey says. “The craftsmanship is very noticeable with each detail.” It’s also large enough for making cocktails and showing off your favorite bottles. From a home decor perspective, it also works with multiple styles of furniture. 

Key Specs

Dimensions: 30 x 36 x 16 inchesMaterials: Wood, glass, metalShelves: 2

If maximum storage is what you’re looking for, the Empire Bar Cart has you covered. The extra shelving (there are four) keeps everything organized and clean. “It’s quite large, but perfect for those who have a bit more of a liquor collection,” Bailey says. It even has a hanging rack for glassware on the lower level for extra storage.

Key Specs

Dimensions: 36” H x 31”W x 17”DMaterials: Stainless steelShelves: 4

For those who are in the market for a high-end bar cart with impeccable design, look no further. Made from steel, this bar cart from Klein is the best of both worlds. It’s sturdy and well-built with gorgeous leather and milled wood. “This cart was originally designed to be in Auburn, a restaurant in Los Angeles, that won the James Beard award for best restaurant design,” says Bailey. Its timeless design should give it the flexibility to fit nicely into most homes.

Key Specs

Dimensions: 38 x 37 x 20 inchesMaterials: Customizable metal, wood, leatherShelves: 4

FAQs

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

How do you organize a bar cart? 

How you choose to organize your bar cart will be determined by how you intend to use it. If you intend to use your cart as a surface to make drinks, make sure to keep the top shelf mostly clear of bottles, glassware, and barware. That way you will have enough space for the necessary bottles and glassware to prepare garnishes and stir or shake a cocktail. For the rest of the cart, it’s best to assign a dedicated space for spirits, liqueurs, glasses, and bar tools.

Where can you buy a bar cart? 

Bar carts are readily available for online purchase as well as in many stores that sell home goods, kitchenware, and furniture. Considering that a bar cart needs to fit your needs both in form and function, it might be best to shop around in person to make sure the cart you choose fits the space intended for it.

What are the must-have liquors for a bar cart?

Ultimately, the choice of bottles that wind up on your bar cart is up to you. If the goal is to entertain and mix up a handful of cocktails, it’s important to keep a bottle of each major category of spirit stocked. A good starting point is to have one bottle each of gin, vodka, tequila, scotch whisky, bourbon whiskey, an unaged rum, and a barrel-aged rum. Many cocktail recipes call for liqueurs as well, so stocking commonly used ones like Campari, Chartreuse, Aperol, and an orange liqueur like Grand Marnier or Cointreau will dramatically increase the number of cocktails you can mix up.

Why We’re the Experts

Dylan Ettinger is a freelance writer who specializes in coffee and drinks coverage. For this story, he spoke to Noel Savoy (lead bartender at Spring Place in Beverly Hills) and Ryan Bailey (partner at Kato in Los Angeles).

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