classic bar cart

Photo: Antonis Achilleos

The Classic Cart

The golden age of classic cocktails overlapped with the Gilded Age, and a cart dedicated to those classic drinks should evoke the era. Rich textures and deep colors, as well as warm wood can re-create an aura of old-fashioned and lavish hospitality. To balance the classic feel with a modern sensibility, look to modern prints, like a patterned wallpaper, and simple furniture without any embellishment.

This was the era when classic cocktails reigned. Stock your vintage cart with bottles of bourbon, rye, vermouth, and bitters, to give yourself lots of options to re-create it.

vodka bar cart

Photo: Antonis Achilleos

The Vodka Cart

Vodka is a neutral spirit and if it’s the one you prefer to stock, consider a bar that reflects a neutral and minimalist aesthetic. Plus a cool and refined space creates a visual retreat during cocktail hour. Look for furniture with clean lines, such as a glass bar top, clear glassware, and monochromatic decor—white curtains, black and white bar towels, and books—to create a simple and airy feel. Sheer curtains, meanwhile, lend a feminine, warm touch that softens any harder edges.

Complement these neutral hues with one or two pops of color to create a pulled-together look. Flowers or fruit can easily be added whenever the mood strikes.

tequila bar cart

Photo: Antonis Achilleos

The Tequila Cart

A fun way to embrace tequila is with bright, saturated colors to match the colorful spirit of Mexico, tequila’s home country. The vibrant red-patterned wallpaper behind this cart, which takes its inspiration from the embroidered textiles of the Otomi people, gives passion and energy to a room. To make a statement against the bright pattern, choose a sturdy cart that won’t disappear into the background; the wooden one here recalls the rustic wooden furniture of the Southwest and Mexico. Stock tequila of different ages—blanco, reposado, and añejo—to make a variety of drinks for your fiestas. And keep some vintage seltzer bottles at the ready to make long, refreshing tequila drinks rather than the ones that leave you with regrets the next day.

whiskey bar cart

Photo: Antonis Achilleos

The Whiskey Cart

Whiskey is an approachable spirit—no leather-bound books or smoking jacket required. Like many spirits, it has a variety of expressions, each with its own characteristics. From sweet bourbon to smoky and peaty scotch, to spicy rye there is a style for just about every person’s tastes. Stock a few different kinds, and you’ll have the right one for any guest or occasion—a good strategy for a single-spirit cart.

Despite its name, a bar cart does not need wheels and it may not have been designed to hold drinks. You can turn a sturdy sideboard or family antique table into a bar station to display your favorite whiskeys and striking barware.

low-proof bar cart

Photo: Antonis Achilleos

The Low-Proof Cart

Low-proof cocktails are perfect for brunch, picnics, long parties, and for when you want a tipple with less buzz. Lower-proof spirits like Pimm’s and Aperol add lots of bright flavor without packing the alcoholic punch.

Bold is the name of the decorating game here; low alcohol content doesn’t mean less fun. A brightly colored cart can make a big statement and work harmoniously with other colors. The key is to pick one dominant hue, like the yellow used here, and add accent colors in similarly bright tones. For small places consider a three-tiered design instead of the usual two tiers, to provide extra storage space.

how to style a bar cart

Photo: Antonis Achilleos

The Whimsical Cart

Life can be too serious; it needs a touch of whimsy! Don’t be afraid of displaying bright, unique items alongside your cocktail tools. Your personal and even quirky taste can be expressed in one small detail, or it can extend well beyond the bar cart into the space surrounding it. Pops of color in varying tones can be used throughout the scene in a chic way; just be sure to use a color at least twice to give your decor visual cohesion. A delicate cart and a sturdy sideboard, along with neutral-colored books, ground the whimsical pieces here, keeping them from appearing too juvenile and tacky.

Excerpted from The Art of the Bar Cart by Vanessa Dina. Text copyright © 2017 by Chronicle Books LLC. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Antonis Achilleos. Reprinted with permission by Chronicle Books LLC.