Entertaining + Holiday
Bar Cart Checklist
So you’ve got a brand-new bar cart or cabinet (or you’re making room in a buffet or kitchen cabinet), and you want to know how to stock it. We’re here to help with the key ingredients you need for a well-equipped bar, so you’re ready for a big party or just friends stopping by unexpectedly.
You’ve seen those bar tool sets, but do you really need all those things and what are they used for, anyway? The short answer is, if you’re only going to drink wine + beer, invest in a good corkscrew and a couple bottle openers (it’s good to have extras for parties). But if you plan on mixing any cocktails, it’s useful to have:
- JIGGER Super helpful for measuring out liquor so you don’t overserve your guests—or yourself! The standard double jigger has a one-ounce (or “pony”) measure on one side and the standard 1.5 ounce on the other side. (Pour freehand at your own risk!)
- COCKTAIL SHAKER Even if you’re not making martinis, cocktail shakers are a great tool to make sure your ingredients are blended thoroughly and chilled and it adds some effervescence, too. Metal ones help chill your drink (then strain the ice if you don’t want it to get watered down).
- STRAINER If you’re squeezing lemons or limes, muddling in fruit or herbs or want an ice-free drink, a strainer comes in handy. There’s the old-fashioned julep strainer (like an oversized, perforated spoon) or the classic Hawthorne strainer (the kind with a curly spring around the outside).
- CITRUS PRESS This can be a basic hand press or an electric juicer, but if you value fresh lime, lemon or fruit juices in your cocktail, this is great to have.
- MUDDLER This simple tool, usually wood or stainless steel with a ridged or toothed end, is used to crush or “muddle” fruits, mint leaves and herbs, releasing the flavors + oils. A pro move well worth the small investment.
- TONGS These always come in handy for grabbing ice or garnishes.
- BAR SPOON Whether stirring tall drinks or fishing out maraschino cherries or olives, this long-handled spoon with a small bowl does the trick (easy sub: an iced tea spoon).
Cocktail Tip: Shaken or Stirred?
You don’t need lots of fancy glasses taking up space in your bar cabinet, but you will probably want to invest in:
- RED + WHITE WINE GLASSES Red wine glasses are a bit taller with a larger bowl than white wine glasses, because bold red wines need more room to release their aroma and flavor. If you’re not a big wine drinker and you only want one type of wineglass, go for red.
- DOUBLE OLD-FASHIONED GLASSES (also known as rocks glasses) These shorter glasses generally hold 8-12 ounces and are used for liquor-centric drinks like their namesake Old Fashioned, whiskey or bourbon.
- HIGHBALL GLASSES (also known as Collins glasses) Tall glasses that generally hold 12-16 ounces are used for drinks with soda or mixers and lots of ice, like Gin + Tonic, Dark + Stormy, Cape Cod and so forth.
Depending on your drink preferences, you may eventually want to add:
- MARTINI GLASSES Stemmed glasses are best when you’re serving a shaken or stirred drink without ice, like a martini or Manhattan, because the stem prevents your hand from warming the glass.
- CHAMPAGNE FLUTES A narrower flute or tulip-shaped glass preserves the bubbles, but in a pinch you can also serve champagne or prosecco in a white wine glass.
- PILSNER GLASSES If you’re a craft beer lover, pilsner and pint glasses capture effervescence and help retain the head of the beer.
Cocktail Tip: Smoke It!
The bottles you stock will depend on what you like to drink + serve, but a suggested basic bar includes: