Kitchen & Cooking

10 bar cart essentials to make Saturday nights fun again

What every home bartender needs.

Bar Cart Credit: Anthropologie

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Whether you’re a fan of noisy, crowded bars or you prefer something a little more low-key, there’s one thing we can all agree on: this lockdown is making us all crave a night out. While it’ll likely be a long time before we can all get together safely again, there’s one simple way to recreate a fun Saturday night out in the comfort of your own home: a bar cart.

While we've already scoured the web for the best bar carts under $100 (so many gorgeous options!), we also know that what you put on your cart is just as important as the cart itself. I.e. you're going to want to stock up on all the home bar essentials from music to drinks to snacks. For your best Saturday night in months, here’s what to add to (bar) cart.

1. This essential bartender set

Barware
Credit: Wayfair

Pretty and practical.

While I do have an ice cube tray my grandmother literally brought over from mid-century Europe that I have never used, I am lacking something very essential: a proper bartender kit complete with a matching two-cup shaker, double jigger, strainer, bar spoon, and muddler. I do this horrendous, uncivilized thing where I mix cocktails with a teaspoon. Don’t be that guy. A set this handsome (which has over 100 glowing reviews on Wayfair) will actually get you excited about making cocktails—not just drinking them. And look: even if you’re not much of a Moscow Mule person, copper barware is essential in looking like you know how to stock a cart.

Get the Sayachith 5 Piece Cocktail Shaker Bar Tool Set from Wayfair for $48.99

2. A few fun-flavored spirits

Liquor
Credit: Diplomatico/Dulce Vida

Cheers!

I’m not much of a purist when it comes to liquor in that I’ll try any funky flavor. It reduces the amount of mixers and add-ins you need, which is crucial when you have limited space. Dulce Vida’s lime-flavored tequila is the perfect margarita in a bottle. If it’s too strong, I add a touch of club soda. When I need to “Mad Men” up (a.k.a. sip something my bartender friends would approve of), I sip on Venezuelan Diplomatico Planas aged rum, which is a great introductory sipping spirit that’s smooth enough if you’re usually into sweet mixed drinks.

3. This all-purpose trinket dish

Dish
Credit: Anthropologie

Show off your snacks.

You can’t just toss your snacks into any old Tupperware. This is a bar cart and every detail needs to look intentional. Have some respect! That’s why I got this handmade trinket dish—I’ve at one point used it to store my keys and random doodads (i.e.: receipts from five years ago that indicate an inordinate amount of money spent at Chipotle). But given its pearlescent sheen that glimmers in the sun, I knew it needed to be displayed front and center. It’s slightly over a foot long and less than four inches wide, so it’s narrow enough to fit in small spaces yet spacious enough for the perfect handful of snacks.

Get the Meadow Ceramics Botanical Trinket Dish at Anthropologie for $22

4. A selection of yummy snacks

Snacks
Credit: SmartSweets/Angie's

Just here for the snacks.

Now that you’re no longer at the mercy of bars and their questionable snack choices (strangers dipping their hands into the same dry Chex Mix bowl, for one), take advantage and load up on snacks you’ll actually enjoy eating to soak up the alcohol. I am a sugar addict with an aversion to sugar crashes, so I fill up my tray with SmartSweets (or Starburst for the keto- or low-carb-minded), shelled raw pistachios to stabilize blood sugar, and flavored popcorn because it’s the perfect snacking food. That salty sweet mix happens to pair perfectly with every type of drink I’ve concocted thus far. And I don’t need to worry about anyone’s germs but mine!

5. A candle that smells amazing

Candle
Credit: Bath & Body Works

Set the mood with a delicious scent.

The day before lockdown went into effect, I went to Bath & Body Works and bough the most potent musky smelling candles I could find boasting the most intense “hot throw” levels (candle jargon for a burning scent that travels far). The result on my bar cart is the reminder that lightness and beautiful things can exist in a world of darkness. Not only does the Cactus Blossom candle infused with cactus flower, coconut, vanilla, and sparkling lemon smell like a perfume I’d totally feel comfortable wearing to a wedding, it looks stunning and sleek as a display item. And if you’re looking to, ahem, set the mood and/or reduce your electricity bill, a three-wick candle is the best call—no matter your scent preference.

Get the Cactus Blossom 3-Wick Candle at Bath and Body Works for $24.99

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6. This retro turntable

Turntable
Credit: Sony

Put your "records" on.

Turn your living room into a speakeasy or a DJ set—depending on the vibe you’re going for—with a turntable that emits clear, crisp sound thanks to a diamond stylus and an automatic playback system to prevent scratches and damage. It features an MP3 converter capability so you can recreate that same mysterious smoky bar feeling on your next jog, should that be something you’re interested in. Reviewers love that it sounds great and, more importantly, is super easy to use.

Get the Sony Bluetooth Turntable at Best Buy for $199.99

7. This space-saving Bluetooth speaker

Anker
Credit: Anker

The sound quality on this speaker is awesome.

Not all bar carts will support the weight and size of a vinyl player, so it’s wise to consider a compact Bluetooth speaker like the tiny-but-mighty Anker SoundCore, which is our experts' favorite. that sits at three inches tall and one pound. A full charge provides up to 24 hours (!!) of play time, and is both durable and easy to use, which is a bonus when the drinks are flowing and the hand-eye coordination diminishes. Simply sync it up to your phone and enjoy tinny-free tunes from a device not much bigger than your fist.

Get the Anker SoundCore at Walmart for $27.99

8. These refreshing mixers

Zevia
Credit: Zevia

All the mixers, none of the guilt.

Say you're like me and default to a Moscow Mule because it's refreshing AF and fool-proof to make—you're going to need a stash of single-serve cans of ginger beer (or other soda flavors!) made with zero artificial sweeteners or added sugar. When I discovered I could get my fix of spicy ginger beer, vodka (my secret ingredient is Prairie Cucumber Organic Vodka), and refreshing lime without a sugar crash (are you starting to see a pattern here?), I was absolutely thrilled.

Get a 6-Pack of Zevia at Target for $4.99

9. This game that’ll drive you to drink

Meme
Credit: What Do You Meme

Get ready to laugh for hours.

Drinking games might be gauche in practice, but if you display them with a sense of irony and nostalgia, they make a playful addition to any bar cart. You know and love (but are sick of) Cards Against Humanity, so opt for its more visual counterpart that involves captioning popular memes using only the cards in your hand. With nearly 11,000 reviews on Amazon, What Do You Meme is not so much a drinking game as it is a game you can play while you drink and it works with a minimum of three people, which you can safely play at a distance outside.

Get the What Do You Meme Game from Target for $29.99

10. These pretty potted plants

Plants
Credit: Target/The Sill

Give us all the greens.

I love any excuse to head over to my bar cart and water my succulents, so they are flourishing far more beautifully than they would if I were to have placed them in any old nook of my house. I got them at a local outdoor market, but they aren’t far off from this trio from The Sill, which includes customizable potting options depending on the rest of your home décor. For a more lavish display of greenery that spills over your bar cart in a dramatic way, try an artificial plant like a lush potted fern that requires zero upkeep.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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