Cocktail Culture: How to Bring Your Favorite Bar Home

By Marcie Geffner

A wet bar with all the bells and whistles is the cherry-on-top when it comes to entertaining. The 4230 Plan by D.R. Horton in Las Vegas, NV.

Photo: D.R. Horton

Setting up and stocking a wet bar or cocktail cart in your home could make you the most popular party host among your set of friends.

“Being able to create a quality cocktail is something many people see as a badge of honor. [With] the cocktail cart, you’re displaying that badge in your living room,” says Daniel Levine, a trends expert, keynote speaker and director of the Avant-Guide Institute, a consumer trends consultancy in New York City.

Wet Bar or Cocktail Cart: What’s the Difference?

Wet bars are typically built into a home. If you’re buying a new construction home, ask your builder whether a wet bar is standard or an option you can add. If you already own a home and it doesn’t have a wet bar, you can create a bar area in your front-door entryway, near your kitchen or, weather permitting, in your backyard.

A wet bar typically includes a small sink, a mini-refrigerator and perhaps a wine refrigerator, along with a variety of alcoholic beverages and an assortment of glasses and bar tools that are appropriate for the types of drinks you intend to serve.

In-home wet bars aren't a new trend, but they've never gone out of style.

A cocktail cart is a small piece of furniture that displays a selection of alcoholic beverages and carries a supply of glasses and tools to mix and serve drinks. A cocktail cart could be a table, desk, cabinet or credenza. Regardless of the style, the best type of cart is one that has wheels so you can pull it out and display it more prominently when you entertain.

“You wheel it out and dazzle your guests with your fantastic cart and all its offerings. It’s like being in a fine-dining restaurant when the waiter wheels out the dessert tray,” Levine says.

A wet bar and a cocktail cart aren't an either/or proposition. Rather, you can and, if you entertain frequently, probably should have both a bar and cart in your home.

Choosing the Right Cocktail Cart

You can find bar and cocktail carts for sale just about everywhere from luxury or vintage furniture shops to discount retailers. Clearly, this trend isn’t just for self-proclaimed trendsetters in New York and Los Angeles.

“The fact that you can find bar carts in places that aren’t particularly rarified is proof of their ubiquity,” Levine says.

An upscale cart can set you back a few thousand dollars. Or you can get one for less than a hundred bucks.

When you shop for a cart, look for one that reflects your personal style. Whether that means you choose a replica of an antique world globe or a contemporary Star Wars prop, personalization is on trend, Levine says.

Basic Bar Tools with Maximum Utility

When you’re ready to set up your bar, focus on a limited number of good-quality tools that have maximum utility.

“There are a million things you can buy for your bar and most of them are totally useless,” says Tanner Agar, owner and chief experience officer of Rye, a craft restaurant with a significant drinks program in McKinney, Texas.

First on Agar’s list of things not to buy is a cocktail shaker with a strainer on the top. He says this type of shaker is hard to open and the strainers “are always trash.”

What Agar says you should buy:

Coupes. This classic champagne glass can be used for almost any type of cocktail.
Universal wine glasses. Different glasses for reds and whites are nice to have but not a necessity.
Basic bar tools. With a proper jigger, Hawthorne strainer, fine mesh strainer, shaker, mixing glass and bar spoon, you’ll be able to make just about any drink you want.

Booze for Your Bar: What’s on Trend

Stocking your home bar or cocktail cart is another opportunity for personalization. Rather than offering your guests the traditional assortment of one type of rum, one type of gin, one type of vodka and so on, you might opt for a dozen types of gin only or a selection of prime tequilas, to take two of many possible specializations. Local brews and organic alcoholic beverages are also on trend, Levine says.

Stock your bar, roll out your cart and you’re ready to get your party started.
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Marcie Geffner is an award-winning freelance reporter, writer and editor. A second-generation native of Los Angeles, she relocated in 2015 to Ventura, a beach town in Southern California, where she owns a split-level hillside home.

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