Preface
Before we begin, a note

Throughout our collective history, alcohol remains definite, an enduring motif in the great American narrative. That’s probably because those that wrote it drank, and drank well. It’s hard to imagine the founding fathers at any point sober during the drafting of our Constitution; or a young Hemingway, notebook in hand, without too a flask hidden in his back pocket. Trial has proven that Americans like to knock a few back, and will find ways to do so regardless of law and regulation. But it was actually during the nation’s most notable hiccup that our favorite indulgence grew up, epitomized by the enduring symbol of the most sophisticated of drinking cultures: the home bar cart.


Motivated by the pressures of persecution under the Volstead Act, Americans resigned to their living rooms, tippling in privacy and comfort before leaving for restaurants or an “abstinent” night about town. Once Prohibition had lifted, “cocktail hour” stuck around, and liquored home entertainment became a fixed pre-game phenomenon, often a pastime in itself as a quaint and comfortable alternative to outings at public party venues.


The bar cart does two things: at its base level, it’s a tool to help organize and center the rituals of drinking around. More intimately, the cart is an opportunity to showcase the distinctive taste and personality of he who equips it. Ours is just one interpretation of how the home bar should look and taste. Like with all things great, bar carts are long term investments and need time to develop. It’s not necessary to stock everything below; like with all our kits and buying guides, ours is listed simply to help guide those starting from scratch in the finer points of home drinking.

Image Map


TOP-Shelf-Gear-Patrol-Hero
Top Shelf
Focus up top, mind the details
Both easiest to access and most visible, the top shelf is the focus of the bar cart and should be filled with that most frequented: liquor. Stock the bar cart according to personal preference and taste. It’s okay not to hit all the pillars that make up a well-stocked industry bar, but you also don’t want to feel limited in creative potential when hosting guests. Don’t like vodka? That’s okay, but you might want to keep a small backup for those guests that might. It’s also not necessary to stock a $300 bottle of scotch at all times. But it is gratifying to know that there’s that special something for when the occasion merits a little something extra — not as a prize, but a celebration. Also, there simply is no better way to serve your spirits than out of a handsome decanter. Buy one (like this crystal and gold piece) for life.

Top-Shelf-Whiskey

Scotch & Whisky


Highland Park 25 Year Old – More
Lagavulin 16 – More
Nikka Pure Malt 17 – More

Top-Shelf-Bourbon

Bourbon


George T. Stagg – More
W.L Weller 12 Year – More
Willet Straight Rye – More

Top-Shelf-Clear

Vodka & Gin


Plymouth Gin – More
Tanqueray Malacca Gin – More
Stoli Premium Vodka – More
Ketel One Vodka – More

Top-Shelf-Other

Tequila, Rum


1800 Milenio – More
Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum – More

top-shelf-champagne-perfect-bar-cart

Champagne, Sake, Others


Veuve Clicquot – More
Beniotome Shochu – More
Letherbee Charred Oak Absinthe Brun – More

Bottom-Shelf-Bar-Cart-Gear-Patrol-Slide-1

Bottom Shelf
Your pantry, your barback
Unless you’re trying to be America’s next great bartender, you’re just a guy who likes good liquor, and good liquor doesn’t need a lot of jazzing up. But when it fits the tone, know the elements of the Old Fashioned, or that dry vermouth is for martinis and red vermouth is for Manhattans. Bottom shelves are also convenient storage spaces for optional alternatives in case your thirst leans elsewhere: a red wine or a few tasty lagers you can quickly pop in the fridge. Versatile non-alcoholic beverages — juices and imported sodas (with real sugar) — also do well as mixers or alternatives for those that don’t drink.

Grocery


Beer (e.g. Peroni, Coors Banquet, Craft)
Wine (More on Varietals, Regions)
Dry Vermouth (for Martinis)
Red Vermouth (for Manhattans)
Orange Liqueur
Cranberry Juice
Tomato Juice
Pineapple Juice
Ginger Beer
Tonic Water
Imported or Local Soda


Tools-Bar-Cart-Gear-Patrol-Slide-2
Tools
A man is only as good as his hammer
Bar carts double as work stations, which left unchecked have a tendency to clutter and overcrowd. For the most part, tools should carry a purpose and a function. A small paring knife will cover most bases, foregoing superfluous items like channel knives that rarely (if ever) get used. Another example: disposable chopsticks in lieu of tongs. But then maybe you have an unnecessarily heavy bottle opener shaped like a lobster claw from your last trip to the Cape. Fuck it — that’s cool.

Toolbox


Jigger – $8
Strainer – $12
Pairing Knife – $13
Cutting Board – $42
Ice Bucket – $9
Ice Tray – $14
Mixing Glass – $40
Muddler – $4
Wine and Bottle Opener – $8
Absinthe Spoon – $5

Glass-Bar-Cart-Gear-Patrol-Slide-1

Glass
Your best wares forward
Like your tools, the vessels on hand should complement the drinks you’ll likely be having. Don’t display champagne flutes if you don’t drink champagne. Buy glass modestly, because an accident will happen eventually; companies like CB2 make affordable but elegant. But then again, heirloom-grade cut crystal like these Waterford Crystal’s Double Old Fashioned and High Balls (you might recognize these from Mad Men) will feel substantial in the hand — a handsome vessel for your prized spirits.

perfect-bar-cart-broken-glass

Wares


Old-Fashioned – $175
High-Ball – $175
Beer Glasses – $15
Champagne Flute – $20
Wine Glasses – $6
Julep Silver Plated Cup – $9
Shot Glasses – $1
Circon Decanter – $395
Libations Bar Cart – $599

Provisions-Gear-Patrol-Slide-2

Provisions
Stay stocked and embrace imports
Some pantry items are for cocktails (onions, cherries, bitters). Others are for simple snacking (mixed nuts, maybe wasabi peas). Things like olives are found in both. When it comes to snacking, the saltier, the better. Live a little; you’re not eating a whole bag. (Unless it’s smokehouse almonds. Then you might.)

provisions-shopping-list

Grocery


Aromatic Bitters (Angostura, Hella Bitters)
Orange Bittes (Regans No.6)
Sugar Cubes (La Perruche)
Maraschino Cherries – more
Nuts (Pistachios, Almonds)
Olives (La Espanola)
Salt (Jacobsen)
Citrus (Lemon, Lime, Grapefruit)
Mint
Gibson

Extras-Gear-Patrol-Slide-1

Finishing Touches
The Extra 10%
Details go a long way with bar carts. Finishing touches should accommodate and entertain both guests and yourself. Curate a mood or an activity with understated music or favorite magazines. Drinking by oneself is too often frowned upon — we disagree with that notion — but done with intent and reservation, a nightcap or evening libation can be a meditative process after a long day. Here’s to you, good sir. You deserve it.

finishing-touches-detail

Details


Coasters – $125 (or Napkins)
Playing Cards – eBay
Magazines
Books
Records (vintage jazz, preferably your father’s)
Ashtray (lipstick stain at your discretion

Further Reading

Gluten-Free Beer Shootout
10 Canned Craft Beers To Drink Now
8 Best Saison Beers
Profile of Dogfish Head Minute IPAs
Donkey and Goat 2012 Lily’s Cuvée Chardonnay
A Visit to Highland Park Distillery
Touring the Home of Jameson Irish Whiskey
Waterford Crystal London Collection Glassware
Around the World in Seven Vodkas
15 Best Bourbons You Can Actually Buy
5 Best Japanese Whiskies
Mulled Wine, Three Ways
10 Canned Craft Beers To Drink Now
The Michelada Three Ways
Guide to Beer Glassware
Tasting the First Beer Aged in Jameson Barrels
The Tasting Notes Archives

best-restaurants-promo-970x500