How To Stock a Basic Bar Cart [Plus: Cocktails!]

Entertaining, Home


We’ve talked about how to style a basic bar cart for your home, but how do you make stock your basic bar cart to make it practical and functional, too?

A good assortment of spirits, mixers, garnishes, glassware and a few pieces of key barware are paramount to getting your at-home bartending game on.

Whether you’re stocking your first basic bar cart or replenishing your spirits for upcoming entertaining needs, here’s how to do it without breaking the bank.

What You Need

  • Spirits
  • Mixers
  • Garnishes
  • Glassware
  • Barware


Buying a variety of spirits is important when stocking your first bar. When entertaining guests, it’s good to have some choices. It is unnecessary to have every type of liquor available but there are basic liquors that can be used different ways to suit many pallets.

Here are the basic liquors to keep on hand:

  • Vodka
  • Tequila
  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Bourbon

Scotch is also a somewhat common liquor, but not one that is necessary to keep on hand unless you or multiple individuals that you entertain are fans. If you do decide to stock scotch, make sure you spend a little extra money for the good stuff — it is generally drank on the rocks.

(Speaking of splurging: If you are going to fork over big bucks on liquor, splurge on bourbon and rum. These are both used frequently and their flavors are very strong).


Mixers are an essential part of your bar.  It is likely that, if you are entertaining, guests wanting liquor will want mixed drinks.

Otherwise, you have people doing shots and it sounds like you have a frat party on your hands.

Wait, where should we put the keg?

There are many different drinks and some will require mixers you don’t have. However, there are basic mixers to have around that can make the more common drinks.

  • Tonic Water  — plain or diet
  • Fruit Juice — cranberry, lemon and lime are good mainstays
  • Soda – plain seltzer is a must, plus any sodas you like to drink mixed with spirits (i.e. a rum and Coke)


Have a different types of citrus available to add flavor and garnish your drinks. Olives, blue cheese olives and Luxardo cherries are all a good bet, too.

  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Luxardo Cherries
  • Olives
  • Fresh herbs (i.e. mint for a Mojito)

Glassware and Barware

When purchasing glassware, you should get short glasses, tall glasses and stem glasses. For wine, make sure you have sets for white and red wines — I buy the cheapo glasses at Target or World Market since more often than not, my wine glasses wind up in shards at the bottom of my sink.

To make basic drinks, you will need a jigger and a cocktail shaker, and maybe a long stirring spoon.

These bar essentials will take you a long way. By having a stocked bar, you are able to entertain friends with ease and experiment with new and old cocktail flavors.

Speaking of…

While we’re at it, here are a few classic cocktail recipes every hostess should have in her repertoire.


Aviation Gin Cocktail from Platings and Pairings


The Perfect Cosmopolitan from Creative Culinary

best moscow mule 3

Classic Moscow Mule

Photo: Leigh Loftus

Photo: Leigh Loftus

Perfect Manhattan


Old Fashioned Cocktail from Creative Culinary

mojito recipe

Photo: Leigh Loftus

Classic Mojito


Photo: Leigh Loftus

Perfect Margarita


Sazerac Cocktail from Off the Meat Hook


The Classic Dirty Martini from Food Fashion and Fun

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