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Entertain guests with a top shelf bar cart in your own home

Instead of visiting a neighborhood bar for your next top-shelf pour, your next night of toasting can be held in the comfort of your own home—so long as you have the right amenities for a bar cart. Find inspiration on handheld vision board apps such as Pinterest and home decor accounts on Instagram, where you’ll find gorgeous contemporary interior designs complete with displays of choice drinks on quaint bar carts.

Ideas for decorating bar carts are endless, but they serve as a luxurious and functional piece, complementing other elements in the room–from wall art to books and plants. Whether you purchase your bar cart from IKEA, World Market or decide to tackle a DIY project, the visual element doesn’t have to rely on just drinks.

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Recommending trinkets from vintage and secondhand stores such as Flower Child and Hawk Shop, Good Vibes Hive Founder Dani Sage in Clintonville also notes that she uses glasses she inherited from her grandparents.

“Vintage glasses–[they’re] cute little cocktail glasses that [can make any drink seem] extra special,” Sage said. “I also always have rock candy swizzle sticks on my bar cart. Not only are they a nod to my obsession with real crystals, they make a fun replacement in any cocktail that calls for simple syrup!”

Along with staple elements, bar carts can also be themed. While some families cheekily model their carts after former HBO mob series “The Sopranos” or even Boston-centric sitcom, “Cheers”, Sage’s bar cart often reminds visitors of various period dramas. “Our home is mid-century modern, so I try to pull from that era. “‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ is like eye candy to me, and since quarantine made work day drinking acceptable again, ‘Mad Men’ is the perfect inspiration!” Sage joked.

Other bar cart owners even draw inspiration from bars and gastropubs, especially spots in the Short North, where nightlife businesses are rampant. At Antiques on High, the brewery is home to a two-sided tuft leather couch and backlit bar with giant amethyst rocks that can be reimagined into bar cart form. With elaborate wallpaper, the mirrored bathrooms of Oddfellows, Law Bird, and Nada have been notorious for impromptu selfies. As bars have faced earlier closings due to social distancing precautions, some bar carts have replicated local bar favorites. 

“The Top Steakhouse’s bar definitely inspired me. In fact, the glass hangers hanging from their ceiling gave me the idea to put similar ones next to my bar for wine and champagne cocktail glasses,” said journalist Paul Meara, who coined his bar cart The Mearabar. “I also love the mystique of it and its old-fashioned nature, which I try to somewhat capture with my bar.”

After finding statement glassware and decor, your bar cart is ready to be broken in–with drinks, of course. Whether you decide to pour libations using a large dispenser or top off cocktails with garnishes, your bar cart drink essentials should always be within arm’s reach.

“You definitely need the essentials to mix drinks like shakers and stirrers, as well as some of the most common elements many drinks require like olives, cherries, triple sec, simple syrup, tonic water, and club soda,” Meara said. “Everyone’s taste is different, so I try to provide as many options for guests when they come through.”

As winter kicks in, there’s ample time to rearrange your bar cart, especially in preparation for holiday gatherings. For a rustic feel, decorative antlers and earthy candles can sit atop your bar cart, or they can be swapped for gold and crystal accents for hints of glam as New Year’s Eve approaches.

“I’m a compulsive rearranger, constantly moving furniture, art, and accessories all around my house, and the bar cart is no exception–if we’re entertaining, it gets moved around, if I get a new crystal or set of drinking glasses, it gets moved around, if someone gives us a bottle of champagne, it gets moved around,” Sage said. “[Our bar cart] is actually a vintage tea cart, so occasionally I’ll also swap everything out on it to honor it’s former life. The tea I love comes in these beautiful violet apothecary jars and they look so gorgeous on the cart!”

As our time indoors will likely be extended as cold weather settles in, setting up a bar cart will be a crafty way of mixing versatile drinks both traditional and new, while entertaining responsibly from home.

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