In 2015, Jim Meehan, the acclaimed bartender behind New York’s PDT, teamed up with posh leather goods company Moore & Giles to unveil The Sidecar. This handsome bar cart melds an aluminum frame with stained Virginia black walnut and flaunts a sleek butcher-block top and ergonomic shelves. Naturally it’s also tricked out with leather, which wraps handles, inlays doors and lines trays. The cost for this handcrafted showstopper? $13,500.
Yet when the craving for a portable liquor cabinet strikes, home (and office) barkeeps need not deliberate between buying The Sidecar and “a new Kia” as Colin Carroll, the bar manager of Trifecta in Portland, Ore., points out. Plenty of affordable alternatives are efficient and easy on the eyes. “A good bar cart is portable, at least within the space it resides,” says Carroll. “Is it Ted from accounting’s last day? Roll that thing into conference room three, and let’s get this party live. Do you have a veranda? Boom: Caipirinhas for all your barbecue guests.”
While many bar carts are simply comprised of several tiers and outfitted with ready-to-roam wheels, Carroll admits this layout isn’t particularly conducive to toting around vast amounts of fragile bottles and glassware—especially of the high-quality variety. “I like ones with storage already built in. This is going to save that Green Chartreuse VS to show off to all of your friends,” he says. The addition of a stemware rack is another boon.
Peter Vestinos, the beverage director of the Cuban-inflected Sparrow in Chicago, notes that the bar cart favored in home settings differs from the ones roving through restaurants, which, to best maneuver tight corners, are compact and often dedicated to making, say, Manhattans or Old Fashioneds. “A home cart can be more of a centerpiece and therefore a bit larger to accommodate a wider range of products you may need while hosting,” he says. Drawers to hold tools are indeed handy, but it’s a roost for ice that Vestinos believes is key. “You will need a larger ice supply, possibly to hold cubed and crushed varieties, and that container should be easy to remove and clean. I would probably want a place to dump liquids as a sink won’t be available nearby,” he adds.
Functionality is, of course, a priority for the piece you buy, but considering it will likely be a dominant piece of furniture, looks do matter. Carroll has witnessed a number of people “in violation of cross-pollinating design styles. Does your house have that French country thing going on? Then don’t buy something midcentury modern.” The bar cart, he reminds, “is a booze-carrying statement to friends and co-workers.”
Those lucky souls graced with their own backyard or balcony should consider Joss & Main’s Kerwin Patio Bar Cart ($181.95) for inevitable alfresco shindigs. Crafted from metal, wicker and resin, it’s the perfect complement to pools and breezy lounge chairs. A roomy metal shelf and drawer mean the menu can call for both frosty Margaritas and Daiquiris.
Doubling as a side table, DwellStudio’s Art Deco–inspired Connaught Serving Cart ($1,479) is an elegant nod to the grand hotel hideouts of yesteryear. Finished in antique brass or polished nickel, it has three spherical glass shelves that beg to show off a classy reserve of cordials and coupés.
A mix of metal and glass gives Birch Lane’s McAllister Bar Cart ($199) an attractive industrial sheen. Let tequila bottles stand proudly on the soaring bottom shelf, while rocks glasses are showcased above. Play the ultimate host by presenting your guests a thoughtfully made Paloma on the cart’s built-in removable tray.
Serve apple juice in a plastic bottle from Zinc Door’s Ring Bar Cart ($347), and guests will still be enthralled. So striking is the bar cart’s circular design, blending antique mirrors with a glamorous metallic finish, Negroni-slinging skills will surely take a back seat during any soiree at which it makes an eye-popping cameo.
Even tiny apartments have room for AllModern’s Trento Serving Cart ($122) by Hokku Designs. Contrasting black tempered glass with chrome, it’s glossy and slender, with a built-in bottle holder and push handle evoking a luxe, contemporary shopping cart. Pouring Japanese whisky from this one is sure to impress.
The New Traditionalists’ rustic Bar Cart No. 1 ($3,500), handmade in New England, is fashioned from North American black walnut, oak or maple. Highlight your bourbon collection on the first commodious shelf and vintage glasses on the second. Atop is an oil-rubbed natural-wood tray, which can be conveniently removed for cleaning. Fancy a splash of color? Finishes are available in such bright hues as chile pepper red.