We asked Amanda Chen, founder of Salty Paloma, for her best tips and tricks for creating a well-stocked and stylish bar cart at home.
Whether you’re new to the hosting game or are ready to graduate from Fireball shots, there are a few basics everyone needs for upcoming parties. What are three must-have items for both novices and liquor connoisseurs to have on their bar carts?
Besides the alcohol and mixers, the three basic needs for your bar cart are tools, glassware and garnishes. Cocktail tools can vary; you can either get a cocktail tool kit that comes with a stand or pick and choose what you want to feature. In order to make a cocktail you definitely need a jigger to measure with, and a cocktail shaker with a strainer. If you’re more into spirit-forward stirred cocktails, I’d also invest in a mixing glass — I love a wide bottom Japanese yarai.
And of course, you’ll need glassware for your guests to drink with. I love stemmed glassware with a gold rim to add a special touch. Another essential is a decanter to store your favourite spirits – I love this mezcal decanter that doubles as a citrus reamer to easily juice limes.
Speaking of lime juice, garnishes make a bar cart complete. Whether you want to have a bowl of fresh citrus or have them precut, there are no rules! And of course, some bottles of Salty Paloma cocktail rimmers and a couple bitters will definitely impress a crowd.
How often should you restock or replenish your supply? What about leaving spirits out for longer periods of time?
There isn’t a hard rule for this. I would generally replenish my supply whenever I’m at a low quantity of something. It’s also an excuse to try something new! If I’m running low on vermouth I’ll check out another brand to try it out.
Most spirits don’t really expire in the sense of “going bad” enough to make you sick. They just diminish in flavour as time goes on after you’ve opened the bottle. Because of this, you’d want to prioritize finishing up that fancy golden Tequila Reposado over a clear spirit like a vodka or gin. I have some spirits sitting on my bar cart for years until a new guest comes over and wants to try it. However, some of the sweeter liqueurs should be kept in the fridge, specifically sweet and dry vermouth, and any cream or coffee flavoured liqueurs.
You may not like whiskey, but your guests might. What variety of booze should you have to please every type of guest?
The general rail includes five spirits: gin, vodka, tequila, rum and whiskey. That could get expensive though. If you personally don’t drink some of these spirits, don’t worry too much about it — stock your bar cart with what you like. If your guests aren’t particularly keen on what you have, this is their opportunity to experiment with something new.
I think what’s more important than the spirits is the liqueurs. Make sure you have sweet and dry vermouth for most of the classic cocktails. Triple Sec is also a must-have if you’re a fan of shaken cocktails like margaritas and cosmopolitans. Speaking of Margaritas, you’ll definitely need a bottle of our OG Margarita Salt – Salty Paloma Fiesta, made with himalayan sea salt, lime and grapefruit. And a bottle of Angostura bitters is like the salt & pepper for mixology.
A well-stocked bar cart isn’t just about the liqueurs. What decorative elements would you add to boost your bar cart’s decorative appeal? What bar tools would you leave out on display?
Like any piece of furniture in your home, your bar cart is a representation of you. Don’t feel like you need to stock up like an actual bar. Besides assembling your favourite spirits, the whole point of bar cart styling is in the accents.
Think of it like a coffee table — stack up some mixology books that have beautiful images for your guests to flip through. Make it really stand out by choosing something with a pop of colour. I prefer adding a vase with flowers or a bright ceramic pineapple. Pineapples are a huge element in bar carts because they represent the symbol of hospitality – and that’s why you see the pineapple “crown” piece is made as a centerpiece in a lot of food platters.
And of course, you’ll need your tools to go along with your booze for easy access. Proudly display your cocktail shaker, ice bucket and your favourite glassware. Don’t forget the mix! I like to add some sparkling drinks like perrier and even a bowl of fresh limes. Vodka sodas, anyone?
No one wants to drink a cocktail out of a Solo cup; what glassware do we need?
You really just need two types of glassware for cocktails to serve either “up” or “on the rocks.” Serving something “up” is typically in a stemmed glass with no ice, and serving something “on the rocks” would be in a tumbler glass over ice.
For stemmed glass I prefer the Nick and Nora, or if you want to go Gatsby you can go for a coupe. Don’t be afraid to mix and match! They don’t all have to be a set of 4. I used to shop at various antique markets to collect one-off glasses that I would pepper on my bar cart.
Image courtesy of Emi @emifujiiphotography (Amanda Chen).