Nothing evokes the spirit of a good time quite like a vintage bar cart. With a bar cart, you needn’t summon spirits from random cabinets, or rummage up appertivo appurtenances from some far recess of the pantry. An antique bar cart provides a collective gathering place for all of your cocktail trappings—from jiggers to ice buckets to bottles of booze! If you’re not sure how to pick the right bar cart for your needs, here are a handful of helpful questions to ask yourself before you go hunting!

RELATED READ: 12 Small Space Home Bar Ideas to Cheers To!

Design by Laura U Design Collective / Amy Bartlam

What’s Your Party-Throwing Style?

When it comes to shin-dig-throwing, who are your party muses? Do your parties conjure Gatsby glam-fests, or are Slim Aarons poolside soirees more your speed? Taking stock of your parties’ milieu can provide invaluable insight about what kinds of bar carts might suit you best. If you like to host indoor-outdoor parties outfitted in floral frocks and brazenly barefoot, consider a rattan bar cart or a wicker bar cart. Either is ideal for evoking a casual, bohemian aura. A scrolly iron garden bar cart used indoors might also be befitting. For more by-the-book hosts, purvey bar carts in more distinguished styles. A vintage mahogany tea cart or Georgian drop-leaf bar can recall old-school graciousness, perfect for hosting a collection of reserve whiskies and cognacs. 

modernist wood and chrome bar car backed against a cobalt blue wall
Design by Laura U Design Collective / Photo by Julie Soefer

Do You Do the Locomotion? 

Pay some mind to the progression of your parties. Do they often start indoors and wind up three sheets to the wind—literally—outdoors? If they do, you might want to consider a rolling bar cart. Ideal for parties that pingpong between rooms, a rolling bar cart or trolley ensures the buzz is chasing you and your guests, not the other way around. If you’re shopping vintage rolling bar carts, take a bit of care to make sure the wheels are actually in working order. Let’s just say, a bar cart marooned in a hallway or the far corner of the pool deck isn’t helpful to anyone. You might also consider opting for a rolling bar cart in a lightweight material like bamboo or rattan. Even with wheels, doing the locomotion with a solid mahogany bar cart isn’t the easiest party trick.

Design by Kimberly Harrison Interiors / Photo by David Duncan Livingston

Do You Fancy Fixings?

If neat is both yours’ and your crews’ sweet spot, there might be no need for extra shelves to store cocktail accouterments like metal picks and steel straws. But for those who like to pile on the pickled provisions, shelving to stow all of those garnishing tools can be helpful. Most bar carts have at least two shelves, but those with a penchant for cocktail paraphernalia might want to spring for at least one more. To keep things looking tidy, try incorporating a few small decorative boxes. They’re ideal for holding the littlest of cocktail dressings, including picks, wine charms, and bottle stoppers. Ashtrays, whether they’re vintage French advertising ashtrays or authentic Mid-Century Bitossi, also offer up an ingenious way to keep things spick and span.

Photo courtesy of Pappas Miron

Do You Have Material Motives?

From lacquer to Lucite, bar carts come in virtually every material imaginable. To decide on the right material, pay some mind to both your interior aesthetics and your entertaining style. For instance, their wipe-ability and lightweight-ness makes Lucite and bamboo bar carts prime for poolside entertaining. Love a DIY bar? You might consider springing for a lacquer bar cart. Lacquer can easily be mopped up when spills occur—or hours after—without any risk of staining. For bar carts that read more like furniture, consider wood bar carts. But beware, they’re prone to water rings so keep an eye on tipsy drink makers. To dial up a glam factor, consider a metal bar cart, such as a chrome or brass one.

Photo courtesy of Redmond Aldrich / Photo by Bess Friday

Closing Tip: If a bar cart feels like a frivolous investment, try this ersatz alternative: place a tray on a credenza and load it with a few bottles of the good stuff. Just like that, you’ve crafted a spur-of-the-moment drink mixing station perfect for punctuating any dinner party, formal or casual!

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Lead photo design by Robin Gannon Interiors /  Photo by Michael J. Lee


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January 4, 2022

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