Bar Cart on a Budget

One of my favourite projects this past winter was setting up our bar cart. We've been enjoying it ever since, whether it's a chicken wing and G&T night while watching Netflix, or having friends over for impromptu Moscow mules.

Buying a bar cart and stocking it from scratch can get expensive, but it doesn't have to be. The boy and I spent around $300-350 on ours, including the cart (a $60 find from IKEA), barware, liquor, and mixers. Depending on your taste in liquor and barware, your bar cart may cost significantly less. I figure this cart will have paid for itself after ten rounds if I think about how much lounges typically charge for cocktails. Not bad!

Here are my tips for creating a bar cart without breaking the bank.

Forget the fripperies. A Pinterest search for "bar cart" will turn up hundreds, if not thousands, of perfectly styled bar carts: a whimsical print (Pop! Fizz! Clink!) nestled behind glassware; a peony in a bud vase, sitting on a stack of fashion books; a lacquered tray corralling the cocktail shaker and martini glasses. These visual touches are great fun and rich inspiration. But really, none of them are necessary. I can't drink these frivolities or drink from them. Essentials first, which brings me to my next point...

Figure out what you like to drink, and stock your cart accordingly. We like dirty martinis, Caesars, gin and tonics, and Moscow mules, so gin, vodka, ginger beer, and vermouth were an excellent starting point, along with a couple of Malbecs.

Invest in bar accessories and glassware. If you're saving money on non-bar-related frivolities, you can spend a more on stylish cocktail implements and fancy drinking glasses—you know, things you'll actually use to create and enjoy drinks. I found my highball glasses, champagne flutes, and martini glasses at West Elm, Chapters Indigo, and HomeSense, respectively. Decide on a theme (like gold accents), and then shop sales and vintage finds to build up a collection of pretty glasses.

Take advantage of duty free. The boy and I were never keen on shopping duty free in the past because of the hassle, but on our last trip to Seattle, we picked up some spirits on the way home. The price difference was startling; going duty free definitely helped us replenish our bar cart on the cheap.

Are you a fan of bar carts? Do you have any tips to share?


  1. I have the same bar cart! Though I haven't really been able to "style" mine up as much as I want to yet.

    1. Twinsies! Looking forward to seeing how yours turns out.

  2. I love that cart! Have had it on my wish list for some time. I don't drink -- my system just can't do it -- so I'd use it for... well, probably for beauty stuff. *grin* Pretty glasses, too, btw.

    1. Thanks, Janine!

      This cart apparently has a huge cult following on design blogs for all sorts of purposes. You should just go ahead and get it; you'll find some use for it somehow!

  3. We have a bar cart at home too. We used a bathroom cart for ours. It's time for us to restock...we will need more ginger beer, tonic water and soda. I love finding really pretty unique bottles of these three. We also like a variety of bitters. Smart idea to also pick up some alcohol at duty-free!

    We have received so many compliments on our little bar cart.


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