If there’s one thing I’m known for amongst my friend group, it’s my bar cart. It’s stocked with everything you need to shake, stir, and blend up a cocktail — and then some. I have the garnishes, the fancy syrups, the edible roses (yes, I’m that extra). Come summer, my place is the entertainment capital of the group.
Over the years, I’ve picked up a thing or two about bartending at home, and I’m here to share with you my fool-proof guide to stocking your bar cart for your entertaining needs this summer. Because just like my wardrobe, I swap out the items on my bar cart according to the seasons (again, yes, I’m that extra).
Choose Your Spirits
Whether you plan to add the spirits you already have or start from scratch, knowing your base spirits goes a long way in creating a seamless at-home cocktail experience for you and your guests. Every bar cart should have the essential base spirits, although this will depend on what you regularly drink and how adventurous you’re willing to get with this task. Let’s start with the basics.
Vodka is the spirit everyone can count on. It’s easy to mix in just about any cocktail, and it’s relatively cheap, depending on the brand. There are a few Australian brands you might want to consider, such as Ugly Vodka, which is made from imperfect apples. I love supporting local distilleries, and this is one of my favourite vodkas.
Gin is another base spirit that is easy to mix with, tastes great, and is commonly used in cocktails you might order at a bar or restaurant. Thanks to Australia’s gin boom, so many flavours and styles are easily available, and they’re perfect for summer sipping. A few of my favourites include Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin (a staple for martinis), the Coral gin from Applewood Distillery (if you like colourful cocktails, and the Tom Yummy gin or Mediterranean gin from Three Fold Distillery (if you want to impress guests).
If you had asked me five years ago, I wouldn’t even consider tequila an essential, but its growing popularity can’t be stopped. Choose a product made from 100% agave. Blanco is the best for cocktails and also the most common type of tequila used, but if you want to experiment, pick up a bottle of reposado. Kendall Jenner’s 818 tequila should do the trick. Margaritas are a summer staple.
I recommend starting with a white rum — best for mojitos — but don’t let that stop you from picking up an aged rum or even a flavoured rum.
Whisky can be the most expensive bottle on your bar cart, or it could be the least. It depends on your budget and taste. Whichever you choose, having whisky handy is essential for most cocktails, from an old-fashioned to a whisky sour.
Get Fancy with Liqueurs and Syrups
Most cocktail recipes require a liqueur or syrup. This could be anything from Amaretto (almond-flavoured liqueur) to dry vermouth. If you’re a fan of martinis, keep a bottle of sweet and dry vermouth on hand. Regal Rogue is the best, in my opinion.
It’s always good to have triple sec (orange liqueur) and simple syrup within reach, as they’re both commonly used in many summer-style cocktails to add sweetness. If you want more syrups, consider St. Germain Elderflower liqueur to add a unique twist to your cocktails. Who doesn’t love elderflower?
Another tip is to keep an eye out for syrups when you’re travelling. I picked up a pomegranate syrup in Orange, and I can’t get enough of it. It’s a great way to experiment and support local businesses.
Get Extra with Garnishes
You don’t need garnishes, but I’m extra and love my garnishes. This trio of dried limes, oranges, and lemons from Mary Valley Food Co is great for gin and tonics. Then there are the fancy rim garnishes, such as this watermelon sugar one from Mr Consistent and rose petals from The Cocktail Cart for that added touch of flair. At the moment, I’m obsessed with these dehydrated pineapple slices from I Am Thirsty. They’re perfect for G&Ts.
A Few Things to Note Down
Before your guests come over, pop your martini glasses in the fridge so they’re nice and cold when it comes time to serve. If you’re whipping up margaritas, mojitos, really anything, a cold glass goes a long way in keeping the drink colder for longer—even in the heat.
I’ve also found keeping the bar away from food prevents everyone from standing in one area. If possible, wheel your bar cart in or near the kitchen. It will save you running around for ice and other bits and pieces when entertaining.
Bottle pourers keep things clean, but not everyone has them, including me. If you rub some wax paper over the tip of the liquor bottle, it will prevent dripping when you’re pouring.