Bar cart ideas and styling tips – 16 ways to get the party started

Throw the perfect party with these clever ways to style a bar cart

Bar cart ideas and styling tips
(Image credit: Oka / Neptune / Rowen & Wren)

If you love to entertain then these bar cart and styling tips offer perfect inspiration. Whether you’re planning on hosting a party or having an intimate gathering, bar carts are handy companions for a host to have, whatever the formality of the occasion. 

And never more so than in the holiday season.

Of course, when it comes to entertaining at home, purpose-built home bar ideas are the ultimate goal, but the beauty of the bar cart is that it can be used to serve drinks anywhere in the home and for all occasions, from warming winter cocktails by the fire to summer coolers on the patio. 

Even if you already have a small home bar, a bar cart will bring a sense of occasion to entertaining and often cuts through the formality to bring a more relaxed feel to proceedings. Below we’ve gathered an array of bar cart ideas, and given you styling tips from the professionals.

Bar cart ideas – 16 ways to style a bar cart

If you're wondering how to host a cocktail party for the holidays, then start by investing in a bar cart, stocked with all your cocktail-making essentials. This is how to make them look beautiful.

1. Create a drinks' station

Coniston bar trolley by Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

Take the pressure off serving drinks and make more time to mingle by prepping a bar cart as a drink and nibbles station so that guests can help themselves, this way guests often feel more relaxed, too. You can also make it into a decorative focal point by styling it up with Christmas decorations

2. Host a cocktail party

Sitting room with bar cart and wreath on door

(Image credit: OKa)

You'll need a cocktail shaker and barware set, ideally including a jigger, muddler, bar spoon, strainer, and tongs for ice as well as an ice bucket. 

In terms of glassware invest in a set of martini cocktail glasses, low-ball glasses – also known as rock glasses or old-fashioned glasses – and high-ball glasses for long drinks. Flutes or Champagne saucers are a must for fizzy cocktails and it's also a good idea to have regular water glasses and tumblers set out for non-alcoholic drinks.

Perfect for contemporary and traditional schemes, this Lennox drinks trolley from Oka (opens in new tab) is simple and elegant, plus it is set on casters so it can easily be moved from the dining room to the living room after an evening meal.

3. Bring a sense of fun 

Fun home bar room with bright wallpaper, fabric skirt and blue drinks trolley

(Image credit: Salvesen Graham)

Designed especially for entertaining, bar carts are a wonderful opportunity to introduce a bit of fun with color and pattern. Here the interior designers at Salvesen Graham (opens in new tab) have used a kaleidoscopic wallpaper to bring wow-factor to the home bar while the bright blue retro bar cart creates a playful contrast.

4. Choose a vintage bar cart

Vintage bar cart in a room by Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler image credit Boz Gavoski

(Image credit: Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler / photograph by Boz Gavoski )

When it comes to creating an entertaining, inviting, and comfortable home, it is worth taking note from renowned interior designers, Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler (opens in new tab). Pictured here, from one of their projects, is a stunning vintage bar cart that creates the perfect ceremonial spot to prepare festive drinks. 

‘Nothing says Christmas party to me more than a well-stocked ice bucket, whether it’s full of vintage Champagne or soft drinks. I’ve used all sorts of containers to make an ice bucket at home,’ says Emma Burns, managing director. 

5. Use a bar cart as a side table

Oak bar cart Rowen & Wren

(Image credit: Rowen & Wren)

When they're not being used for serving drinks at cocktail parties, bar carts and drinks trolleys can make handy multifunctional pieces of furniture – why not choose a design that fits with your living room decor and use it as a side table?

Carved from solid oak, this beautiful design from Rowen & Wren (opens in new tab) would make a lovely flexible piece in a traditional or country living room.

6. Take the pressure off the dining table

Dining room with drinks trolley

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

If you're wondering what to put in a dining room other than a dining table then a bar cart makes a great addition as it can serve as extra dining room storage for large items like ice buckets and wine bottles that can clutter up the table and impede conversation. 

7. Decorate to create a focal point of your bar cart

Bar cart ideas with decorations

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to celebrate New Year at home, using a bar cart as a stocked drinks' station is practical as it means you can get ahead and spend more time socializing, but it can bring a sense of occasion and make a decorative focal point. 

Place the bar cart in the entryway or just inside the living room or kitchen so guests can help themselves, and decorate it with Christmas garlands, large balloons and honeycomb balls. Mix a cocktail and pour a few glasses ready for guests on arrival.

8. Keep it neat with a small bar cart on wheels

Bar cart

(Image credit: Future)

Small rooms can still hugely benefit from bar cart ideas – you just have to consider its size and placement. Therefore, avoid placing your bar cart in a high-traffic area, even if you do want it to be the center of attention. We recommend that you keep it neatly tucked to the side or corner of a room – you can always roll it out when everyone wants a refill. 

9. Place a bar cart in an entryway

Bar cart in the hall

(Image credit: Future)

Since the bar cart will inevitably be a gathering spot, you can also use its position to navigate people around different parts of your home. If you're hosting a big crowd, avoiding bottlenecks in the kitchen or the living room can be useful, so consider placing the bar cart in your entryway. After all, who wouldn't want a tipple as soon as they enter the party?

10. Stay on trend with a rattan bar cart

Bar cart made from rattan library

(Image credit: Future)

The new interior design trend of bar carts that lend texture to a scheme has precipitated a revival in all forms of weaving, from '70s inspired wicker to rattan.

Dating from the days of the British Empire and traditionally used to grace conservatories, classic rattan furniture exudes timeless elegance. The denser the weave, the more hardwearing the bar cart will be.

However, rattan bar carts are popular mostly because of how they look. The classic woven rattan texture is instantly recognizable, highly sophisticated and guaranteed to look on-trend for years to come. Perfectly blending country chic and modern minimalism, the design effortlessly adds a touch of elegance to any garden or outdoor space.

11. Set up a drinks' trolley for guests 

Bar cart for guests

(Image credit: Future)

Set up a drinks' trolley as a makeshift home bar to encourage guests to help themselves and rustle up their favorite cocktails. Or, rather than uproot guests following dinner, why not bring the late night drinks to them?

12. Create a sense of occasion at home

Bar cart ideas for the festive season

(Image credit: Jon Day)

It is fair to say that bar carts are having a moment. Many of us are still spending more time at home, and we no longer seek refuge in an overpriced bar. We want the entertainment value that comes from these establishments – just in the comfort of our humble abodes.

'So here’s my advice,' says interior designer Jonathan Adler (opens in new tab). 'Buy a bar and watch your life transform. Suddenly you’re no longer Mildred from Accounting or Henry from HR. You’re Swinging Milly or Swanky Hank. A bar, you shall discover, will make you the toast of the party.'

13. Get the party started with an entertainment area

Bar cart for parties and celebrations

(Image credit: Future)

A home bar cart signifies swagger – it makes young people seem sophisticated and old people seem young. Getting a bar cart is almost a rite of passage – it indicates you have entered your James Bond years but it’s a a lot cheaper than an Aston Martin! Of course, a bar cart is a go-anywhere-funster piece of furniture. Here, the bold colors and oversized balloons bring eccentric glamor to the space.

14. Use natural materials for a spot of summer entertaining

Bar cart with trolley for summer drinks

(Image credit: Future)

From seagrass and bamboo to rattan and cane, natural woven textures are ideal for bringing interiors to life. A trolley is ideal for summer entertaining and this rattan weave design has a smart rustic look. Pair with your favorite tipples and colorful serveware for the ultimate party feel. 

15. Welcome guests into the backyard

Bar cart in a garden

(Image credit: The White Company)

Even the host with the most needs a break to enjoy the party, so stock up a drinks station and let guests help themselves. Premix a cocktail, stash spare glasses and back-up bottles underneath and don’t forget the ice! A bar cart is not only a glamorous touch but easy to move as guests follow the sun or shade. Style it up with a lantern or outdoor lamp for a pretty glow as the sun sets.

16. Dress up a bar cart

Bar cart with fairy lighting

(Image credit: Future)

If you're throwing a glitzy party a metallic bar cart with mirrored surfaces is perfect for bringing a touch of glamor to proceedings. Set up your drinks trolley with all you need to keep serving well into the night. Put bottles in ice-filled buckets below and dress the top with your fanciest glasses and decanters. Add battery-powered string lights to give it that extra sparkle, and wheel it around so guests don’t even need to leave the room.

What can you put on a bar cart besides alcohol?

Surprisingly, bar carts can be used for more than just alcohol. Some of our favorite bar cart ideas feature pretty additions, such as fresh flowers, attractive serveware and even books. Yes, why not turn your bar cart into a book trolley?

What do you put on a bar cart?

What you put on your bar cart depends on the type of party you are hosting. To make sure your bar cart is prepped ready for a cocktail party you’ll need an array of glassware including champagne flutes, whisky tumblers, martini glasses and high ball tumblers for longer drinks, not forgetting of course your spirits and mixers.

You’ll also need a cocktail shaker, an ice bucket with tongs and a barware set, including a jigger, muddler, bar spoon, strainer and measures. Finally don’t forget garnishes like small bowls of olives, sliced lemon, orange and grapefruit as well as herbs like rosemary and mint. Napkins may come in handy too for serving