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In college, many of my friends’ most earnest overtures toward home decor were rows of empty liquor bottles displayed on top of the cabinets like trophies. I consider the cocktail cart the upgraded, socially acceptable version of decorating with alcohol. The best cocktail carts (also known as bar carts) also have the benefit of being a practical storage space for alcohol that hasn’t yet been actually consumed, and they make great decor or accent pieces in your room too.
The bar cart is a functional nod to the Mad Men era (though not necessarily midcentury modern in design), and it’s pretty easy to see why this particular piece of furniture is enjoying a comeback. Especially great if you’re interested in experimenting with your own cocktails, it’s a way to bring the bar (and all assorted accoutrements) into your own home. It’s also practical if you simply want to free up some space in your liquor cabinet.
The design and style of cart falls to personal taste, but in general we like simple, classic designs that don’t take up all the attention in the room. Functionality is the other important element.
What to Look For Before Buying a Cocktail Cart
Size: Bar carts are generally on the small side, which is what makes them perfect to tuck into convenient and unobtrusive corners. Think about how much space you have to work with, and how much storage and surface area you’re going to need. Typically, there should be enough space for a few bottles of liquor, some glasses, and perhaps room for a few accessories (think ice buckets or stir sticks). Shape is another consideration here, and we find simple lines work best.
Style: Style is hardly one-size-fits all, but we chose pieces with classic and minimalist designs that fits easily with most aesthetics.
Mobility: Cocktail carts, being carts, come equipped with wheels. There is still some question of whether or not you actually need the cart to move. To be honest, in many cases the cart simply lives in the same spot which makes wheels rather unnecessary, but for others, mobility may be more important.
Extras: A cocktail cart really needs very little other than two or three flat surfaces on which to place drinks, but we find a few additional details go a long way. Guardrails, for instance, are a feature to look for, as are built-in racks for wine bottles and glasses.
1. Haotian Bar Serving Cart
A well-constructed unit for those whose personal style tends toward industrial, this cocktail cart hits all the marks we’re looking for.
Small enough to fit conveniently in most spaces, its three shelves also make plenty of room for whatever you might need to store, whether that’s liquor bottles or stemware. Helpful features to this cart include racks for both wine bottles and wine glasses, as well as a bottom shelf guard rail, and a top shelf which doubles as a removable serving tray.
This bar cart is sturdy and well-made, and offers a ton of options for storage and display. Just come prepared with a power drill when you’re getting ready to assemble.
Pros: Top shelf doubles as a tray.
Cons: Takes a little bit of time to assemble.
2. VASAGLE Industrial Serving Cart
This cart has a variety of uses, and works as well for extra pantry storage, as a kitchen island, or as a discreet end table as it does as a bar cart. It does not include the racks and guardrails carts designed specifically for cocktail serving often have, but the simple design makes this easier to wheel around than many of those models.
Its three shelves provide plenty of storage space, and smaller dimensions mean it is that much more convenient to store in compact spaces. We like the slightly distressed wood top and industrial metal legs and shelving, which give it a rustic, vintage look.
Pros: Rustic style, easy to assemble, with a variety of uses.
Cons: It doesn’t have a specific bar cart look or bar cart features.
3. Nathan James Carter Rolling Bar and Serving Cart
We really like the more modern, minimalist style of this bar cart, which features a glass top instead of wood, and a slim wooden bottom shelf instead of wire racks. It’s a design ideal for spaces that can be described using phrases like “clean lines.”
The cart’s two shelves have guardrails and provide plenty of storage space. It does not include extras like a removable tray or wine racks, but this also makes the cart more versatile than our top pick. As excellent as it is in the kitchen or dining room, it also makes a great side table in a living room, say, for magazines and a lamp.
If you’re actually rolling your cart, this one comes with the largest handle. Its wheels also roll smoothly and easily across most surfaces.
Pros: Contemporary chic, minimalist design.
Cons: Only two shelves.
4. Coaster Home Furnishings Serving Cart
Of all our selections, this cart has the most intentional design style, with a curved chrome frame and frosted glass shelving, which we actually really like.
Functionality-wise, it is small enough to fit tidily into small rooms, and includes racks for stemware and wire holders for wine glasses. It does not offer as much storage space as other models, and our biggest complaint is that the wheels are a little wobbly. That said, it is otherwise of great quality and an elegant addition to any space.
Pros: Great for small spaces, stylish art deco-style look.
Cons: Wheels don’t roll as well as other models on our list.