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The holidays are here and with them, holiday parties! Whether you’re hosting a pre-Christmas cocktail party or a New Year’s Eve bash, a beautiful bar cart is the crown jewel of party decor. As the focal point of the room, it had better be stocked, styled and ready for the onslaught (err, festivities). In an effort to prepare you for a merry evening, we put together a quick checklist to ensure that your next social gathering is a complete success.
Get the Cart: There’s nothing that says party like a well-styled bar cart. I love the warmth of Mid-Century teak, but there’s no shortage of vintage bar carts to choose from, whether you prefer space-age Lucite, the gritty/fancy feel of a repurposed industrial cart or the high-gloss finish of brass and glass.
Think About the Drinks: Consider your attendees, the theme of your party and what kind of experience you’re hoping to create. Personally, I like to premix a signature festive punch (something easy, tasty and surprisingly strong), put out ice, spirits and mixers so guests can pick their poison, and offer beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks for those who prefer it. A controlled free-for-all.
Don’t Overthink: When it comes to drinks, you don’t need to offer everything known to man to show everyone a good time. Sticking to festive punch and champagne? Great. Spirits and mixers? Fine. Just beer and wine? Awesome. Your guests will appreciate and enjoy whatever is offered because it’s a party and it’s free. Both magical words.
Liquor—When to Spend, When to Splurge: You can save money on the vodka—it’s relatively flavorless and dominated by mixers anyway—and gin (Gordon’s level will do). Cheap rums and bourbons are a no-go. They taste like burning and bad decisions, even in a mixed drink. And of course, if you’re offering something meant to be served neat, don’t skimp.
The Accoutrements: The hooch may be the star of the show, but mixers and ice can’t be forgotten. Experts recommend using on-brand tonic and soda water because they have more fizz and better flavor. Fresh lemons, limes and oranges are also key. A good rule of thumb is 12 lemons, 12 limes and 8 oranges per 25 guests. Also, it never hurts to have more ice than you think you’ll need!
The Barware: Ice buckets, shakers, glasses, straw dispensers, this is your chance to show off all your vintage barware! Group your glasses on the cart by style—highballs, champagne flutes, tumblers, etc. They don’t all have to match, in fact, it’s fun if they don’t. I love anything gilded or embellished for the holidays.
Add Style Points: Dress it up with color, texture and height variation. Cue the fresh flowers or greenery, figurines, candle sticks, coasters and colorful napkins. I’ve also seen some lovely styling with white fairy lights. Though candles look lovely, I don’t recommend lighting them. You don’t want someone’s sleeve catching on fire as they reach for another glass of punch.
Have Fun: The bottles are all in a row and the champagne is chilling. This is where you pour yourself a drink, raise your glass and relax. Keep an eye on the ice and refill the punch pitcher if you need to, but otherwise, enjoy your time with your guests and let the little things work themselves out.