How to Build a Classy, Practical & Downright Delicious Bar Cart

OBB’s Practical tips for building the best bar cart for entertaining

My husband and I recently bought a summer home in the North Fork of Long Island and we’ve taken on a home decorating project. Since we both travel quite frequently, we’re doing things piece by piece, taking our time and homing our style. One of the very first things we decided to tackle was putting together our Bar Cart.

We put this West Elm bar cart on our wedding registry and we actually got it! My husband was over the moon when it showed up in our home and he got to work right away. He bought a crystal shaker and stirrer from the Williams Sonoma outlet, put all of his antique cocktail glasses and wine glasses out and began to build his bar with our favorite spirits, bitters, tools, etc. (He had to make sure he had everything for my favorite cocktail: The Negroni).

While we’re still in the midst of finalizing ours, I turned to a true expert, an Outer Boro Bro: Dino Altomare. Dino is an all-around wine and spirits expert whose worked for exceptional brands such as Banfi Vinters and LVMH and now as the Export Manager for Nyetimber based in the UK.

Dino doesn’t have one bar cart, but two. Below he shares his secrets with me on how to build the ultimate bar cart:

Outer Boro Broad: What advice would you give someone starting out building their own bar cart?

Dino Altomare: For me, starting with the alcohol. It’s all about balance. Obviously you need your classic spirits, which most cocktails will be based on: vodka, gin, bourbon, scotch, etc.

And then this is where the balance comes in. You need at least a sweet element like a sweet vermouth or a lillet (None of that schnapps or juice sh*t) and a bitter element like a Campari or Aperol or Punte Mes, or even a cool local bitter.

And to clarify, the sweet and bitter elements should be broken up. For example: bitter would be helpful to have both as an aperitivo style, a digestivo style and and a style meant for cocktailing. And if you lack a Sodastream, an old school soda canister is perfect for both style and function

From there, you can really start composing a host of cocktails in a pinch. I’m thinking Sebastian Maniscalo style—when company comes over on a Sunday unannounced.

Outer Boro Broad: And let’s not forget the accessories…

Dino Altomare: For glassware needs, if we’re keeping it small, a coupe can serve so many functions from bubbly to martinis to manhattans. Really, it’s the jack of all trades and is the rage right now. But then again, you need a classic highball, too.

If you’re going full enchilada, then you need martini glasses, coupes, highball and a snifter. You’ll always need a good jigger too, a shaker, a good spoon mixer, spears and a zester-ish thingy for a good citrus peel.

Let’s not forget fun, but demure coasters and a decanter filled with your favorite brown spirit, which is both beautiful and functional.

Outer Boro Broad: Anything else that’s a must-have on the bar cart?

Dino Altomare: You must have a bottle of bubbly on hand for both serving on its own or in cocktails. So a good quality, but medium price point so that you don’t mind mixing it. As for garnishes, have on hand good quality maraschino cherries, anything brined for martinis like olives, onions, pickles. It’s really about quality. You’ll destroy a beautiful cocktail with cheap sugar and syrups. Stay all natural for this!

Today’s educated cocktail enthusiast desires balance and purity. Simple harmony of flavors; certainly not over the top, overly manufactured fruit and sweeteners. A cocktail is literally designed to whet the appetite NOT to obliterate your palate and mind.

Outer Boro Broad: What’s your cocktail crush right now?

Dino Altomare: Since I’ve been working for a UK-based firm, I’m really into the London martinis. They’re a third of the normal size we see here and they’re designed to drink on its own to liven up the palate, but not render you immobile.