Written by a Bartender

I’ve been a bartender since I could legally serve alcohol. If you don’t care for your sanity, have a strong personality, and like to do 100 things at once, you can make some really good money. And it’s a skill you can put into use just about anywhere around the world.

I also love my house. I’m a nester, and I love to create a space that makes me happy to live in and is useful. I love to entertain, and would often hold large dinner parties pre-‘rona. Now that I have a girlfriend who likes to cook even more than I, having a variety of options to complement our meal and crafting unique drinks you couldn’t get at a bar is something I love to do just as much as the show of being a bartender.

I didn’t get my first bar cart until I was 22, and now that I’ve had it for a few years, this is how I would have told younger me to stock her bar cart.

The Booze

I love strolling through the LCBO isles to find all the interesting young alcohol companies out there. It’s a shame our liquor buying regulations for stores don’t allow more small-batch distillers with creativity to enter the market other than by selling to restaurants with a very high markup.


You never know when someone will stop by with news to share. Great for celebrating special occasions or cheering someone up, there are plenty of great drinks you can make with bubbly wines.


This very classic alcohol has had a little resurgence in the past decade and is great for a warm but milder drink.


This is both my partner’s and my favourite alcohol. Bitter can be mixed or just drank with tonic.


This alcohol just screams summer for me, and I love a refreshing dark and stormy.


While most alcohols are depressants, tequila is actually an upper. Keep a blanco or reposado for mixing, and only buy anjeno if you like sipping tequila.


maybe the most classic of alcohols, most vodkas don’t have too much flavouring that needs to be considered when crafting a cocktail. Also great for crafting bitters and tinctures.


Warm, spicy, good for cocktails or as a mixed drink. Different regions have different rules for how to make this very popular alcohol, so there are lots of flavours to choose from.


The whole bottom half of my bar cart is currently a wine rack. I love trying new wines and am always looking for interesting grapes. I’m currently obsessed with biodynamic producers; Southbrook.

The Mixes

There is an infinite number of mixes. and unless you have space for a full mini fridge for beverages, just pick two or three and buy small cans of others.

Citrus Juices

To make a balanced cocktail, most of them will have some sort of citrus. I usually keep orange, lemon, and lime on hand. Grapefruit for special occasions.

Dessert Wine

Ice wine if you’re Canadian. I find just an ounce in with bubbly brings the flavour to life. Also good as a sharp hit of flavour and sweetness at the same time in cocktails.


I love my gin, so tonic is a very important ingredient for me. More recently, there have been some beautifully flavoured tonics by Fever-Tree that create a great, easy drink.

Ginger Beer

This is only used in a few cocktails relative to other mixers on here, but it’s so refreshing. Add a splash to your sangria for a pleasant surprise.


Defined as alcohol-infused with flowers, herbs, nuts, or spices, these are the secret from taking a mixed drink to a real cocktail. My favourites include St Germain, Aperol, and Amaretto. Most of them are also great in baking and desserts.


I actually use more schnapps in baking than I do in cocktails, but it also adds a subtle sweetness to red sangrias.


Keep this in the fridge after opening, not actually on your bar cart, but important for making negronis and martinis.

The Garnish

I don’t use garnish on an everyday basis. But if you’re looking to create cocktails for a lot of guests, pre-garnish some glasses to make picture-perfect and interesting cocktails a breeze.


There are so many flavours of bitters available. They’re a great way to add a complex flavour to your cocktail that you wouldn’t normally expect.

Brandy Cherries

Super easy to make, these are way better than regular maraschino cherries and a great way to add a little sweetness to a drink.

Edible Flowers

Why don’t we have more edible flowers? There are so many varieties and SO many ways to use them. Fresh or dried, they make drinks look magical. You can even grow them in your garden.

Citrus Rind

If you’re juicing fresh citrus for your cocktail, use some of the aromatics of the peel around the rim and as a garnish to easily elevate your drink.

Herbs & Spices

Rosemary, lavender, thyme, basil, and mint are all easy to grow and make great additions to cocktails, or when making your own bitters. You can even experiment with mint varieties for the perfect mojito bar.


Slats are a great way to extend your harvest, and just a sprinkle in a drink can really add the balance you didn’t know you needed. The other common bar salt to have on hand is celery salt (for cesars).


Support your local beekeeper. I’ve recently discovered tons of wonderfully flavoured honey, and they add a great subtlety to cocktails.


Champagne Flutes

Maybe the classiest thing to drink out of, other than a coupe. Keep two on your bar cart, as they’re skinny and don’t take up too much space.


If you like ice in your drink, but don’t want the drink to be watered down, chose a small glass and heap the ice after adding the alcohol.

Shot Glasses

If you like to entertain, shot glasses are a great thing to stock on your bar cart. You don’t have to worry about a bunch of glasses getting dirty, and they are a great way to share a taste of a drink with someone as well.

Wine Glasses

I’m a clutz, so I like my wine glasses stemless, but most of my guests prefer stemmed. Also, a great place to start if you’re just beginning to stock a bar cart. Most cocktails and mixed drinks look great in them.


I love having little vignettes in my place to organize my various hobbies. Tools may be the most important part, as you can’t do too much without them.

Bottle Oppener

I have been stuck many times with a bottle of wine and no opener. I’ve also had airport security confiscate multiple bottle openers off me. They come and they go, but find ones that are easy to use.

Cocktail Shaker

This is really the opportunity for a statement piece on a bar if there ever was one. It’ll be in your hands, endless photos, and probably dropped one or two times.


You never know when you’ll lose a bottle cap. Best to have a few on hand to store everything properly.


Most importantly for aerating wine, old decanters can also be a way to unify the look of your bar, by getting rid of any ugly bottles.

Tooth Picks

For guests, for garnish, toothpicks are one of the essential tools to stock the bar cart.


If you don’t have a way to measure your cocktails, how can you replicate a drink? If you’re measuring something sweet, measure it first and use something more viscous to get it all into your drink.


Most cocktail shakers come with a strainer, and it’s a good way to transfer a drink.


Bar spoons are long and skinny so you can stir your drink without spilling ice everywhere and get into tall glasses. Don’t stir longer than 45 seconds or you’ll just be melting your ice into your drink.

Finishing Touches to Stocking a Bar Cart

Cocktail Recipe Book

If you don’t want to be bothered every minute you are entertaining, or you need some additional inspiration. Books are always a great way to learn something new.

Deck of Cards

I almost always find people with the cards out late at night at a gathering. Best to keep them in a place they can easily find them.


You know I love my plants. They add so much visual interest and personality to a bar cart set up. Change up your pots with new decor to help give the space a really easy update.