My 15 Bar Cart Must-Haves: Whiskey and Brandy and Gin, Oh My!

It's been a little over a year since I scored my bar cart at Target for a mere $30. It's become one of my favorite pieces of furniture to decorate – maybe because the accessories are so intoxicating interactive! To know me is to know I'm a big, big fan of craft beer. ...But G and I do dabble with mixing cocktails. ...And I do love a glass of red wine while writing or a glass of white with some dinners.

While there's almost always beer in my fridge, I also try to keep the bar cart stocked up as well. It gets most of its use on the weekends with G and I curled up on the couch playing cribbage or watching Netflix. But it's also nice to have some drink ingredients handy in case a friend or two comes over. 

1. Prairie Organic Gin 
Gin has become my spirit of choice. Oh, but it tastes like Christmas tree! I get that a lot. And I get it. Thanks to the juniper berries, most gins do take on a piney, spruce-infused taste. And I'll drink those – usually with orange juice mixed in. But not all gin tastes just so. Cedar Ridge (a local winery/distillery) makes Clearheart Gin that boasts a distinctly cucumber flavor. It's the first gin I truly loved. Recently, I tried Prairie Organic Gin. Distilled in my state's northern neighbor Minnesota, it has a more botanical, herbal flavor – with a subtle hint of spruce. I love both of these gins with ginger ale or tonic water. (Orange juice would hide the flavor too much!)

2. Jameson Irish Whiskey
Classic, versatile, and easy on the wallet, there's almost always a bottle of Jameson on my bar cart. In the winter, I really like to mix into my eggnog. Lately, I've splashed a dab in my hot apple cider. And I love the taste of Jameson with ginger ale. G and I have tried several different versions and styles of Jameson (most recently the black label stuff), but I keep coming back to the original.

3. Yellowtail Shiraz
I'm a craft beer nerd, but wine is not my forte. I can taste a beer and tell you about the hops and flavors, but I can't do the same thing with wine. That's fine – it just means that I don't mind buying the cheap stuff because my taste buds can't tell the difference. Shiraz and syrah are my favorites. There's something about a glass of red wine that gets my creative juices flowing – perfect for late night novel writing and blogging! My favorite is Yellowtail's Shiraz or one of their Shiraz blends, but I've been known to happily spring for the $3 syrah from Aldi's. ;)

4. Knob Creek
This is a new addition to my bar cart and admittedly, it's something I really won't open unless G is around. You see, G makes a mean old fashioned. And this Knob Creek bourbon is delicious when mixed with bitters, simple syrup, an orange wedge, and cherry to create one. I also dig the label. (That's a common theme with all my spirits purchases.)

5. Templeton Rye
I like to keep the bar cart local when I can. It doesn't hurt when one of my local options also happens to be one of the very best options there. If you haven't had Templeton Rye, you should be getting yourself a bottle. It's made right here in my lovely state of Iowa and it makes the absolute best old fashioneds. Legend has it that Al Capone loved it as well.

6. Cedar Ridge Brandy
Keeping on my local kick, Cedar Ridge (also distillers of the aforementioned Clearheart Gin) makes the best brandy. I'd always wanted to try brandy – mostly because Scarlet O'Hara drinks it in Gone with the Wind. (I was an impressionable lass, okay?) I never got around to getting a taste until I visited Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery upon moving to Eastern Iowa. I don't have this on my bar cart very often, but when I do it's a nice spirit to just sip on. (Their pear and apple brandy is delicious, too.)

Note: It's very rare that I manage to keep my bar cart stocked with 1-6 all the time. ;)

7. Vintage Bar Glasses
I bought this set of vintage Moroccan bar glasses at an antique store when I was in college – a set of 8 for like $12. At the time, I wasn't a big spirit drinker. (It was college. I was all about the wine coolers and light, fruity drinks.) But these glistening gold glasses really called to me, so I bought them and kept them tucked away for years. I'm sure glad I did! Turns out, they're worth much more than I paid for them. They're perfect for old fashioneds and gin + tonics. And I feel very Mad Men-y when sipping from one.

8. Q Tonic
9. Q Ginger
I discovered these perfectly sized cans of goodness at Target in the wine and spirits aisle. They're truly the perfect size. You see, I never drink that many cocktails within the span of a few days – so buying a two-liter of ginger ale or even a smaller bottle of tonic water is a hassle. The bottles take up valuable space in my little fridge and go flat within a couple days. These packs include four cans and each can is enough to split so G and I can each have a cocktail. (He'll usually take 1/2 the can of Q Ginger for his Jameson, I'll take the other half for my gin.) Also, it might be the most delicious ginger ale I've had. Very gingery! I can only imagine how gingery their ginger beer is – they also have club soda, ginger beer, and some other options. (Q Drinks come in pretty glass bottles, too.)

10. Threshold for Target Bar Cart
This is the $130 bar cart that I lusted over for months last year. Shortly after Christmas, I hit up Target only to find it clearanced. With the clearance discount and a few Christmas gift cards, I managed to nab it by only paying $30 out of pocket. It's been with me ever since. :)

11. Threshold for Target Faux Agate Tray
I love trays – they're perfect for gathering items and creating little vignettes. Since my living room is purple, turquoise, and orange, I knew this purple agate tray would look lovely and add a pop of plum to the bar cart. It doesn't hurt that I nabbed it on clearance for only $5. 

12. Skeleton Key Bottle Opener
It's not for the cocktails, but it's nice to have a pretty bottle opener sitting out when I want to crack open a cold one. 

13. Aromatic Bitters
I need these so G can whip up delicious old fashioneds.

14. Waiter's Corkscrew
To me, this is the easiest and best way to open a bottle of wine – though I prefer the screw-top bottles to avoid a cork altogether.

15. Growler
Last but certainly not least, I keep a couple growlers on the bottom of my bar cart for easy access if G and I are heading off to a brewery and want to bring some tasty craft brew back home with us.

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Lauren @ The Fledgling Journey said...

I love bar carts because they remind me to take a beat and relax at the end of the day. They also remind me of Mad Men :) I know someone who doesn't drink but who still has a bar cart with different bottled beverages, sparkling water, and tea. Very cute and versatile.

Shelby said...

Love this! I hope that when I settle into my future apartment (spring? summer?!), I'll have a lovely little tea cart - with the strong stuff in the back or on the bottom! I enjoy Jameson, but Tullamore Dew has a slight edge over it for me. Shiraz is excellent too, although for white wine, I'll take a Riesling. Oh! This post has me giddy for moving day! :)

Jessica • The Lovely Side said...

I love the idea of turning a bar cart into a tea cart! ...or a coffee cart!

Jessica • The Lovely Side said...

I'm not exactly a whiskey connoisseur, but I've never heard of Tullamore Dew. I'll have to see if I can track some down. :) I loooove a Riesling, too.
Happy moving!

Megan said...

This is so funny, because my bar always includes rum, vodka and tequila. ;)

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