How to have the best drinks trolley this Christmas

Deck your cocktail trolley for festive drinks
Helen Stone,-Interiors Writer

Serve up your festive cocktails with style. A well-stocked bar cart will add sass to any soiree

As the saying goes, ‘It’s always five o'clock somewhere’ and a fully stocked bar cart is the accessory of choice when cocktail hour rolls around. Neat, compact and showy in all the right ways, it’s the home equivalent of your favourite bar. 

But what to put on your drinks station? According to award-winning cocktail bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka @MrLyan), ‘There’s something magical about cocktails – they bring a real cheer to proceedings. It’s also a real joy to make something for those around you, and the beauty of cocktails is that they offer quicker gratification than cooking or baking. The key is to keep it simple, taste as you go and play to the flavours you know you love.’ 

Feeling inspired? Here’s how to up your drinks-trolley game…

bar cart

Bar cart or drinks tray?

If your drinks collection runs to three or more bottles of spirits, then you’re ready to put them on display. The drinks trolley is the ultimate option but it’s not the only one – a drinks tray or dedicated shelf can be almost as striking if dressed well.

Any drinks station arrangement should try to marry style and substance. Spirits come in an array of pretty bottles but if your favourite tipple is not a visual contender, give it an upgrade by putting it in a decanter. Like any great bar area, twinkle and allure matter. Mirror, glasses and lights are the classic combo for bringing old school glamour to town (and at this time of year, a few baubles layer can only add charm). Keeping it small? A mirrored tray with a bottle and two glasses is an enticing treat that feels intimate and inviting.

‘Equipment-wise, unless you have a key drink you want to master, you can adapt most kitchen utensils,’ says Ryan. ‘However, a nice mixing jug or vessel, a bar spoon and knife, some measures, an ice bucket (you’ll need way more ice than you expect) and some good glassware will stand you in excellent stead.’

Bar cart glasses

Raise your glasses

Whether it’s champagne or an espresso martini, there’s a reason why certain drinks are suited to certain glasses. A wide, bowl-like glass can emphasise the taste of red wine, while a flute can increase the bubbles in your bubbly. A highball has the capacity to accommodate mixers while a stubby tumbler feels just right for nurturing a spirit, with or without a cube of ice. 

On our long sojourn at home, many of us have invested in more specialist glassware with elegant coupes and gin glasses shooting up the charts. A set of smaller glasses for port, dessert wine or straight liqueurs give these drinks the elegance they deserve.

Bar cart green cart

In high spirits

So what to pour? Stock up on the staples. ‘Get a solid spirit base to start – a classic gin, a blended Scotch, some light rum and tequila – along with some vermouths, mixers and bitters, and you can make thousands of recipes,’ says Ryan. 

Save room on your cart or tray to bring in the chilled wines, mixers and fizz and stock up on cocktail napkins or hotel-style paper coasters. Attention to detail wins every time.

Fine-tune your cocktail making in advance – you really only need to be good at one or two – but almost every social gathering will reveal a wannabe mixologist so feel free to hand over the shaker.

Bar cart purple glassware

Something a little special

It’s the final flourishes that will make the drinks space your own. Coloured glassware is a big hit this year that demands to be on show but consider adding vintage one-off pieces too. An antique champagne bucket or cut-class soda siphon can create points of interest that elevate everything around them.

If you’re planning drinks at home and you want to whip up something special, try Waitrose’s collection of cocktail recipes – make ours a ginger storm. Cheers.

Ginger Storm

2 tbsp Johnnie Walker Red Label Whisky
Dash of Angostura Bitters
200ml Waitrose Fiery Ginger Beer

1. Pour the whisky into a champagne flute.
2. Add a dash of Angostura Bitters. 
3. Top up with ginger beer and serve swiftly.

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