How to stock your bar cart for the holidays

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holiday bar cart

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Oh, the Holidays, there’s nothing quite like getting hammered and pretending to enjoy your family’s company.

I jest…kind of.

But with the weather starting to get precarious and the daylight virtually gone, drinking indoors becomes the de facto activity. And with COVID still plaguing the world, most of those drinks are likely to be consumed in the comfort of your own home.

To do so correctly, you’ll need to stock your bar cart appropriately. Let’s be honest, I love myself a gin and tonic (or soda for the health-conscious), but they just don’t have the same appeal when it’s 30 degrees outside.

Whether it’s a literal bar cart or a cabinet full of booze, we got you covered.

The Basics


The winter weather is unequivocally bourbon season. Nothing really says cozy cocktail quite like bourbon; it’s going to be the base for most of the drinks you’ll likely end up making. Hot toddies, whiskey sours, in your coffee, or even neat, bourbon will be a crucial fixture in the holidays. Go for a brand like Bulleit for a quality bourbon but not so good you feel bad about putting it in cocktails. Oh, and definitely opt for the bigger size. Maybe even just go to Costco.


I’m always a fan of gin. The heavy juniper notes in your classic London Dry Gin always remind me of the Pacific Northwest. It’s also versatile as hell. If COVID wasn’t a thing this year and holiday parties could commence, the gin martini is always a trusty stand by (or if you just want to get really sloshed).


If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace in your home, I can’t imagine anything better than sipping Scotch by the fire on a cold, dark winter night. If you like it smokey, an Islay scotch like Laphroaig or Lagavulin will be your best bet. If you want something a bit more balanced, go for Scotch from the Speyside region like Glenlivet.


Another versatile booze that warms the belly just like bourbon. You can go a few different routes with rum. A white rum will suit you well for drinks like a coquito and or daiquiri (ok, maybe more of a summer drink, but there’s not a wrong time to drink a daiquiri). On the other hand, a dark or spiced rum will be useful for a twist on a hot toddy, hot buttered rum, or in some eggnog.

Those first few categories should cover the basics of your bar cart. But of course, there are a few more areas you can venture down.

Beer & Wine

Having some wine on hand is always a good idea. Red wine is likely to come to mind first since most of the food will be a bit heavier this time of year. I always love Pinot Noirs, which are especially good from the Pacific Northwest. They go well with red meats, of course, but if your family goes for the seafood during the holidays, Pinots can pair well with that too. If mulled wine is your thing, go for something darker like a Merlot.

And let’s not forget the beer. Stouts are always lovely this time of year; look for some of your local breweries and see what they are working up. Chocolate, coffee, hazelnut are likely going to be the dominant flavor this time of year. And there’s nothing wrong with a classic like Guinness.

Lastly, don’t forget the bubbles to ring in the new year.

Something Different

Let’s face it, you’ll probably eat a lot. Despite your best efforts, those cheese boards are going to be calling your name. If you want to take some preventative measures, look into getting an amaro for your bar cart. Italians have been drinking amari for years now to help aid with digestion, which is perfect for this time of year. Try out Amaro Braulio, which basically tastes like a mountain forest. Fernet Branca will surely straighten you up after a full meal. Or for something a bit less intimidating and even a fantastic addition to many cocktails, Amaro Nonino.

Take the plunge into the world of amari. You won’t regret it.

Other Ingredients

You can get pretty far with just the alcohol alone, but with only a few other ingredients, you’ll have infinitely more options. Ginger will be a great addition (try out a ginger simple syrup) to most cocktails and aid with digestion. Citrus is a no brainer and should be kept handy year-round. And, of course, spices. Cloves & cinnamon will be necessary for your hot toddy, but others like nutmeg, star anise, and even cardamom will make great mulling spices or garnishes.

  • Ginger
  • Bitters
  • Lemons & Limes
  • Seltzer
  • Spices
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Star Anise
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Honey
  • Sugar

Bar Cart Tools

No bar cart is complete without the tools. A cocktail shaker and a jigger are the obvious requisites. Glassware comes to mind next; some quality tumblers or even coupe glasses to feel extra classy. Make sure you get a juicer and peeler for all the citrus you’ll be going through. Throw in a spherical ice mold, and you’ll be unstoppable.

Now you’re ready to talk politics with your family. Well, I’m not sure there’s enough booze in the world for that. At the very least, you’ll be able to tackle winter like the champion you are.

A few recipes to get you started:

Bourbon Sour-ish

A simple, three ingredient cocktail that is pretty damn crushable.

  • 1.5 ounces of bourbon
  • 1 ounce of ginger simple syrup
  • 1 ounce lemon Juice


  1. Combine ingredients, shake over ice.
  2. Pour into coupe glasses.
  3. Optional: add a couple dashes of nutmeg on top.

Hot Toddy

On a cold winter night, there’s not much better than a hot toddy. It almost feels like you’re drinking tea.

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1.5 ounces whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons honey, to taste (
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, to taste
  • 1 cinnamon stick, for garnish)
  • A few cloves, for garnish


  1. Bring water to a boil and pour into a mug
  2. Add whiskey, honey, and lemon juice to the mug and stir until mixed.
  3. Add cinnamon and cloves as garnish.

Note: I like to add a bit of grated ginger to my hot toddies

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Skylar Renlsow

An ardent traveler and beverage enthusiast. The Daily Grog was created to bring a different type of storytelling to the world of travel. Here you’ll find tips, inspiration, and stories about how your favorite vices have influenced the world around us. Cheers!

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