Serving, Tea, or Bar Cart…What’s in a Name?

Serving, Tea, or Bar Cart…What’s in a Name?

No hostess in the early to mid 20th Century would have been without a cart from which to serve social beverages. Often referred to as a tea cart (before cocktail hour), a bar cart (cocktail hour and beyond), or, more generally, as a serving, or even beverage, cart, this little table on wheels allowed the hostess to provide an area for guests to serve themselves. Typically outfitted with two shelves, the serving cart could easily be rolled wherever the party may be–inside or out. In a pinch, it could be moved into the dining room and used as extra serving space, providing a convenient resting spot for the overloaded dining table, or a decadent display of delicious desserts.


Imagine an old movie from the 30’s with a stylishly dressed Myrna Loy, in any of fabulous The Thin Man movies, casually selecting a cocktail from the bar cart while sidling up to the ‘who’ in the who done it. Sweet and convivial, after a clink of the glasses and an innocent comment, she nails the guilty party. Remember, it always happens at the bar cart.¬†Or, Fred and Ginger meeting at the serving cart obviously undecided about which sweet treat to try and ending up swirling and swishing in a song and dance created to memorialize the perfect dessert.

Accessory items seem to have fallen out of use in the streamlined twenty-first century but the need for extra serving space and the convenience of a movable table has not disappeared. Including an accessible tabletop for occasional overflow needs is a welcome (and brilliant) forethought when entertaining.

Look for one that has multiple shelves. The bottom shelf can hold backup bottles or, if not needed for that purpose, an eye-catching decorative object or plant. Wheels provide convenience of mobility in case the party must quickly move inside or your guests find their own preferred party place in the yard. Flexibility is the intended purpose of a wheeled serving cart and allows the hostess to juggle her needs as they arise.

With the availability of serving carts constructed in any of the standard outdoor materials: all-weather wicker, teak, wrought iron, aluminum, or recycled plastic, it is possible to either match your outdoor furniture material or choose one that will stand out as a unique piece in your outdoor space.

As you continue to improve your outdoor living and dining rooms, consider adding the once popular, and ever-useful serving cart. Fill it with an over-the-top display of beverages or desserts, artfully arranged, of course, and your guests will be googling serving/beverage/bar carts as soon as they get home.

For holiday styling of your serving/bar/beverage cart, check out 4 Festive Ways to Style Your Bar Cart for the Holidays from Kathy Kuo Home.