Step 1: Choose a surface. Your bar cart can be a traditional surface on wheels, or any flat space dedicated to the activity (a portion of the kitchen counter, a dining room buffet, a coffee table).
Step 2: Edit your liquor collection. That handle of cheap vodka you've had since New Year's 2000? Toss (ahem, recycle) it, along with all the other dusty bottles you keep saying you'll use someday. Stock your bar with 3-5 favorite spirits. Need help getting started? Here are some of our favorites from distillers from around the West.
Step 3: Stock up on equipment. This includes glasses, an ice container, ice tongs, a cocktail shaker, and a tray. (The tray will contain stray ice and spillage.)
Step 4: Practice makes perfect. Research, stock ingredients, and practice your favorite cocktail recipes. Know at least two pre-party. Here are a few of our favorites.
Step 5: Slice citrus and prep garnishes ahead of party time. It'll save on time while you're entertaining, and let's be honest: once you've had a cocktail you shouldn't be using a knife.