Thursday, May 21, 2020

How to Curate and Style a Home Bar Cart: The Essentials & the Glamorous Accessories

Curated Bar Cart Essentials: Spirits (Yankee Whisky!), Utensils, Family Photos, Napkins, Ice Bucket, Pitcher, Decanter, Books, Plants~Herbs 

How to Style a Bar Cart

These days, folks are spending so much time at home due to the corona pandemic and the need to be sheltering in place ~ and not surprisingly, there has been a huge return to the traditional cocktail hour.

Taking the time to indulge in “slow drinking” if you will, is a good thing.

There’s a seduction to mixing up a drink with several ingredients; shaking or stirring; gently pouring a sunset-colored or a forest-hued, spirited stream into a cut crystal glass; squeezing, twisting, or adorning the rim with a glamorous garnish - and served with a linen cocktail napkin while wearing a favorite cocktail ring.

Followed by a languorous spell of sitting and talking…. Chatting while sipping.

Time together is a true luxury.
Cocktail hour is a glamorous ritual with traditions and customs.
Think of it not so much the drink but rather the performance or the spectacle of the process. Don’t be shy - indulge!

Whether you have a passion for old Hollywood, a yen for Dan Draper, or seek a tiki fantasy - there is a style ~ or two ~ of designing a bar cart to suit you and your personal preference to pursue a style of cocktail culture.

How to Curate a Bar Cart

Here, you will be inspired to create a bar cart that not only provides the necessary components to readily mix up your favorite cocktail hour drinks with ease and sophistication - but also one that adds a swanky style to your room - whether the room is inside or is an exterior garden room. I’ll hasten to add straight away - that you needn’t limit yourself to just one bar cart. Rather, think of it as an elegant design accessory that will appropriately add glamour and utility to at least two or three rooms, given you have the space.

In our Gotham apartment we have one.

In our Garden State country house we have two: one in the Garden room; one on the terrace. I shopped for a cart to accessorize the lucite or ghost legs of a plush bench, and stainless steel to coordinate with terrace's grey, and black & white look.  Plus we have our speakeasy, full bar.
The speakeasy bar right after it was completed. See my Garden_Glamour Facebook page for newer/latest images.


We had this bar cart from the time we got married. When after our home renovation and the look of some rooms changed, I kept it in the attic. It’s a classic. When Gina and Ted were gracious enough to host an Art of the Garnish cocktail party for me, I gifted it to them! Bill painted it to snazz up the gold. And now look how pretty Gigi made it:

And when Sharon, a dear, sweet girlfriend from my days at school in Switzerland shared a photo of her bar cart

Sharon's very lovely Bar Cart (before) with my Art of the Garnish book! Job complete- Ha! 
And wrote of she and her husband's fledgeling attempts to style a cocktail bar cart (as they are more the wine drinkers) - I thought I need to offer readers some helpful guidelines.
While there certainly may be lots of experts and tips on stocking your bar cart, I am going to offer you some sophisticated suggestions that will help you curate a bar cart that tells your story - that is decidedly more about the style than just the utility. And that makes sense. After all, I’m the author of the cocktail book, The Art of the Garnish. (wink :)

In addition, I adore entertaining and relish all the elements that go into what I call “making the magic” ~ that includes, flowers, candles, glitter, twinkling lights, crystal, and more.
I love to create elegant and whimsical cocktail compositions and memorable tablescapes, using elements that amplify the season, the mood, and individual style. I do this for me and Bill, naturally - and for my clients, as well.

To start, think of the overall composition as not only that of the cart’s accessories but also how the cart fits in with your room’s decor. Consider, for example, is your space mid-century modern? Funky? Old-World traditional? Then choose a bar cart that amplifies that look. You’ll be able to choose from a variety of cart materials, including lucite, brass, rattan, or wood.

I prefer a bar cart with wheels so you can tuck it in a corner; grandly roll it out for easier access for you and/or your guests.
And remember to choose one with ergonomic and stylish handles for greater mobility.

I recommend a bar cart with two or three tiers. This way, you can stock some rather banal but nevertheless essential items on the bottom - such as sodas and and mixes. And position those intriguing, most personal items on the top tier to showcase these memory pieces and conversation starters.

The next shelf can showcase some of those beautiful and preferred spirits and liquors. So many bottles are positively, scandalously voluptuous - from classic vintage designs and their artful labels to modern, branded bottles with custom shapes including skulls, icebergs, gems, and crowns -- all fodder for more cocktail conversations…

I have been smitten with the beautiful, blue lines of Italicus and its bergamot spirit.
I created a cocktail with this inspired elixir - garnished with green sugar rim & floated edible gold flakes in the glass 

Even the Italicus cap is artful & so worthy of display. Gotta' love the Italian sense of style 
There is also the pith-bottomed lovely blood orange Solerno liqueur.

And then there’s St. Germain’s bottle and I love the labels of so many amaros and tequilas.

In terms of spirits to stock your bar cart, you should have the basics of gin, vodka, tequila, bourbon, whiskey, and rum.

If your favorite liquor or spirits bottle doesn’t suit your style, you can showcase them in a fitting decanter. Crystal or ahem, kooky, you can find a glass vessel that gives your personal hosting presentation that certain savoir-faire.

Starting with the foundation of the bar cart, consider shape - round, square, rectangle - I shopped these bar cart beauties for your consideration at Wayfair

Also, Houzz has a number of handsome bar carts, including an entire category of vintage products. (If any of you do want to purchase from either of these two online resources, do let me know as I can probably get a designers discount for you.)

In terms of styling your bar cart, think of layering. You’ll start with some basics -- meaning the items you’ll need to craft your cocktail hour drinks, starting with the utensils, followed by bitters, glasses, cocktail napkins, picks for garnishes, coasters, muddler or mortar and pestle, shot glasses, stainless steel or aluminum straws, swizzle sticks, bottle openers, pitcher, ice bucket, We use a bottle stopper, cocktail shaker, and of course, books! Cocktail recipe books. I have the New York Times Cocktail book classic, other cocktail books produced by my publisher, Cider Mill Press. They make such beautiful books! I especially love the Paris Cocktail book. We found a pocket-sized Japanese/English cocktail book left by the couple we bought our country house from. Really a history lesson as well as recipes.

The romance and fun comes in when you add your unique mix of small photos, votive candles, small, potted plants or cut, fresh, seasonal herbs and aromatics, spices ~ and if ready to serve: fruits and vegetables for the garnishes ~ think of all those edible from the garden or market in addition to the citrus you're probably more familiar with.  To add to the charm and personalization of your bar cart, place some handsome matchbooks from favorite bars (remember them?) or far-flung travel spots. Yes, establishments had their own personalized matchbooks and coasters and napkins. That’s where all those new business ideas, engineering designs, and the romantic exchange of phone numbers were scribbled prior to digital, social media…

  • Jigger
  • Shaker
  • Strainer
  • Bar spoon
  • Muddler
  • Citrus Juicer
  • Citrus peeler
  • Channel Knife
  • Hawthorne Strainer (the one that looks like it has a face!) 
You can buy these items separately or purchase as part of a scalable set - meaning there are offerings in a price range that will suit you and your style. For example, I saw a custom one on Etsy for $70 and a Martha Stewart one at Macy’s that I think is swell for about $45.

William Sonoma has a handsome copper set for about $40

I found these two from Wayfair: one a copper classic and one a whimsical monkey business!

I have a gold set on the bar in our Speakeasy; a stainless one on the cart in the garden room; likewise for the cart on the terrace that goes with the grey and black exterior design.

I gifted Bill these pretty bottle openers from Anthropologie The agate is so very pretty…

We also have this soda siphon at the bar to make fresh seltzer for drinks.


You can’t go wrong with Fee Brothers. Good quality and lots of flavors.

I highly recommend Modern Bar Cart’s artisanal bitters. The best - especially if you’re not crafting your own, fresh bitters.


Stock up on the basics - but don’t succumb to boring! You can source from retail, Etsy, flea markets, estate sales, and family and friends.
  • Martini
  • Coupe
  • Old Fashioned
  • Tom Collins/Highball 
  • Pilsner
  • Copper Mugs - especially for those delicious Mint Juleps
  • Flute
  • Shot Glass
I like the clean look of these Monti shot glasses from Food52

I LOVE the Bottoms Up vintage shot glasses gifted to me by a dear garden design client!
Using them of course reminds me of dear, wonderful Gina and Ted, but also the story behind the glasses. They are from the Prohibition era when it was recommended that drinkers not rest their glasses on the bar in the event that the police could raid the speakeasy at any minute; therefore the glasses can only rest when they are upside down!

I have purchased many glasses over the years. We have our wedding crystal - it’s German, Vesta by Spiegelau. The classic botanical design has stood the test of time…

I was also fortunate to have been gifted the diminutive Waterford coupes from a sweet, long-time neighbor who, along with her husband, moved out west. She knew I’d be a good steward of her beautiful glasses.

And I highly recommend you get as many glass sets that you can from It’s Not Just Cocktails.

I’ve had to restrain myself from buying the seductive postings they share on Instagram! I’ve so enjoyed treating my guests with these classic, vintage designs. I use the sexy martini glass every evening for my cocktail and have been using them as appropriate for my Saturday, Art of the Garnish Cocktail Party on Facebook Live at my Garden_Glamour.

It’s Not Just Cocktails are the CSI of cocktail glasses - meaning they search high and low to offer exquisite, unique glasses that will grace your bar cart.

More vintage - with a pitcher that’s perfect on our bar cart in the garden room.
Vintage cocktail set with gold trim & matching pitcher. I love them too for negronis. Photo courtesy: Angie Lambert Photography
Cocktail Napkins:
I prefer the linen and cloth cocktail napkins.  Friends and clients now offer me selections as gift or to purchase because they know of my passion for them.  You can find at vintage sellers, flea markets.
These blossom cocktail napkins were handmade & gifted to me by my niece, Marissa
The linens wash and iron up so crisp. Perfect for using nightly & with guests
Or the whimsical - these fun cocktail napkins were from the book party Gina and Ted hosted for me and the Art of the Garnish.
I sourced these from Jenny McMinn, Personalized Cups, Etsy. She did a great job. 

I can honestly and heartily share that you will never regret curating a home bar cart. You’ll enjoy it more and more as time goes by… Cheers!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

How to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo: Mix the Most Delicious & Healthy - Margaritas!

Rosa Picante Margarita - Patrón - from Art of the Garnish
Before taking that first sip or bite, sink your teeth into the history of Cinco de Mayo.

You’ll be the champion and star of the annual homage to Mexico and it’s celebrated food and drink.

Know this: Cinco de Mayo originated in the Mexican state of Puebla. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the Mexican army over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War in 1862. The win in Puebla represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and bolstered the resistance movement eventually leading to France withdrawing from Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo has evolved from a salute to brave warriors, to an ever-elevated salute to the extraordinary Mexican cuisine and its distilled beverages -- especially the country’s incomparable signature tequilas, mezcal, and chile liqueurs.


Say margarita and the brand Patrón Tequila is the name that most readily comes to mind for discerning drinkers. For good reason. Patrón is the global leader in the 100 percent Weber Blue agave ultra-premium tequila category, crafting a crisp, flavorful spirit, marked by hints of floral notes yet is still made in small batches in the Highlands in Jalisco, Mexico.

Patrón graciously provided the recipe for the delicious Rosa Picante Margarita for my book, Art of the Garnish. I adore the rose petal garnish and a slice of jalapeno pepper! This is what I will be shaking up later to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Here’s another recipe from Art of the Garnish. Can’t get to Las Cabos? Here’s the next best thing. (well, kinda’) The Hilton services this welcome drink at their Azul Bar.

Here’ a few other drinks that you’ll love sipping for Cinco de Mayo.

Photo courtesy of Patrón Tequila

Coralina Margarita
Created by Riesler Morales of Mexico City, Mexico

  • 1.75 oz Patrón Reposado
  • .75 oz Patrón Citrónge Orange 
  • .75 oz Simple syrup 
  • 1 oz Fresh lime juice 
  • .5 oz Red Wine (Mexican, or other) 
  • + Sugar-salt rim* 
Garnish: *Sugar-salt rim:

Pulverize .25 cup dried hibiscus in a spice grinder. Add .25 cup sugar and .25 cup kosher salt and pulse until combined.

1. Combine Patrón Reposado, Patrón Citrónge Orange, simple syrup and lime juice in a shaker tin; add ice and shake vigorously.

2. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe rimmed with sugar-salt rim.*

3. Carefully float red wine on the surface of the cocktail and garnish with a lime wheel.

Mezcal has become increasingly popular in the U.S. and is one of the fastest growing spirits over the past several years.

Choosing the right mezcal for you may be tricky, but if you’re looking for an authentic Mexican spirit with an approachable and complex taste, look no further than Montelobos Mezcal. Made in Mexico, Montelobos Mezcal is a mezcal created in collaboration by world-renowned agave spirits expert Iván Saldaña and five generations of Lopez family mezcaleros using the finest, 100% organic agave espadin. The result is a mezcal with a balanced smoke that shifts between chili and dark chocolate. While Montelobos can be enjoyed neat, its complexity makes it an excellent cocktail companion.

A Montelobos Mezcal Ambassador, Camille Austin’s knowledge and enthusiasm for innovative cocktails play a complementary role to brand creator Iván Saldaña. Together, they set out to share the unique taste and versatility of Montelobos Mezcal and the artistry behind agave.

The below flavorful and festive cocktail recipes include Montelobos Mezcal and another authentic Mexican spirit, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, and are the perfect way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Ancho Reyes was born from the sacred earth of Puebla and with a recipe dating back to 1927, Ancho Reyes is the original chile liqueur. Ancho Reyes Verde, launched just in 2016 to much acclaim, also derives from the poblano chile like Original, but some slight tweaks in the production process results in a wildly different flavor profile.

Puebla and poblano are inextricably linked - the peppers are named after the citizens who refer to themselves as poblanos. “Ancho chiles are widely considered a culinary delicacy and Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur is created using Puebla’s signature crop,” reports Camille Austin, the celebrated Mexican mixologist. He continues, “Pleasantly sweet, followed by the moderate heat from the chile, Ancho Reyes is delicious in all types of cocktails.

Pair your rajas -- a savory Mexican dish -- with robust cocktails that can stand up to the food.

Juan to Juan

Shake, serve in a coupe glass

Lemon wheel

Ancho Verde Margarita

  • 1 part Milagro Silver Tequila
  • 1 part Ancho Reyes Verde
  • 1 part Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/3 part Agave Nectar
Add all ingredients to a shaker, add ice, shake hard and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass

Salt half the glass rim. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Montelobos Picador

  • 2 parts Montelobos Mezcal
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • ½ part simple syrup
Combine ingredients over ice and shake well. Serve over fresh ice in a rocks glass.


Rim the glass with a salt & black pepper; Add an orange slice.

Mexican cuisine is as diverse and rich as the country’s landscape, thanks to its wealth of regional ingredients and deep roots in ancient civilizations and traditions. In the southern state of Oaxaca, the cuisine is defined by two staple ingredients: mezcal and insects. Here, mezcal is not only a drink, but a source of pride and a foundation of cultural identity.

Cricket Cuisine - Photo courtesy of Meutia Chaerani / Indradi Soemardjan

Traditional Mexican flavors have been fused into healthy options that include new ingredients, no frying or oil, a gluten free menu, antibiotics and hormone free steak, an innovative juice bar and more.

Not too long ago - BC - (before coronavirus) Bill and I attended a hands-on New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) lecture class on Mezcal - detailing the plant, the region where it grows, the distillation, and a tasting.

Oh - and the news about that worm?

The worm - is ground into a powder and sprinkled on the hand - no worms in the bottle, please! The worm powder has a umami taste. Terrific!

FYI, NYBG offers online education classes - now you have the time to take all those courses you meant to attend but couldn’t find the time in your schedule. Boost your botany IQ!

With longing, I look back to enjoying just about the best Mexican food anywhere -- at Empellón. The James Beard Award winning chef, Alex Stupak had opened his fourth dining emporium in Midtown, NYC. I met friends there to dine right after it opened having reviewed and enjoyed his menu at the other locations downtown. Chef Alex came to our table and we were brimming with praise. The homemade chips dipped into fabulous, spiced sauces.
And Yellow Beets with Coconut Crema and Green Chile Ice -- that’s an ice infused chile that is the most curious and incredible taste!

How to celebrate a healthy Cinco de Mayo on a budget at home
Skip the sour cream. Skip the sugary mixers. Take a look at some health snacks and party ideas, and don’t worry, it still involves alcohol.

Enjoy a festive nacho bar with half the calories for you and your friends by having low-calorie toppings such as beans, tomatoes, quinoa, spinach and ground turkey.

Create your own calorie-friendly True Lime Frozen Margarita or True Lime Mojito.

Each True Citrus True Lime packet equals the taste of 1 lime wedge and is made with only 3 ingredients. It has 0 calories, 0g of sugar and no artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors.

Art of the Garnish ~ Finishing Touches using Herbs and Spices
Lime Frost Sea Salt - was pretty much 'born to rim' classic Margaritas. A tangy hint of lime in a crunchy coarse salt stylishly smooths tequila's bite.

Chipotle Smoked Sea Salt - This is perfect if Ancho, Chipotles, Poblanos, or any other smoky chili pepper is on your menu. The smoky-aromatic hint in the salt will turn that tart tequila concoction into a mellow, fruitier experience.

Coconut Sugar with Chardonnay Oak Smoked Sea Salt - Tropical or fruit flavored margaritas, like peach and mango, beg for this rim! 2 parts sweet to 1 part (or less) salt gives you a sweet tropical hit of coconut with a gentle note of smoke and salt.

Ghost Pepper Sea Salt and Brazilian Petite Sea Salt- This rim brings fire to the fiesta! Grind 3 parts Brazilian Petite Sea Salt with 1 part Ghost Pepper Sea Salt for the ultimate hot & salty rim!

Habanero Sugar, Lemon Sugar & Raspberry Sugar - Who says rimmers have to be salty? Add tangy, spicy and/or fruity sweet to your rims with these flavorful sugars.


MIX desired salt(s) and sugar(s) on a saucer or plate for rimming. Ensure that the mixture covers an area larger in diameter than the rim of your glass.

MOISTEN rim of glass with a slice of lime.

RIM glass by turning moistened rim in salt/sugar mixture. - See more at:

See more at: