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…

Utensils
  • 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.



Bitters:

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.


Glasses:

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!

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