Column: Home Front
Anyone for a Dry Martini? Cate Burren of Angel and Blume Interior Design considers the art of bar cart
I’ve recently been trying to cut back on my alcohol intake (not for any particular reason than the obvious ones, and it’s not going too badly thank you) and as with cutting back on anything, it does make you slightly obsessed with what you are trying to avoid.
What I have particularly noticed is just how many references there are to our supposed love of a tipple in our modern world. Greetings cards seem to be particular offenders – it feels that every other card in the shop has a humorous, or otherwise, reference to celebrating almost any occasion with an elegant aperitif, or by getting completely hammered, depending on what section of the shop you find yourself in.
Our interiors are not immune either. There is a sea of opportunity available to pronounce yourself a fan of an alcoholic beverage. I was recently in a largish department store where I saw, all in close vicinity, a money box with ‘Mummy’s Prosecco Fund’ written on the side, a cushion proclaiming ‘Champagne is the Answer’ and a framed poster which somewhat aggressively instructed its audience to ‘DRINK MORE GIN’.
Lovely recycled gin glasses and a pineapple ice bucket – honestly, what is not to love? Both from grahamandgreen.co.uk
I am certainly not going to make a (mildly) reformed person’s judgement on the content of these declarations, but it does strike me as odd that we don’t celebrate other forms of high living with quite such gusto. You don’t often see a fridge magnet for example that says ‘It’s Steak O’Clock!’ or a birthday card saying ‘Lobster Thermidor Makes Everything Better’.
Given our great love of a little drinky, we do seem to be surprisingly coy about how we house our habit. Wine racks and wine fridges are much more present in our houses than they used to be, but other drinks are often still relegated to the back of a cupboard. I grant you that few of us want a Del Boy-style bar in the corner of our living room, but there can be something very glamorous about a selection of drinks, glasses and accessories that are well-displayed and ready for use.
I think drinks trolleys (or bar carts as the Americans call them) can be a very good addition to a sitting room or other interior space as they make such a heartening display. Although they have wheels, they are not designed to be pushed round the room like you are serving on an intercity train,although a quick trip to the dishwasher at the end of the evening (or the following morning if we are being honest) is quite handy. They are often rather marvellous pieces of furniture in themselves and look great when fully loaded up and ready to serve.
You say drinks trolley, I say bar cart – either way it is both functional and fabulous. See grahamandgreen.co.uk
Cocktail cabinets are more discreet and can look very innocent from the outside. What you find inside can be anything from utilitarian to utterly fabulous. They often feature a rack for hanging glasses, a mirrored back or sides, slots for your accessories and sometimes more – mini fridges, a pull-out serving ledge, lighting etc. David Linley, the master furniture maker, has a ‘Techtonic Bar’ which is a piece of art as much as it is a piece of furniture and incorporates secret compartments (for your bootleg liquor) revolving columns and a cigar humidor. It’s utterly beautiful and should be at a price tag of £130,000.
There are also some fantastic antique cocktail cabinets to be had and many of them have a least a whiff of lost days of high living. Unsurprisingly many of the really good ones have an Art Deco flavour about them and look great when either discreetly closed or party ready. I could be wrong about this, but I personally think that no good can come from having a world globe that opens into a drinks cabinet. Perhaps I am no fun.
Whatever style you prefer at home, it is hard to argue against a large, smart tray that quietly does the job of a drinks trolley or cabinet. This is not to serve the drinks, but to keep all your beverage paraphernalia in order. A lovely tray, well curated, on top of a sideboard or occasional table works both functionally and aesthetically and is certainly a good place to start if you are initially dipping your toes into the home bar arena.
Whether you opt for a bespoke piece of furniture or a humble tray, the contents are key. Good glasses, an ice bucket, your desired bottles and mixers, condiments (citrus fruit, olives, tabasco sauce, cherries if you must) and other essential tools – ice tongs, cocktail shaker, cocktails sticks, swizzle sticks (come on, you know you want to) – can all play a part.
I think it is important, both in terms of the look of your house but also for your own sanity, to remember that you are not actually a bar, neither boutique hotel nor local boozer – you do not need to have every spirit, mixer, soft drink in the world to offer your guests. I think serving a drink or two that is appropriate for the time of year and day, that goes with the food you are going to serve, plus a quality non-alcoholic alternative or two, is perfect. Having a wide selection of dusty bottles, some with questionable sell-by dates, is a bit grim. After all, you select a meal for your guests rather than offering them a menu of choices (I hope) so why would you not do the same with the pre-dinner, and indeed during and post dinner, drinks?
And while we are talking about planning your drinking, quantity is as important as quality – sending your guests home plastered is not doing them, or you, any favours. Of course you want to have a great time and be a marvellous host/hostess but part of that is keeping an eye on the intake - serving four large G&Ts before feeding anyone will end badly. In addition, taking as much care over your mocktails as you do over your Moscow Mules will encourage enjoyment over drunkenness. Lots of people don’t drink alcohol at all, or are restrained, and non-alcoholic drinks really can be delicious, but it does take both effort and imagination.
So on that note, and before my best-laid plans to drink less and behave better are too challenged, I would like to say it isn’t hard to glam up your drinks stash, so have fun, let your hair down and here’s to all our good health.
See angelandblume.com for more.