How the cocktail cart regained its cool

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The cocktail trolley is back in vogue. Dolce & Gabbana has included one as part of its first homewares line. Meanwhile at the luxury design ecommerce site 1stdibs, sales are up 30 per cent. “People are trying to recreate that experience of happy hour at home,” says 1stdibs editorial director Anthony Barzilay Freund. “And who doesn’t need some ‘happier’ hours these days?”

Ettore Sottsass metal and coloured-glass Manhattan trolley, 1986, €1,950 © Bruno Staub

The original mobile drinks cart was a rather sober affair designed for serving Victorian ladies their afternoon cup of tea. It wasn’t until the 1950s, and a postwar boom in at-home entertaining, that the cocktail trolley took off – inspiring a host of designs that combined theatre with practicality. Midcentury-modern pieces – especially Brazilian and Scandinavian – are “particularly coveted”, says Barzilay Freund, singling out the “noble lines” of a rare 1959 wood and brass cart by Brazilian designer Jorge Zalszupin (€35,840, 1stdibs.com). Another key piece is the Demon Tea Cart by Atelier Mategot, which has three perforated metal tiers in red, black and white (€2,759, 1stdibs.com).

The almost childlike simplicity of a 1940s wood and lino trolley by Finnish designer Alvar Aalto will speak to minimalists (€18,000, 1stdibs.com). As will Ettore Sottass’s 1986 Manhattan Trolley (€1,860, memphis-milano.com) But if I’m shaking the drinks, it’s got to be the gloriously trashy octagonal red snakeskin bar cart by 1970s designer Karl Springer ($7,200, 1stdibs.com).

A 1960s plant nursery trolley, £475, merchantandfound.com

Paul Middlemiss, founder of vintage specialists Merchant & Found, has “a bit of a fetish” for trolleys. His current crush is a pair of 1960s aluminium examples he salvaged from a plant nursery in eastern Europe (£475 each). Rattan is also popular thanks to the ’70s revival. Says Middlemiss: “It’s eco-friendly, it’s got that holiday vibe, and it’s tactile.” 

Horm & Casamania Chariot table, £1,437, amara.com

Cabinetmaker Little Halstock creates bespoke trolleys (POA). “You can have dedicated spaces for spirits and glassware, a built-in silver ice bucket and a concealed drawer for bar tools,” says director Luke Wycherley. “Sometimes clients commission a matching cigar humidor.” A roll-around shutter – properly known as a tambour door – can also be incorporated. “We recently did one embellished with a marquetry art deco night scene,” says Wycherley.

Dolce & Gabbana Blu Mediterraneo Caronte drinks trolley, POA © Stefan Giftthaler

If space is short, the Italian interiors company Kartell does some sleek designs in chrome and coloured resin (from £645). But really, this piece of furniture should be all about display. The ice-white Chariot Table by contemporary designers Horm & Casamania has vast wheels that I’m sure rarely, if ever, move (£1,459 amara.com). But the pleasure of a cocktail trolley lies simply in knowing that you could wheel it around if you wanted – or, even better, someone could bring the bar to you. 

@alicelascelles

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