Cocktail Hour: Redux


The true cosmopolitan among errant aesthetes knows the importance of conviviality, intelligent discourse strewn with witty badinage and perfectly timed bon mots to the accompaniment of the indispensable and always reliable style staple — the bar cart.


As the passage of light, time and flirty summer dresses eclipses into cashmere scarves and soft cardigans, let’s contentedly succumb to the wind-rippled days and chilled darkened nights with a glass of autumn wine . . .


So enthused am I on the topic of the leisurely and languorous cocktail hour and its celebrated attendant, the bar cart, I am revisiting this blessedly civilized ritual of propriety and mannerism. The mildly curious might do well to catch up with The Retro Ritual: Cocktail Hour.

And the ardently adventurous hoping to secure a modicum of fame, showcase their brilliance for decor and/or drinking prowess or simply share my love of this most splendid of pastimes, might submit a photo of their very own beloved bar cart or designated space of spirits (the alcoholic variety, not the preternatural).


The earliest known printed use of the word “cocktail” was in The Farmer’s Cabinet, April 28, 1803:

“Drank a glass of cocktail —
excellent for the head . . .”


Early advocates of cocktails had the terribly good sense to christen it a morning beverage, as the name was a metaphor for the rooster (cocktail) heralding the morning light of day.


As the observant or rurally raised well know, a cock’s tail has feathers in many varied colors just as a cocktail has varied alcoholic drinks mixed together.

Some say that it was customary to put a feather, presumably from a cock’s tail, in the drink to serve both as decoration and to signal to teetotalers that the drink contained alcohol. So wisely prudent our ancestors, no?


The first “cocktail party” ever thrown was allegedly by Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1917. Mrs. Walsh invited 50 guests to her mansion at noon on a Sunday. The party lasted one hour, until lunch was served at 1pm. The site of the first cocktail party still stands.


Legend and literature has it that it was “Catherine Hustler who invented the gin cocktail, stirring it with a feather from a stuffed rooster’s tail.” Catherine described her drink saying, “it warms both the soul and body and is fit to be put in a vessel of diamonds.”


Images: This is Glamorous




~ by eaesthete on 10/12/09.

10 Responses to “Cocktail Hour: Redux”

  1. This is a fascinating topic. I’m more of a fine wine person myself, although I am an advocate of the odd glass of Pimms. I don’t keep much in the way of spirits at home, just several excellent Single Malts, Rémy Martin VSOP cognac and the aforementioned Pimms no.1.
    Any advice on what else a minimalistic yet elegant liquor cabinet should contain?

    • Let me begin by saying that presentation is key. Search out flea markets and swap meets for beautiful crystal decanters, ornate ice buckets, sugar and cream servers for olives, onions, lemon and lime slices. Look for sterling silver server trays, a martini shaker, a seltzer bottle and a beautiful vase for flowers. Interesting glasses can also enhance a bar tray whether they be wine goblets, champagne flutes, martini glasses or tumblers.

      As for drinks to round out what you’ve already mentioned: mixers are essential. Tonic, soda, vermouth, lime juice, small cans of tomato juice. Be sure to include aperitifs (Lillet, Campari) and splits of champagne as well as beer, which can be kept in the refrigerator).

      And finally, the glasses must be spotless, the silver polished and if you’re of a mind, freshly pressed linen napkins can double as dabbers and coasters. And if you read the prior post, observe the dust laden bottle rule as in NEVER.

  2. I do love that chrome cart. Everything is wood, wood, wood around me, but that is my vision of The cocktail cart. I admit to having a stock of bottles clustered together in my liquer shop, the bottom shelf of an armoire. The appropriate glasses, olives, and apéritifs are found on the shelf above. There is a nice little tinkle when the door is opened and I’m sure everone would just love to hop on a proud sleek cart that would pull up in front. Will let you know when that day comes.

    • Liath, Ravenmanor and Le Style et la matiére,

      Do you remember when altars were all the rage? It was little more than a special place to assemble your cherished memorabilia, the vestiges of your life and memories. i feel your designated space for spirits and such should, above all, be a reflection of you. It is after all,in your home, not in a restaurant or hotel, which is why it should include treasured pieces that speak to your love of friends, gatherings and shared toasts.

      I especially loved the wooden sideboard table perfectly positioned in the fore of the paned glass windows. It’s ample and roomy so guests can step up to it and day or night you’re invited to share in the view. And notice how they cleverly made use of floor space for over-sized bottles of wine and other decorative pieces like the rattan holder that is perfect for napkins, coasters, etc.

      Yet, like my friend E of Easy and Elegant, who is a great admirer of Gerald Murphy’s legendary bar tray, there is something to be said for the mobility of a cart that can be whisked from room to room dispensing good cheer and refreshment.

      Le style – I loved the idea of a special sound heralding your cocktail ritual. An imaginative addition.

  3. A great article. I’m a fan of a well-mixed martini myself. Too bad that, in England, at least, if you ask for a martini, more often than not you are given a glass of Martini Vermouth… Nice to see the Aalto drinks trolley, too.

  4. Ah yes, the napkins, glass/crystal and silver-ware…. glad to say I’ve got that covered to a T! I’m an antique/flea market and Ebay regular plus the inheritor of many pretty things via grandparents with excellent taste.
    It’s really the matter of the alcohol that needed addressing, which you have done with flair, Thank you!

  5. & now I know, it does have a lovely ring to it- just like the crow of the cock. glowing post. la

  6. <<>>
    The next comment is my actual comment. I couldn’t find a way to upload photos, so I put them into a Picassa web album. Feel free to leave the following (my real) comment “as is” or you can enhance it by copying and inserting the photos from the web album. Feel free to use any of these photos in future posts on your blog.

  7. I was overwhelmed by all of the beautiful photos illustrating the more relaxed side of the life of a cocktail swilling savant. I am forced to admit that my little bar is not nearly as portable as most of the bar carts pictured in your two captivating posts, even though it is fairly compact when closed. On the other hand, an impulsive fit of foresight motivated me to install gliders on the bottom before I began loading it with essential cocktail necessities, so while it is not as permanently fixed as it might appear at first glance (and does slide freely across the tile floor), I am still unable to move it everywhere in my home. A drinks tray and strategically placed cocktail tables offset that failing, however. Although it might be lacking in elegance, my bar compensates through its ease-of-use and in the quality of the cocktails it can produce with only minor assistance.

    Here’s a link to some photos of my bar:

    [Photo 1]
    My bar at rest, compact and unobtrusive, a welcome addition to almost any room.

    [Photo 2]
    On those days when a few friends drop by (or if it’s just cocktail time, so perhaps every day), all that is required to access the extremely appealing (and potentially delicious) contents is to open wide the front. If our guests are in another room, a tray is a convenient way to move glasses and a pitcher of Martinis to wherever the guests may be.

    [Photo 3]
    When a large gathering is planned, it’s time to swing open the top of my bar to its full extension and break out more bar gear. A signature, seasonal or theme cocktail that about three out of four guests will select and enjoy is de rigeur for any gathering, but my bar is ready to service most special requests my friends may have.

    [Photo 4]
    Here’s a nice shot of my bar topped with a serving tray outfitted with a pitcher of Vesper Martinis (stirred, not shaken), four (slightly fogged) cocktail glasses fresh from the freezer, and a small bowl of lemon twists. A pleasant evening is in store for all.

    • Jim,

      What a wonderful arrangement. I feel sure you are not going to be outmatched. And thank you so much for showcasing this magnificent set up. It’s clear your guests are more than aptly entertained. I would think there’s not a cocktail you couldn’t make and as you say “my bar is ready to service most special requests my friends may have.” indeed! I would suspect you have a lot of drop-ins, no?

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