Once a fixture of restaurants and living rooms across the world, bar carts are making a comeback. It’s not hard to see why. They’re civilised, convenient and impossible to refuse.
“We replaced our traditional cocktail list with a drinks trolley at the beginning of the year,” says Fabien Moalic, sommelier at Melbourne’s The Press Club. “Our cocktail list was always popular, but now, cocktails from the trolley are going to pretty much every table.”
Bar carts date back to the Victorian era, although back then were used for tea. It wasn’t until the ’30s that they began to be used for drinks. During the 1950s, due to the emphasis on hosting and parties and the rise of cocktail-hour, bar carts were everywhere.
In a way, it’s surprising they ever fell out of fashion – especially in restaurants. At The Press Club, accepting a cocktail before the meal from the shiny gold-and-glass cart is as simple as accepting a glass of champagne. There’s no wait time, which is a win for both the restaurant staff and the diner.
At the end of the meal, The Press Club’s cart goes round again; this time laden with a range of digestifs and its signature Espresso Martini.
Other restaurants and bars around the country with bar carts include The Astor, Syracuse, Bar Liberty and Hellenic Republic in Melbourne; and the Roosevelt, Icebergs, Bells at Killcare and Harpoon Harry in Sydney.
It’s not just restaurants that bar carts are returning to. Sydney-based designer Joshua McKean was the runner up in the Mercedes-Benz Design Award presented by Broadsheet for his retro drinks trolley in 2015.
“The brief was to design an item of furniture that would fit in the home kitchen or dining area,” says McKean. “Instead of just looking at a stereotypical chair, I tried to think about how people use their homes to entertain.”
He discovered, through his research, that many people prefer to have their alcohol bottles and glassware on display, rather than hidden in a cupboard or on a shelf. “If you’ve got a nice bottle, and a nice cart, it becomes a feature of that room,” he says.
Anything can be used as a bar cart. Traditional examples include globe bars and wheeled trollies with two shelves and racks for glassware. But old workbenches, cabinets and desks can also be refashioned.
McKean says some of the best examples he’s seen have used glass panelling. “The glass mimics and reflects the glassware itself and also the bottles,” he says. He’s also seen some great bar carts with lots of gold and bronze, and intricate and ornate metalwork. “There are lots of different types,” he says, “The key thing is to display the drinks, and make sure it functions well as a home bar.”
If you’d like to invest in your own home bar cart, have a look at this Pinterest page for some inspiration.
This article is presented in partnership with World Class.