How the cocktail cart got its freshness back

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

Manhattan trolley in metal and colored glass Ettore Sottsass, 1986, €1,950 © Bruno Staub

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

Mategot Demon tea trolley, €2,759, 1stdibs.com

Mategot Demon tea trolley, €2,759, 1stdibs.com

A 1970s octagonal bar cart by Karl Springer, $7,200, 1stdibs.com

A 1970s octagonal bar cart by Karl Springer, $7,200, 1stdibs.com

1940s tea trolley by Alvar Aalto, €18,000, 1stdibs.com

1940s tea trolley by Alvar Aalto, €18,000, 1stdibs.com

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

A 1960s nursery cart, £475, merchantandfound.com

A 1960s nursery cart, £475, merchantandfound.com

Paul Middlemiss, founder of vintage specialists Merchant & Found, has “a bit of a fetish” for carts. His current crush is a pair of 1960s aluminum examples he scavenged from a nursery in Eastern Europe (£475 each). Rattan is also popular thanks to the ’70s revival. Middlemiss says, “It’s eco-friendly, it feels holiday-like and it’s tactile.”

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

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

Cabinetmaker Little Halstock creates custom carts (POA). “You can have dedicated areas for spirits and glassware, a built-in silver ice bucket, and a concealed drawer for bar tools,” says manager Luke Wycherley. “Sometimes customers order a matching humidor.” A roller shutter – well known as a revolving door – can also be incorporated. “We recently made one adorned with an art deco night scene in marquetry,” says Wycherley.

Drinks trolley Dolce & Gabbana Blu Mediterraneo Caronte, POA

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

If space is lacking, the Italian interiors company Kartell makes sleek designs in chrome and colored 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 which I’m sure rarely, if ever, move (£1,459 amara.com). But the fun of a cocktail cart is just knowing that you can roll it around if you want to, or better yet, someone can bring the bar to you.

@alicelascelles