Three cheers for the return of the cocktail trolley

The cocktail trolley is back with a vengeance and driving a path through the nation’s homes and smartest bars, says Alice Lascelles

Image: Chris Burke

One of the unintended consequences of American Prohibition was a boom in sales of cocktail ware. The mixing of drinks, a task hitherto performed by professionals on the other side of the bar, now took place behind closed doors. And so the ritual of the cocktail hour was born, along with an array of shakers, tools, glassware and trolleys fit to grace the drawing room.

Can it be a coincidence that, in this puritanical age, the cocktail trolley is now making a comeback? Even Ikea does a cocktail trolley of sorts. At the other end of the spectrum, new models include the very handsome Valet Bar Cart (£1,675) by Stellar Works, which comes with an array of leather pouches for storing cocktail kit, and the hoop-shaped, deco-style brass and white marble trolley (£325) by Madam Stoltz.

1stdibs.com also has a mouthwatering selection of vintage trolleys ranging from ornate 19th-century tea trolleys and angular midcentury designs to a swooping 1980s creation fashioned from glass. (I’m eyeing a turquoise lacquered 1950s number by Italy’s Aldo Tura.)

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Those after something more bespoke call on Andrew Nebbett of Andrew Nebbett Designs – he created the deco-style trolley that now trundles the bar at Gleneagles. “We’re seeing a move away from chrome and nickel plate towards materials like black walnut, brass and copper,” reports Nebbett, whose prices start at £5,500 for an original design.

The cocktail trolley’s return won’t be new to the white-jacketed bartenders at Dukes hotel – they’ve been mixing their legendary martinis tableside for 40 years. But at One Aldwych you can now have your Old Fashioned mixed to order from a trolley crammed with luxury spirits, syrups and tinctures. Signature recipes include a classic-style Old Fashioned made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, as well as twists featuring Patrón blanco tequila, kaffir lime leaves syrup and vanilla bitters, and a rum Old Fashioned made with Bacardi Ocho Anejo, citrus syrup and yuzu bitters. All served with hand-carved ice, naturally. 

At 45 Park Lane’s Bar 45, the Bloody Mary trolley allows one to create an eye-opener to order using everything from beetroot and carrot juice, to fresh horseradish, chilli syrup and gazpacho. At the Shard’s Oblix bar, after-dinner whisky (as well as a selection of cheeses) comes to the table on a special trolley carved from one of The Macallan distillery’s signature sherry butts. Irresistible.

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