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Cocktail Party Secrets

Don Draper holds the clue to hosting a stylish, effortless cocktail party

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Mad Men bar cart
And what would you like to drink? Mad Men/Facebook
Davon bar cart ideas December 2013 Designers At Home
Designers at Home by Ronda Rice Carman Photo courtesy of © Rizzoli New York
Davon bar cart ideas December 2013 European black and brass bar cart European black and brass bar cart at Mrs. PK & Oz
European black and brass bar cart from Mrs. PK & Oz Mrs. PK & Oz
Davon bar cart ideas December 2013 Vintage green glass decanters Davon bar cart ideas December 2013 Vintage green glass decanters
Vintage green glass decanters (and a '70s black panther statue!) that are perfect for your bar cart from Mrs. PK & Oz Mrs. PK & Oz
Davon bar cart ideas December 2013 barware v
Vintage blue cocktail pitcher and matching glasses trimmed in gold from Mrs. PK & Oz Mrs. PK & Oz
Kings County Distillery Moonshine in bottle
Artisian hooch: Real moonshine made in NYC from Taigan.com Taigan.com
Davon bar cart complete December 2013
My holiday bar cart — completed! Photo by Davon Hatchett
Mad Men bar cart
Davon bar cart ideas December 2013 Designers At Home
Davon bar cart ideas December 2013 European black and brass bar cart European black and brass bar cart at Mrs. PK & Oz
Davon bar cart ideas December 2013 Vintage green glass decanters Davon bar cart ideas December 2013 Vintage green glass decanters
Davon bar cart ideas December 2013 barware v
Kings County Distillery Moonshine in bottle
Davon bar cart complete December 2013
Davon Hatchett, head shot, column mug

This month is a particularly special one because it not only marks the holiday season, but it also commemorates the 80th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. So how might one simultaneously commemorate both the holidays and the repeal, you ask?

By hosting a fabulous cocktail party, of course!

Now I know what you’re probably thinking. With the holiday party season upon us in full, unadulterated swing, there’s no way to successfully pull off an impromptu cocktail party . . . is there?

 A strategically stocked bar cart can make hosting a stylish and relaxed breeze. 

I have a two-word solution for you: bar cart. A strategically stocked bar cart can make hosting a stylish and relaxed breeze. Just set up a well-styled cart, lay out a few lovely platters of savory and sweet bites and voila, you have an instant, tony cocktail party.

The bar cart has seen a chic and fashionable resurgence ever since Mad Men invaded pop culture a few years ago (who doesn’t envy the fact that Don Draper has one next to his desk?), and it appears to be a design trend that will be sticking around for quite some time. It’s perfect for entertaining because it fosters a convivial and interactive experience, allowing guests become their own mixologists for the evening.

An added bonus is that it also frees up the host to mingle and actually enjoy his or her own party.

If you’re not an ordinary host and you certainly don’t want to host a cookie-cutter cocktail part — you want your shindig to be memorable — that’s when your creativity comes into play.

Your personality can shine through with not only the type of bar cart you select but also in how you style it.

For some expert guidance I decided to reach out to two décor and design mavens, Ronda Rice Carman and Patti Kagan, for tips and advice on styling. Carman is writer, author and editor of greatly adored and popular blog All the Best as well as the author of the new book (with a foreword by Martha Stewart) Designers at Home: Personal Reflections on Stylish Living. Kagan is the co-owner of newly bowed Houston mid-century modern furniture and accessories boutique Mrs. PK & Oz.

Your personality can shine through with not only the type of bar cart you select but also in how you style it. 

CultureMap: How would you describe your personal approach to styling a bar cart?

Ronda Rice Carman: It was [designer] David Hicks who declared, "I like rows and rows of tonic bottles, tomato juice and two or three syphons of spirits lined up behind each other; it gives a generous, welcoming atmosphere, and if a busload of friends descends upon you, you are ready for them." I follow a similar approach, and I love pretty colored bottles of water and alcohol. Color, pattern and texture all come into play.

Patti Kagan:  Methodical — paying particular attention to function, however, with high style!

CM: What is your best advice for styling a bar cart?

RRC: A stylish bar cart needs to be functional and beautiful. I love using trays to help divide the bar cart into sections. Not only is it practical, but it also looks pretty.

PK: Make a list of what you will need that evening and then style with what looks beautiful. Always use vintage or at least hints of vintage here and there. Think "Brat Pack."

CM: What three things, besides alcohol and glasses, of course, should every bar cart have?

RRC: Cloth cocktail napkins, unique bar tools, cocktail recipe book.

PK: I style a bar cart with vintage bar ware that includes: tumblers for scotch drinkers (with a bottle of 12 year old Macallan); a martini shaker and glasses, Chopin vodka (because I love the bottle), vermouth, shaved lemon rind and olives stuffed with blue cheese (complete with bamboo picks); champagne saucers (with my favorite rosé Prosecco, Zonin, for color); a fun ice bucket that is always a great conversation piece filled with perfectly shaped ice and, of course, glamorous cocktail napkins.

Now that you’ve gotten some terrific advice, it’s time to put it into action. Here are some of my personal favorite resources for snazzy bar carts and accessories:

BAR CARTS

Society Social

 This talented group has been creating its own original bar cart designs since 2011. With a belief that life is a “grand celebration” at its business core, the bar carts reflect a certain joie de vivre.

1stdibs

If exquisite vintage and antique bar carts are more your style, 1stdibs will completely seduce you. With a superbly curated collection of antique dealers from across the globe, you’re sure to find just the right cart to indulge your extravagant side.

One Kings Lane

Started in 2009 by two design enthusiasts, One Kings Lane is known for hosting sales (many lasting as little as 72 hours) that offer “exceptional value on top-brand, vintage, and designer items.” As far as bar carts go, they have a range of price points from $250 to over $2,000. My favorite is the “Timothy Whealon” clear, plexi-craft bar cart that is stunning in its simplicity.

• “Big box” stores

For an economical option that doesn’t sacrifice style, be sure not to overlook the large retailers. My picks include the “Threshold Finish Bar Cart” from Target ($130) and the “Ernest” chrome bar car from CB2 ($179)

ACCESSORIES

Anthropologie

This store, known for its “curated mix of clothing, accessories, gifts and home décor,” carries some charming and irresistible collections for entertaining. Expect to find cute canapé plates, curvy beverage decanters and carafes, etched wine and cocktail glasses, chic coasters and darling cocktail napkins, such as these called “Cocktail Chatter.”

Taigan

This purveyor caters to those with a whimsical sensibility, which I really love. What I love even more is that not only do they stock chic barware, but this online store is also essentially bar-cart one-stop shopping. The site carries bar carts (the two currently on the site are a lacquered, bright blue bamboo cart and a lacquered red-orange one with modern lines), wine and spirits including pear cognac, scotch, and, wait for it ... moonshine, small batch tonic, crystal wine glasses, ice buckets and embroidered cocktail napkins.

eBay

If you have a bit of patience and are open to culling through a ton of awesome (and some not so awesome) options, then go to eBay and type in “vintage bar ware.” Prepare to have your wallet emptied.

Now that you’re now fully equipped with all of the tips, ideas, inspiration and resources to entertain fabulously without the fuss, what time is the party? Being the gracious guest that I am, I’ll bring a bottle of bubbly with me to add to your gorgeously styled cart.

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