In 1933, the “Rhum Rhapsody” – America’s first tiki drink – hit the bar of Don the Beachcomber in Southern California, launching the post-Prohibition trend of elaborate and theatrical cocktails. Other cocktails developed, and by the mid-20th century, cocktail culture hit a high note. The sleek and chic style of midcentury modern design influenced the resulting barware.
Following World War II, suburbanites in midcentury modern homes mixed clever cocktails that elicited a convivial image of American joy and success. This friendly image dovetailed with the notion of the nuclear family as the center of all social interactions, illustrating pride in a home that was hospitable to others.
By the 1950s, the consumption of alcoholic beverages at home far surpassed their consumption in bars and restaurants, marking a new trend. This newfangled pastime of the cocktail hour required a plethora of products, many exhibiting the futuristic design that was fashionable at that time. Naturally, hosts and hostesses soon acquired stylish accessories for the home bar.
Today, a visitor to GasLamp could be forgiven for hearing the phantom clinks of cocktail glasses; imaginations are sent spinning amid GasLamp’s array of the best midcentury-modern cocktail accessories. From teak ice buckets to bar carts, these dapper accouterments will deliver vintage style to any cocktail party.
ART DECO-STYLE ICE BUCKET
Geometric motifs became wildly popular during the Art Deco period. They continued into the midcentury, resulting in new shapes on traditional home goods, from ziggurat patterns on chair crests to orb-shaped chrome teapots. Squares were a popular shape for midcentury-modern ice buckets. Such square-shaped ice buckets were typically made of Plexiglass, crystal, glass and silver. Pewter was used in this uniquely geometric ice bucket at GasLamp Too ($99; Booth T-379). Gleaming and elegant, this ice bucket includes a scoop, handle and lid. It’s ready to infuse a cocktail party with midcentury flair.
TEAK MCM ICE BUCKET
Danish artist-designer Jens Quistgaard created this teak “Congo” ice bucket for Dansk International Designs ($285; Booth T-2012C). Quistgaard became Dansk’s chief designer in 1954, leading the home goods firm to epitomize Danish modern design in the American market. This ice bucket reveals Quistgaard’s fondness for the smooth-grain texture of teak, the most popular wood used in midcentury Danish design. The underside is stamped with the maker’s marks.
1960s COCKTAIL SHAKER
By Hazel-Atlas, this 1960s cocktail shaker features one of the hallmarks of Hazel-Atlas glass after World War II: fired-on designs and words ($60; Booth T-357). Known as the “What’s Your Number?” style, this classic cocktail shaker features a chrome top and screw-off stopper. The phrase “What’s your number” is printed on the side, along with directions to use a person’s birthday to figure out a number that corresponds with their characteristics. (Clearly a drinking game in the making.) Among the personality traits: bold, courageous, loyal, reserved, generous and cheerful.
ARTHUR UMANOFF BAR CART
Collectors of midcentury-modern furniture highly prize industrial designer Arthur Umanoff’s creations, and this bar cart or barbecue trolley is a splendid example of his work ($695; Booth T-206). Umanoff designed the oak-and-steel piece for the mail-order purveyor David Morgan around the late 60s or early 70s. The cart features wine bottle storage, one deep drawer, two shallow drawers and a stave-oak worktop for meat cutting (for keeping charcuterie boards on tap). Can you imagine how chic this would be when used to serve gourmet meats and cheeses along with perfectly shaken cocktails?
ITALIAN ANRI BOTTLE STOPPER
This hand-carved bottle stopper from the Italian company Anri results from a micro-trend in the Gröden Valley from 1912 until the mid-Sixties ($32; Booth T-384). Farmers in the region carved and painted these figurines to resemble actual people they knew, crafting each stopper with a lever that causes a mechanical action. This bottle stopper is called the “Kissing Couple”; a lever on the couple’s backside causes their heads to turn toward each other as if to kiss.
No two Anri stoppers are alike, and the personalities and mechanisms are fun to examine, from the man who answers a phone to the fellow who tips his hat to the guy who lifts his camera to take a photo. Talk about a conversation starter.
COBALT BLUE HIGHBALL GLASSES
Nothing can beat these eight highball glasses for being thick, heavy and breakage-resistant ($58; Booth T-111). The stylish-yet-utilitarian glasses fit the sleek, simple aesthetic of the midcentury era, and they’re made of the deepest cobalt blue glass. They’re perfect for serving anything from mojitos to iced tea.
Halcyon days of sipping cocktails in an intimate crowd filled the midcentury era. It was a time when cutting-edge materials merged with a forward-thinking attitude, creating so many of the midcentury-modern cocktail accessories we admire today. With more Americans focusing on friendships and home pursuits right now, it’s the perfect time to infuse a room with some cocktail culture.