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How Vintage Cocktail Cabinets are Getting a Sustainable and Stylish Upgrade

Updated: May 23

Cheers to Upcycling!

Alouette - Vintage Chinoiserie Cabinet by Lady Griddlebone

Hey cocktail lovers, it's time to raise a glass to upcycling!

Given the enduring appeal of cocktails, it's no wonder that upstyled, vintage cocktail cabinets are one of the biggest sellers for our Furniture Artists.

Who wouldn't want a stunning piece of furniture to showcase their ever-growing collection of gins and spirits?

Picture it now: a chilled martini glass, filled to the brim with some deliciously boozy, (or otherwise), concoction, garnished with an olive or two, and sitting pretty on your chic and eco-friendly cocktail cabinet.

Pure sophistication……

Sip Back And Relax

Cocktails, in some form or other, have been a mainstay of our social and drinking calendars for a very, very long time, and whilst “elegant” cocktails might have gone out of the window in the 70s and 80s, when mullet haircuts and huge shoulder pads came in, it wasn’t long before we were back on track.

Gone are the days when Babycham, sherry, gin, and whisky, (served at room temperature of course) were the standard offerings at most soirées.

And if you are of a certain age, you’ll remember those adverts with Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins…. If not, google them… funny!

I can still remember my mother-in-law offering me a Cinzano and lemonade, (she pronounced it “sin-zar-no”), served, lukewarm, with no ice or lemon, but with the ubiquitous maraschino cherry, which I loathed!

Anyway, I digress slightly. We’re supposed to be talking about the history of the cocktail cabinet, so let’s get to it.

It’s fair to say there has been a huge boom in the variety of cocktails served in pubs, clubs, and restaurants over the last couple of decades.

That has, in turn, encouraged many of us to take up the art of mixology at home, and so the volume of gins, vodka, liqueurs and other bottles, we have at home has got completely out of hand and the shelves are groaning under the weight of it all. (Or is that just me)?

But where did the concept of the cocktail cabinet come from?

Well, let's just say that the history of the cocktail cabinet is just as interesting as the drinks it houses. As cocktails gained popularity, so did the need for an elegant and practical way to store all the necessary ingredients.

From China to Europe: A Spirited Journey

Alcoholic Spirits have been around for quite a few years. In fact, the earliest known examples of fermented grapes can be traced back to China and 7000 BC, but our ancestors were probably getting tipsy way before then.

Anyhow, fast forward a few hundred years and we know that Egyptians were making beer, Europeans were making wine, and these were often given to workers as part of their daily rations.

As alcoholic consumption grew, so did its uses, and monetary value in terms of trade.

Alcohol was often used as a preservative, an antiseptic, and as medicine, but given these alcoholic beverages were not the most refined, it’s not a huge leap to assume they probably did more harm than good.

Regardless, Alcohol was now an asset and needed to be protected.

Flora & Fauna Vintage Cocktail Cabinet by Saved From Disgrace

Cabinets At War

In the early 15th Century, we see the first purpose-built Drinks cabinet, called a “Cellarette”. It was designed specifically to secure alcohol from thieves, having a locking system.

They were relatively plain to deter further investigation and were used in wealthy homes, religious houses, pubs, and taverns, and perhaps surprisingly, given their portability, they were used by officers during the various wars, most notably the American Civil War of the 19th Century.

From there, we progressed to “Bar Cabinets”. These cabinets were larger, more elegant, and less portable, but again, came with a lock and key system, and ironically, many were designed to conceal illegal alcohol during Prohibition.

Vintage Drinks Cabinet by Made by Murphy

Cocktail Cabinet Craze

Prohibition lasted from 1919 to 1933 before it was repealed and Americans were able to, legally, enjoy alcohol once again. And that newfound freedom saw the birth of many famous cocktail cabinet makers.

These artists used refined cabinet-making skills, beautiful woods, inlays, and veneers to produce the most elegant pieces of furniture that were as eye-catching as they were practical. Suddenly cocktail cabinets, and cocktails, were all the rage.

Art Deco, as an artistic movement, really took off during the same years as prohibition and was still going strong in 1933 when cocktail cabinet makers were flourishing.

So, it’s easy to see why so many of the earlier cocktail cabinet models were designed with the clean lines and iconic designs of Art Deco.

And those designs have been imaginatively reinterpreted and redesigned by some extraordinarily talented furniture artists.

Beautility Cocktail Cabinet/Sideboard by Gracie's Attic

The Renaissance

There has been a huge revival in the popularity of cocktail cabinets, and not just for practical reasons, as somewhere to store our ever-increasing collection of Gins.

Ah, the vintage refinished cocktail cabinet. A true stunner and a piece of furniture that’s simply begging to be the focal point of your living space.

Our members have come through with some wonderful examples, each one as unique and striking as the last.

From the iconic Nathan to the stylish Epstein, and the classic Stag, they've got all the big names covered.

And as for design, well, the sky's the limit. Whether you're looking for Art Deco, flora and fauna, or something inspired by the natural world, our talented artists can make it happen.

Decoupage? Absolutely.

The possibilities are endless.