I collect things, sometimes not knowing why. One interest throughout the years has been barware and barware accoutrement. This interest started as a young child, which is ironic because the strongest beverage served in my childhood home was sweet tea.
Loveman’s, the dearly departed downtown Birmingham department store, may have been the impetus for my barware interest. On infrequent family excursions to the big city, aside from eating trout amandine at Britling Cafeteria where white-gloved waiters carried your tray to the table, my favorite thing to do was to peruse the housewares section of Loveman’s.
Particularly enthralling was the in-house glass etcher, who personalized a myriad array of cocktail glasses with one’s monogram. Apparently a Southern girl child’s love of all things monogrammed begins at an early age.
That I acquired and continue to acquire a collection of antique and vintage bar items is likely due to childhood deprivation. I coveted those etched glasses, which were rightfully deemed an unnecessary extravagance for a child in elementary school.
“Vintage” is a loosely defined term, as opposed to “antique.” One pundit defines vintage as any object listed on eBay for more than 24 hours. Whereas, by definition, an object is considered an antique if it is more than 100 years old.
Though much of my barware collection is vintage or antique, it has little or no value because things in the collection have little practicality in today’s world. But I am encouraged that some of my collection might be saved from the garbage bin.
Apparently, there is a resurgence of interest among the younger generation, who eschew matchy-matchy sets of fine china but want a few pieces of Granny’s stuff like flowery dishes and vintage tableware to mix in with their minimalist décor.
One of the darling establishments for sourcing disparate tablescape items and filling in missing pieces from inherited sets is Replacement Ltd. in McLeansville, N.C. This business does a booming business, stocking more than 11 million pieces of discontinued and active patterns of vintage tableware, tablescape and barware.
I don’t have 11 million pieces in my collection. although it seems that way as I struggle to maintain and store it.
Some items I find most intriguing that should not go to Goodwill include five antique George III hand-blown engraved cordial glasses (circa late 18th century). You will remember it was King George who lost the American colonies.
Additionally, there are seven antique George III wine glass rinsing bowls. At a Georgian table, a rinsing bowl would be at each place, partially filled with water for diners to rinse their wine glasses.
Have I ever used these? No. For one thing, wine glasses were smaller in the 18th century. Today’s modern, big bulb glasses would hardly fit in these rinsing bowls. And with the armada of wine glasses at my disposal, guests need not rinse glasses.
Moving to the 19th century, I have an antique Tom and Jerry punch bowl with matching cups, circa 1896 to 1919, made in Bavaria by Joseph Schachtel. Tom and Jerry not of cartoon fame but Tom and Jerry, the name of a brandy-laced drink akin to today’s eggnog.
Admittedly, I have never used this bowl and attendant cups, nor have I ever replicated Tom and Jerry libations.
Also from the 19th century is a French absinthe spoon. What the heck is absinthe and why is an absinthe spoon needed?
Absinthe is a potent (over 100 proof) licorice-flavored libation. Consuming it straight up is not recommended. Therefore, a pierced flat spoon is required to rest on top of the glass to hold a sugar cube. Water is poured over the cube into the glass of absinthe until the sugar dissolves and the water dilutes the potent beverage.
Do I drink absinthe? No, I don’t like licorice. But you never know when such a spoon might be needed.
The martini cocktail appeared on the scene in the late 19th century along with the attendant shaker. The original was made with gin and vermouth and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist.
My vintage martini shakers differ in design and size. They include a ruby glass art deco number as well as a 1950ish odd-looking space odyssey glass shaker. They range from baby bear size, for one small martini, to papa bear, which holds way too many.
Do I drink martinis? No, at least not the original recipe. But I do enjoy a range of modern fruit martinis shaken with ice and served in a large frosted martini glass.
Consider shaking up your evening with one of the following recipes. These will make one to two martinis, depending on the size of glassware used:
Make a cranberry puree by processing one cup of fresh or frozen cranberries with ½ cup of sugar and ¼ cup orange juice concentrate in a food processor. Cook this mixture over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Combine in a martini shaker ¼ cup of cranberry puree, four ounces of vodka, two ounces of triple sec and a cup of crushed ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled glass.
SPICED APPLE CIDER MARTINI
Mix together in a martini shaker 2 cups of sparkling spiced apple cider, ⅓ cup brown sugar, ⅓ cup vodka and two ounces of limoncello or other lemon-flavored liqueur. Shake to mix and then add one cup of crushed ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass.
ORANGE MARMALADE MARTINI
Combine 3 ounces of vodka, 1 ounce of orange-flavored liqueur (such as triple sec or Grand Marnier) and 1 cup of orange juice in a martini shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Place 1 tablespoon of orange marmalade into the bottom of each glass. Strain shaken mixture into each glass and stir gently to incorporate marmalade with the liquor.
Pat Kettles writes about wine and spirits every other Wednesday. Contact her at email@example.com.