As the design of our lobby at The Woodhouse lodge is coming together, we are balancing a mix of styles that I describe as Mid-century Shaker with a touch of modern. One of the stylistic cornerstones of the kitchen is our stunning (if I do say so myself) cerused oak bar cabinet courtesy of The New Traditionalists. Today I’ll be giving you a peek into the process of designing a custom bar cabinet. From selecting finishes to picking the perfect spirits to stock our new bar, I’m dishing all the details.
One lesson I’ve learned about decorating the lodge is that less is more. Due to the minimalist tendencies of the hybrid shaker style that I’m trying to infuse, achieving a finished but simple look can be tricky. I’ve experimented with a lot of options, and I have found that a bold wall treatment or stately cabinet standing alone look better here than a more complicated or layered approach. The trick is nailing the silhouette and materials. When I started the design process, I was happy to see that The New Traditionalists offer a few basic shapes inspired by classic pieces from every era to use as a starting place for custom pieces. Working with the New York City-based design studio, I selected a mid-century bar cabinet design as a basic design. With the help of the on-staff designer team to customize it with my own, size and finish specifications. Once the design work ended, the specs were sent off to the there Connecticut factory for production. Using a combination of traditional furniture making craftsmanship and a customizable design process The New Traditionalists are reinventing heirloom furniture, and I think the result is pretty darn cool!
The New Traditionalists offer a variety of finishes including custom paint matching, lather, and fabric options, so the possibilities are endless! With a slight change in finishes or scale, this piece would look completely different. I wanted something that fit this wall and would store glassware, and enough wine and spirits for our guests to enjoy but I didn’t want it to scream bar cabinet all the time.
I landed on an onyx cerused oak finish for the exterior because I’ve always loved the way it highlights the wood grain without being overly rustic. If your not familiar with this finish it is created by opening the pores of a hardwood and rubbing pigment into the surface to accentuate the natural grain. It takes a real artist to accomplish a finish like this. On the interior of the cabinet, I chose a mirrored finish for a little extra sparkle when the cabinet is open.
But Let’s Face it a cabinet this beautiful deserves an equally unique selection of spirits. To properly outfit our very chic addition, I called on my friends Shai and Susan from The Reed Street Bottle Shop to help me create a bar worthy of our new cabinet. Here’s what they had to say.
Building Your Bar
Just like good design, Susan and Shai recommend outfitting your bar with a few staples. They suggest a bourbon or rye, a gin, an agave spirit (tequila or mezcal), and a scotch or Irish whisky—these are the core spirits to get you started, from there, you can layer on bitters, vermouth, Amaro, liqueurs, digestifs. The couple recommends finding good quality “well bottles” for the spirits that you’re going to mix in basic cocktails. They love American Distilling Gin for gin and tonics, and Old Overholt Rye for Manhattans and Old Fashioneds—Susan says, “they’re both delicious spirits in liter-sized bottles that won’t break the bank.” They suggest the splurging on bottles that last on the shelf. Susan loves to break out their collection of Amari after a big meal (Braulio and Nonino are two house favorites)—that’s where she tends to spend on pricier bottles. Some favorite NY-state spirits, Shai and Susan love, are Prohibition Distillery in the Catskills. Susan says, “their Bootlegger 21 New York Bourbon is a dream”. She also loves Forthave Spirits in Brooklyn for their Aperitivo and their Amaro. “We also can’t get enough of Leopold Bros.—a family run distillery out of Boulder, making quality spirits and a slew of fruit-infused liqueurs which are perfect for layering into mixed cocktails.”
Keep It Simple
Susan and Shai strongly recommend keeping your basic spirits simple! There are tons of flavored, smoked, and infused options out there—those are fun to experiment with once you’ve got a little experience under your belt, but if you’re just getting started, they suggest sticking with the more straightforward traditional spirits and flavor profiles. They tend to be the biggest crowd pleasers and allow you to get a good understanding of the base spirit before getting fancy.
Susan says “We always have a bottle of something bubbly in the fridge, and firmly believe that they need not be reserved for special occasions—bubbles taste just as delicious on a random Tuesday as they are on birthdays or anniversaries.” You gotta love that!! Beyond bubbly they suggest having a few French reds on hand—Gamay and Cinsault are two great options because they range from lighter-bodied to fuller bodied (respectively), and tend to be very food friendly.
The Mezcal Paloma
In honor of our new bar cabinet, I asked Susan and Shai to share a drink recipe just in time for the weekend! Susan and Shai refer to Mezcal as Tequila’s smokey older brother. When mixed with fresh grapefruit and soda water, it’s about as refreshing as it gets on a hot summer day.
1 lime wedge
1/4 ounce lime juice
2 ounces grapefruit juice
2 ounces mezcal
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
2 ounces soda water
1 grapefruit (or lime) wedge, for garnish
Rub the rim of the glass with the lime wedge and then dip the rim in the salt, spin slowly until the rim is lightly coated.
Pour lime juice, grapefruit juice, mezcal and sugar into a glass. Using a spoon, stir until sugar has dissolved. Fill glass with ice cubes and top with soda water.
We are crazy about our new bar cabinet for The New Traditionalists! It’s one of the prettiest pieces I’ve ever owned. A custom piece of furniture can be a bit of a splurge, but in a world full of disposable everything it is nice to know this piece will be around for a long time to come. You can be sure we will be whipping up a couple of Mezcal Palomas this weekend.