One result of my Instagram photos featuring my latest cocktail shenanigans is that when Mrs. Wonk and I are invited to social gatherings, I often get tasked with bringing cocktails, rather than the traditional, say, bottle of wine or dessert. And I’m certainly not one to slack off with something simple like a Dark & Stormy – the Cocktail Wonk must represent! Sometimes a punch I’ve make in advance is the ticket. But I also enjoy rising to the challenge and making the same cocktails I’d make at home, but on the road. A batch of 1944 Mai Tais for eight? No problem!
As you might imagine, bartending away from your home set-up requires a bit of pre-planning and toting lots of equipment with me. For the aforementioned Mai Tais, for example, I’d need the following:
- Two bottles of rum
- Bottle of dry curacao
- Bottle of orgeat
- Bottle of simple syrup
- Knife to cut the limes
- Handheld lime squeezer
- Lewis bag and mallet for crushed ice
And depending on the location, perhaps even bags of ice from ice maker or cocktail glasses. That’s a lot of equipment to bring! Suddenly a pie seems a lot easier.
My trusty workhorse for hauling bottles and tools around has been the crafty use of a soft-sided picnic cooler with a shoulder strap. With strategic packing I can wedge in the bottles so that they don’t jostle around too much, but for taller bottles this means laying them on their side, leading to potential spillage. My shaker doubles as a hard-sided container for smaller items like straws, knives, bitters bottles, etc. By the time it’s fully loaded, the cooler is heavy and uncomfortable to lug around by the shoulder strap. I often thought there had to be a better way to do this, but my trusty cooler was free so I didn’t pay much attention to improving my situation.
A little over a year ago I saw a Kickstarter effort for a new a new bartender’s bag from Seattle-based Mavenhal (they launched under the name Barkeeper & Co.). Their waxed canvas bags in the form factor of a duffle bag are designed for bartenders by a professional bartender. Looking at the photos online, I was impressed by the features and attention to detail. All that said, the Kickstarter was a bit more money than I wanted to drop at that particular time. If I worked as a bartender or brand ambassador, I wouldn’t have blinked, however– a well-designed, task-specific bag that you use every day is worth its weight in gold. The Kickstarter was successful, and soon I saw customized Mavenhal bags pop up in the social media feeds of various bar industry luminaries.