Your Perfect Bar Cart: Tips From Beverage Designer Yana Volfson
If there’s anyone who knows what it’s like to roll with the punches, it’s Yana Volfson. Before Covid-19 altered everyone’s way of life, the NYC-based Cosme and ATLA Beverage Director was preparing to open two West Coast restaurants: Damian in Los Angeles and Elio in Las Vegas. “I was in Las Vegas with our team opening Elio, and back in NYC we were hosting three Mezcal pop-ups at ATLA,” says Volfson. “It was the week before NYC announced it was shutting down. Twenty-four hours later, Las Vegas announced it was closing. So I returned home to be close to my family.”
Volfson considers herself more of a Beverage Designer than a Beverage Director, and based on her daily routine, it’s easy to see why. “During the daylight hours, I’m usually in an apron, recipe-testing new flavors and ideas, and tasting wines and spirits for our menu,” she says. For someone who works both behind the scenes and at the front-of-house, though, it has not been business as usual. Now more than ever, community is everything, even if people feel (and are) distant.
“Many things have changed since the pandemic hit,” she admits. “It’s like living life with everything you already know, only now with a layer of uncertainty that was not there before. What was once second-nature now requires thought. There’s a lot of brokenness. Like the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty, we’re all trying to pick up the pieces to put things together again. I rely on the support, strength, courage and focus of my team to perform and concoct with accuracy, style and grace. I am grateful for that, and for them.”
Many of us are enjoying more cocktails at home these days, and getting your at-home bar cart in order — and customized to perfection — can help alleviate holiday stress, whether it’s for a party of one or a small, socially distanced gathering. Something sweet and citrusy will also contribute to the festivities, like Volfson’s own Dr. Feel Good cocktail, which uses seasonal yuzu fruit and can be enjoyed either hot or cold. Lucky for us, Volfson shared her tips for curating the perfect bar cart, as well as the recipe for her go-to winter cocktail.
Read on for her tips and recipe, and remember — the key to a successful, cozy happy hour, according to Volfson? “Good music and good company.”
Yana Volfson, Beverage Designer & Cosme and ATLA Beverage Director
Start with Bar Cart BasicsSHOP PITCHERS & DECANTERS
“If you are going to attempt to make a good cocktail at home, whether it’s to serve one or twenty, invest in good tools for measuring,” says Volfson. “Your most essential equipment should first give you what you need to make delicious drinks. Have scales, measuring cups and pitchers on hand, as well as a juicer for citrus. Hand-held juicers release more oils from the skins, while electric juicers are a bit easier and faster. An extractor for specialty juices like ginger and apple adds the option for fresh, unexpected drinks.” And of course, don’t forget your bottle openers, corkscrews and shakers. There’s no bigger buzzkill than an impenetrable bottle!
Add Classy GlassesSHOP DRINKWARE & BARWARE
The main rule for your bar cart glass lineup: there is none. “Have fun with your glassware,” says Volfson. “I love mixing and matching fluted champagne glasses and smoky tumblers with porcelain teacups and ceramic coffee mugs. Personally, I would rather have three of each than six of anything.” It’s also smart to have multiple options in case guests have brought their own kinds of libations.
Don’t Overlook the DetailsSHOP CURATED FINDS
Hand-picking fun, unusual pieces for your bar cart will keep you in good spirits when it’s time to get the party started. “I like to pay attention to detail,” notes Volfson. “For example, choosing unique utensils for serving ice and garnishes. Tongs, oyster forks, toothpicks, chopsticks and glass ladles are always thoughtful.” Our Curated by The RealReal section has many one-of-a-kind finds for those finishing touches.
Mix in Objets d’ArtSHOP VASES & VESSELS
An exquisite vase used for serving up big-batch cocktails? Why not? “Think a bit outside of the box and imagine something like the Kelly Wearstler Blanc Pop Bowl as a fruit or punch bowl,” suggests Volfson. “A decorative ceramic vase can double as a water vessel (as long as it’s food-safe), and I always love the drama of a samovar.”
Yana Volfson’s Dr. Feel Good Recipe
Fruity and refreshing, warming and sweet, Volfson’s winter cocktail ticks all the boxes. “Citrus season peaks around this time of year, and I always have to get my hands on yuzu for two recipes: yuzu kosho and yuzu cha,” says Volfson. “Preparing them at the same time with a bounty of yuzu can be a labor of love, but it can also result in zero waste.”
The traditional Korean tea, yuja-cha, is also very popular in Japan (and known in Japanese as yuzu cha). “This tea is made by adding hot water to a yuzu marmalade, yuja-cheong,” notes Volfson. “It’s a delicious, soothing infusion for this cozy time. My Dr. Feel Good cocktail is an easy boozy adaptation that can be served either hot or cold, depending on your mood or local microclimate.”
The Dr. Feel Good, hot
The Dr. Feel Good, iced
Dr. Feel Good
300 grams honey
100 grams hot water
1 ounce Yola Mezcal
1 ounce honey syrup
¾ ounce yuzu juice
4 ½ ounce hot or cold water
Fresh thyme, for serving
Ice, if serving cold
Prepare the honey syrup by combining the honey and hot water in a glass. Stir to dissolve the honey, then store in a pint glass container. (The consistency should be rich enough for pancakes, but thin enough to pour into a drink.)
Next, combine the Yola Mezcal, honey syrup, yuzu juice and hot water. For a cold cocktail, substitute cold water for hot and serve over ice.
Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.