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Spirits: Portable Potables

Ed Dwyer

In 1957, acclaimed entertainer and Rat Pack mainstay Sammy Davis Jr. placed a special order with Hermès of Paris. A devout cocktail enthusiast who spent much of the year on the road between engagements, Davis required a portable travel bar that would keep his favorite libations within easy mixing distance. The bar was to be no ordinary one. At the performer’s behest, Hermès craftsmen created what may be the sine qua non of its ilk, handcrafted in black crocodile, the interior lined with Moroccan goatskin and bright red calfskin. Five bottle holders encased Davis’ favorite spirits, and each of a five-piece cup-and-tray set of guilloched vermeil bore his initials.

As Davis appreciated, the serious cocktail aficionado must be outfitted with a travel bar that is functional yet elegant, unique yet utilitarian. In recognition of this maxim of connoisseurship, several top luggage and leather firms apply their craft to customizing travel bars to satisfy any whim.

Today’s mobile mixologist will need not only to spend handsomely, but also to exercise patience, according to Clare Wynn, product development and production manager at Asprey, the London-based luxury house. On average, Asprey’s designers require 12 weeks to manufacture the finished item. As for cost, Wynn says a typical retail price for a bespoke travel bar would run from $3,200 to $8,000, "but literally, the sky is the limit."

Those in search of a classic existing design should consider the Louis Vuitton Whiskey Case, which has stood peerless since its introduction in 1955. The updated Whiskey Case is entirely constructed by hand with fittings, hasps, and locks of solid brass. The grained leather used by firm founder Louis Vuitton inspired the scratch-resistant, water-repellent Epi leather exterior; the interior comprises a decanter, four silver-plated tumblers, a silver-plated ice bucket, a silver-plated nut box, tongs, a bottle opener, and a compartment for soda water. Louis Vuitton currently has a four- to six-month waiting list for the case, which retails for $6,600.

More understated but no less functional is the three-bottle Travel Companion found at Beretta Gallery in New York City and Dallas. Handmade in Germany and retailing at $995, it features a vegetable-dyed calfskin case with brass fittings. At the mixologist’s disposal are a long-handled spoon (or martini stir spoon), a corkscrew, a bottle stopper, a can opener, eight shot glasses, and eight tumblers—all in stainless steel.

When it’s bubbly that requires transporting, the handcrafted calfskin-covered Champagne Set by Ghiso may make even the most jaded oenophile giddy. Covered inside and out with almond velvet calf and protected by a supple calf travel case, this $4,425 addition to Dunhill’s lineup of luxury accessories sets a new standard for portable posh.

The Ghiso case—like these other essentials of civilized refreshment—illustrates with polish the credo of all peripatetic imbibers: When it comes to cocktail hour, you can take it with you. We think Sammy would approve.

Asprey, www.asprey.com; Beretta, 212.319.3235 (New York), 214.559.9800 (Dallas), www.beretta.com; Dunhill, www.dunhill.com; Hermès, 800.441.4488, www.hermes.com; Louis Vuitton, 866.VUITTON, www.vuitton.com

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