Style + Living

How to Shop for Vintage Barware

April 22, 2014

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I am thrilled to introduce the The Distillery, a collection of vintage, handmade, and specialty goods, owned and curated by brother and sister, Clif and Catelyn. We caught up in downtown Austin and chatted about how they got started, vintage goods and food (of course!).

How To Shop For Vintage Barware


How to Shop for Vintage Barware

We’re Clif and Catelyn, owners of the online vintage, handmade, and authentic goods shop, The Distillery. We want to show you how to buy vintage barware that you’ll actually be able to use and enjoy with friends, and some tips we’ve learned along the way.

Where to Shop

Flea markets, estate sales, antique stores; the usual suspects. For those of you who are not regular vintage scavengers, you can usually bargain 10 to 20% if you are spending around $50 or more. There are definitely some great pieces to be found online (ie: Ebay and Etsy), but we prefer shopping in person because you can really examine the items for chips, cracks, and other issues that might not be obvious in photos. Also, the potential for a great bargain is less because the market is more efficient online. But the internet is a great resource for getting a handle on the ballpark price you should expect to pay for a certain type of item, before you go shopping.
Glass Cordial Set

What to Look For

First, think about your existing barware and overall home decor. If you don’t have a game plan beforehand, you might buy pieces that are interesting, but end up sitting on the shelf. You’ll want to look for vintage items that don’t clash with the overall vibe of your home. Is your current barware very formal? Buying a mid-century modern cocktail pitcher and glasses is probably going to look a little awkward once you get home, even if it is a cool piece. Likewise, if your current barware and glassware is very colorful and fun, an antique crystal decanter might seem a little out of place.

The goal is to buy items that you’ll actually use. Drink a lot of wine? Look for unique wine glasses (an eclectic mix of different glasses or a matching set of 6 or 8), decanters, and bottle openers. Prefer cocktails? Look for pretty pitchers, a set of tall glasses, a cordial set, liquor decanters, martini glasses, etc.

And again, most importantly, buy what you actually like and will be excited to use at home with friends.

Vintage Glass Flask

Vintage Barware We Love

Personally, we love simple glassware mixed with unique, jewel tone mid-century pieces. Moon and Star made a very recognizable style of colorful decanters and apothecary jars. Their candy dishes and cake stands also make pretty jewelry holders. Culver designed some great mid-century glasses sets, often with a matching pitcher or cocktail shaker.  We also love the genie bottle style decanters and crackle glass pitchers from Blenko. Those are just a few of our personal favorites, but you really can’t go wrong with any pieces you love that fit your own home’s aesthetic.
Amber and Gold Glass Decanter


Inspect the items carefully, top to bottom. Look for chipped glass, worn paint, permanent stains. It may not seem like a big deal in the moment, but you’ll be unlikely to pull that item out at your next party and hand a friend a chipped or stained glass. Regarding decanters, inspect the cork carefully. If the cork is starting to disintegrate, you may want to replace it, or pass on the item altogether. We prefer decanters without a cork (just glass on glass), or a plastic cork, as they are easier to preserve and clean. Dirt or build up in a glass bottle is ok as you can always clean the item at home later (see below).

The easiest way we’ve found to clean vintage glass requires just two household items: uncooked rice and liquid dish soap. Put about a spoonful of uncooked rice into the bottle, add a few drops of liquid dish soap, and fill the bottle about a quarter full of warm water. Seal the opening with your hand and carefully shake in all directions for about a minute. The rice should bounce around and knock off any buildup from the glass. Pour out the contents, just make sure to catch the rice with a mesh sieve so that it doesn’t go down the drain. Throw away the rice, rinse the bottle, and allow to air dry thoroughly. We would not recommend putting any vintage glass in the dishwasher.

Travel Bar Set

How to Set up a Bar at Home

Bar carts are a great way to display your vintage barware and store all of your glassware and bottles in one place. But finding a great vintage bar cart that’s in good condition can get pricey. An alternative is to use the top of a low dresser, side table, or wine rack to set up a little drink station, to the same effect. Think about what you would practically need to make your favorite cocktail and set it out at your “drink station.” Use a vintage serving tray to keep some of the smaller items (bottle opener, shot glass, ice tongs, etc.) contained, and arrange a few liquor decanters, an ice bucket, and a couple serving glasses on the table, along with any other interesting vintage barware items you’d like to display.

We hope you feel armed with the tools you need to find some interesting pieces for your bar at home!

Check out The Distillery on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook!


This post is brought to you by The Distillery. Thanks for supporting posts that keep A Taste of Koko′s doors open!


Jane Ko is the Austin blogger behind A Taste of Koko, Austin's top food and travel blog featuring the hottest restaurants and weekend getaways. Jane has been a speaker at South by Southwest (SXSW), Texas Conference for Women, BlogHer, and more on entrepreneurship and social media. She lives in Austin Texas with her dog and cat.