Mystery Object 387: The Secret Drawer

Size: Airplane Sink

Ice? Fruit?

Ice? Fruit?

Recorded: March 2016

Found: Dubuque, Iowa, United States

Circa: Late 1800s?

Made: Unknown

Material: Porcelain, Wood

Status: Known

You’re tending bar one day and you  notice a fiddly bit that you’ve not paid any attention to. You pull it, and behold! It’s a drawer, with a sink-link thing and a slot for a spoon. But what’s it for?

We don’t have a lot of information on this. It’s an old fancy bar. Cocktails with ice became more common after the 1860s.

Questions:

Was it for fruit or ice?

Why a spoon instead of tongs?

Why a drawer?

Did it drain? (It is right over the sinks.)

UPDATE:

The red stains may have come from Maraschino Cherries. They used to be died with Red Dye 4 (cochineal) which has a similar pink tint.

Also, Andrew gave us more info:

Chiming in with a little more detail, for what it’s worth: this bar is actually the New Atlas in Columbus, MT. It was produced by Brunswick-Balke-Collender in either Dubuque or Chicago. According to this site, either the front bar or the back bar was salvaged from a closed saloon in Butte, MT.”

Thank you, Andrew! We’re hoping to find something in an old bar catalog or something that shows exactly what this is, but we’d love to hear your ideas!

SOLVED? 

I contacted an antiques expert who specializes in bars, and she informed me that it is likely a muddling bowl. For a fruit drink, cherries and such would be put in the bowl, and then crushed with a pestle. The mash would then be spooned into drinks as required. The bowl may have been marble, rather than porcelain and would be removable.

This explanation also accounts for the red stains.

Do you have a mystery object you’d like to share? Whether you know what it is or not, we’d like to hear from you! Drop us a line at jeff@collegeofcuriosity.com.

 

  Click for larger images

The bar today.

The bar today.

Little do they know, their bar has a secret.

Little do they know, their bar has a secret.

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5 Comments

  1. Possibly an ingredient that you could sell through in a day, something that needed to be kept on ice but handy to the bartender. My first guess would be oysters, either with or as part of a cocktail. Might also have held a stock of eggs, egg whites, or milk, all of which would have appeared in cocktails in the late 19th c.

  2. Chiming in with a little more detail, for what it’s worth: this bar is actually the New Atlas in Columbus, MT. It was produced by Brunswick-Balke-Collender in either Dubuque or Chicago. According to this site, either the front bar or the back bar was salvaged from a closed saloon in Butte, MT.

  3. in Victorian times and early 20th Century, whiskey was commonly served with a heaping tablespoon of sugar. The spoons typically had twisty-handles just as a minor tradition. The whiskey and sugar was shaken, not stirred, then poured through a sieve that at a fancy place would match the big sugar spoon. Poor through sieve (over ice where available), add sprig of mint which was usually available along any weedy path across the whole of North America. An even bigger spoon would measure the sugar for a mint julep, also shaken not stirred, poured through the bar sieve.

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