The Traveling Spirit Mobile Bar Revs Up, Offering Pandemic-Friendly Pours

Rachel Carlson

In a year when spirits are running low, Rachel Carlson is slinging some of her own! Carlson is serving drinks and spreading joy with her Instagram-worthy mobile bar company, Traveling Spirit.


The native Houstonian, 33, remodeled the 1959 Cardinal caravan — which she's named Betsy, in honor of her late mother — into the city's first camper bar with the help of her brother-in-law and his friend in 2018, following a successful career in the restaurant industry. Traveling Spirit is a stylish solution for gatherings of any size, a way to replace uninspiring makeshift bars — you know, the ones typically dressed in a standard white tablecloth — with a charming focal point.

Rachel Carlson

As Covid continues to place limitations on the size and scope of parties, Betsy is on the ready to pull up at any al fresco function, equipped with three windows, a dual-tap kegerator and ice wells to display beautiful bottles of bubbly. The fully insured bartending company offers four different packages, including various combinations of pour, mixer and craft cocktail services, TABC-certified bartenders, and essentials like napkins, straws and more.

Growing up in Kingwood, Carlson aspired to become a chef since fifth grade. After high school, she studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York before working in fine-dining establishments for acclaimed restauranteurs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Mike Isabella and Gabriel Frasca, all over the country.

Upon returning to her hometown, she pursued a side-hustle as a day-of wedding planner, during which time she noticed the lack of lavish drink stations at otherwise high-end receptions. Taking to Pinterest, she discovered the camper bar, a popular concept from Down Under that was slowly making its way to the States. She bought Betsy a month later, built a business from scratch, and quickly established an impressive clientele that includes the Houston Texans, Kendra Scott and Lyft.

"I think my background makes me uniquely positioned for this line of work," says Carlson, whose list of crowd-pleasing signature cocktails includes blackberry-sage Moscow mules, spicy margaritas and honey-fig sours. "It gave me the training, my focus, all the planning and prepping skills. I understand flavor profiles and balance and acidity and colors because I cooked for so long and had to do it in that aspect."

Due to Texas liquor laws, the Traveling Spirit does not provide the booze, but has garnishes, homemade syrups, fresh squeezed juices and mixers on hand. The company also collaborates with local vendors to offer upgraded tossware, glassware rentals, décor and custom handwritten menus.

In 2019, Carlson debuted the Bubble Bar, with prosecco on tap, and although the coronavirus has delayed the launch of additional mobile bars, she has plans to expand with more options coming in the near future. Looking forward, her hopes remain high.

"The bars might be smaller, the events might be smaller, but people still want to find fun and creative ways to celebrate things," she says, "and we really are the best-case scenario."

Food

SOUTH FLORIDA-BASED Italian shoe line Concetto Limone will make its Texas debut at a cocktail reception at Valobra Master Jewelers (2150 Westheimer Rd.) on Thursday, April 29 from 5-7pm. The evening of "All Things Italian" will transport guests immediately to the coast of southern Italian as they sip on Italian wines, Aperol Spritzes, Negronis and Limoncellos while feasting on an assortment of Italian hors d'oeuvres from Houston's beloved Tony's. Invited guests will have the first glance in Texas on the Concetto Limone line and the opportunity to purchase unisex styles on Thursday evening and all day Friday at a trunk show at Valobra.

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Pastries at Cafe Leonelli

CAFE LEONELLI IS now open inside the MFAH's Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, the stunning new wing that first opened in November.

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Abbie Preston Edmonson gives a special presentation this weekend

DESPITE SOME APRIL showers, there's still plenty of fun to be had! From art-centric and Earth Day activities to family-friendly fests, check out a rundown of the weekend's best bets.

LEARN FROM AN ARTIST Tune in tonight for an hour-long talk by ceramicist and Houston Center for Contemporary Craft resident artist Abbie Preston Edmonson about her creative process. She'll give a virtual presentation about her work and a special demonstration in her studio space.

Brennen's exec chef Joey Chavez (photo by Kimberly Park)

TAKE A VIRTUAL PAINTING LESSON OR COOKING CLASS Be inspired by the great state of Texas during a virtual painting lesson hosted by Honey Art Cafe on Friday night. For only $20, stream a two-hour virtual lesson and make a series of stylized mini paintings inspired by West Texas and Big Bend National Park. Honey Art Cafe also has supply kits available for purchase for beginners or artists low on supplies.

And if painting isn't quite your speed, see what you can cook up in the kitchen! Brennen's exec chef Joey Chavez leads a "date night" cooking lesson for couples on Friday at 6:30pm. Hosted at the restaurant, the socially distanced demonstration, which costs $150, includes a reception, followed by an interactive demonstration and seated dinner.

CELEBRATE EARTH DAY! Join the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center from 10am-4pm on Saturday for a fun- and information-filled day! Explore informative booths, nature hikes, fun displays in the Discovery Room, and Earth-friendly take-home activities. Or join Discovery Green on Sunday from 12-5pm, when the park will screen a series of short films about Houston's environment, host a panel about February's freeze, and showcase a live painting demo by local artists working on murals to decorate the park.

GO ON AN OUT-OF-THIS WORLD ADVENTURE Fifty-one years ago, the Apollo 13 crew splashed down safely back on Earth after their famously harrowing mission to the moon and back. Space Center Houston is celebrating that anniversary on Saturday, hosting two livestreamed panel discussions with current NASA experts as well as Apollo-era legends.And now through May 2, local NASA and Apollo 13 fans can check out the center's new spring exhibition, titled "Apollo: When We Went to the Moon," that looks at the legacy of the Apollo era through the lens of the engineers and astronauts who actually lived the experience.

FIND FUN AT THE INTERNATIONAL KIDS FEST Traders Village hosts Kids Fest on Sunday, with games, activities, interactive shows, live music, acrobats, magicians, clowns and more. Parking is $5, but the event itself is free, sure to keep the whole family entertained from 12-4pm.

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