beyond the shaker: tools for your home cocktail bar

If you’re looking to build up a home bar, you need two things:

1)      Alcohol. (I bet you saw that coming.) Click here for a few ideas of types of booze you should have on hand at home.

2)      Bar tools.

Just like anything else, there’s a plethora of bar tools out there ranging from very basic (a bar spoon) to much more advanced (like, say, a fruit juicer or blender). What you need will depend largely on what you like to make and how interested you are in mixed drinks generally.

But the reality is, you don't really need all that much to have a full-service cocktail bar at home.

You only need a few tools to set up a world-class home cocktail bar.

basic bartending tools

·         A cocktail jigger. This measuring tool helps make sure you’re using the right amount of the ingredients in your cocktail. It’ll taste best if you have the right ratios for everything, and you’ll also be able to control your alcohol consumption better.

·         A cocktail shaker. You’ll be using this to make drinks that are shaken (who would’ve guessed?). You can place two glasses together, rim to rim, as an alternative, but it can be a bit messier, especially if you’re not a seasoned bartender. There are tons of reasonably priced options out there, so do yourself a favor and get one.

·         A bar spoon. These spoons are generally longer and flatter (with less curve to the cup) than regular spoons. Their height means they work in any size drinking glass, and their shape makes it easier to mix your drink for optimal taste.

·         A strainer. A lot of drinks are made with ice, but they’re not always served with it. Even if they are, you’ll want to use fresh ice because the ice you’re working with is already melting and will dilute your cocktail.

Either way, you’ll want to separate your mixing ice from the rest of the ingredients. That’s where your strainer comes in. (It can help sift other solid ingredients out of your drink as well). Some shakers come with strainers, but if yours doesn’t, it’s worth getting a separate one.

Taking your home bar to The next level

Want to step up your game a little bit? Add these to your toolbox:

·         A muddler. This helps to crush ingredients like a pestle, so you can extract what you really want from them. You’ll be able to add fresh fruit juices and herbal oils directly into your cocktail.

·         A zester. If you want to be able to serve drinks with a twist, you’ll need a bit of citrus peel. Or you might simply like using peels to garnish. Either way, a zester makes it easy to separate it from the rest of the fruit.

·         A speed pourer. These are the spouts you see on top of a lot of the bottles at bars and restaurants. They help you avoid spills, they help the alcohol come out faster, and they add a professional touch to any home bar. Bonus: you can use your pourer to figure out how long it takes to fill your jigger with certain spirits. With enough practice, you’ll eventually be able to measure out the ingredients for your favorite mixed drinks without the jigger.

Just be sure to take the pourer off and cap your bottle when you're done making your cocktail.

Speed pourers help control the flow of liquor and are a good addition to any home bar.

·         An ice bucket. This makes your presentation nicer than simply grabbing it from your freezer. Plus, if you mix up a big batch of drinks, it's a good place to keep the mixture cold until it's time for a refill. 

·         Ice tongs. Ice is the unsung hero of the cocktail world. It makes all the difference in whether a cocktail is good or not. Give it the respect it deserves with a pair of tongs instead of your hands or a plastic cup.

·         Giant ice cube trays. It’s not just your mixing ice that’ll dilute your drink—any ice left in there long enough will water things down. But if you use a giant piece of ice, or a couple of extra-large chunks, you’ll be done with your drink by the time it starts melting. The result? A nice, cold drink without the dilution.

Giant ice cube trays also give you enough space to infuse something into each cube. And they come in lots of novel shapes - skulls, grenades, rubber ducks - to add more visual interest to your cocktail.

a word on cocktail glasses...

You can drink a cocktail out of any darn glass you please. But certain glasses are suited for certain drinks and can actually help them taste better.  Plus, if it’s worth making the drink, isn’t it worth drinking from a nice glass?

Yes. The answer is yes.

Click here for the lowdown on cocktail glasses for all your favorite mixed drinks.