Daiquiri, Old Fashioned, Tom Collins, Margarita? Which drink spurned your interest in cocktails? Whichever one it was, they are all easy to make at home if you have the right bar tools.
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Essential Bar Tools
You may already have some rudimentary tools in your home bar, but having the right quality tools will make all the difference. For example, I highly recommend buying your tools separately as opposed to buying a set. In my experience, bar tool sets tend to be on the cheaper side in terms of quality, and you’re stuck with a specific style that may not lend itself to your favorite cocktail. (However, if you’re reading this and have a great set, please let me know, I’d love to check it out.)
Instead, here is a list of seven essential bar tools to get you started making cocktails at home. None of these tools are overly fancy. What I want to do is give you a list of great starter tools that will stand the test of time, and get you in the game so you can learn the principles of making drinks without breaking the bank. These are the bar tools that I have and still use to this day, as you’ll see by the photos. Cocktail tools that with proper care will last a lifetime.
1. Cocktail Mixing Glass
This is a no-brainer if you are getting into craft cocktails at home. Sure, you can use a pint glass to make a drink, but to really learn the craft I highly recommend you get a quality cocktail mixing glass. There are a few sizes and styles of mixing glasses. I would recommend getting a heavy bottomed glass cocktail mixing glass in the 500ml to the 600ml range, which can be used to make one to four drinks, depending on the cocktail. As for the design and style, go with what you like.
2. Cocktail Bar Spoon
And when you have a mixing glass, you’re going to need a cocktail bar spoon. There are a few different styles to choose from, and all of these will have a spoon at the end which holds about 5 ml of liquid. On the other end, there can be decorative toppers, muddlers, smaller spoons, tridents, red caps, etc. I recommend staying away from any and all bar spoons with the red plastic cap on the end. These are poorly made pieces of junk. I use a European bar spoon with a muddler end. I really like mine, but if I were you, I’d also check out Japanese-style bar spoons. The Japanese really know what they are doing when it comes to bar tools. Their bar spoons tend to be a little longer and have a weighted teardrop end, which makes it a little easier to stir.
3. Cocktail Shaker
If you are a fan of daiquiris or any drink that involves fruit juice, milk, or egg whites, then you need a cocktail shaker. As with all bar tools, there are many styles to choose from, but I only recommend you look at two; Tin on Tin shaker and Parisian shaker.
You may wonder why I only recommend these two. What about the traditional cobbler shaker? You know this shaker, it’s the one you see in the movies where they are shaking up martinis. The cobbler has three parts to it; the cap, built-in strainer, and the base. When shaking a drink, the cap can and will get stuck on the top due to the chilling of the metal. With it being three pieces that don’t seal well with one another it is also prone to leakage. I have dealt with too many a tight cap and leaking shaker. The strainer is nothing but a few holes in metal, and it is not as good as a traditional stand-alone strainer.
There are also insulated cocktail shakers which are warmer on the hands, but shaking is all about technique and touch. Feeling the chill of the tin on your hands will help you know what’s going on inside, and improve your home bartending skills.
Tin on Tin Shaker
The Tin on Tin shaker is an upgrade of the Boston Shaker. The Boston Shaker has a 28 oz tin along with a 16 oz pint glass, which can easily break, but swap that glass out for another tin, called a cheater tin, of the same size and you are in like Flynn. I recommend buying a shaker tin set, so you aren’t Frankensteining different tin styles/brands together. I made that mistake, and the tins just didn’t fit well together or make a good seal.
If you want to splurge…
A shaker like this one from Sertodo Copper will cost you more, but we love the look and weight of it when making drinks.
The French or Parisian shaker is a cobbler shaker without the built-in strainer. It isn’t much different from the tin on tin shaker either. It consists of two pieces; a cap and cup.
4. Hawthorne Cocktail Strainer
A cocktail strainer is used to hold back ice, pulp, herbs or whatever you have used to make your drink. There are a few different types of strainers out there, but when starting out, I recommend buying a Hawthorn strainer. Later on down the road, you can pick up a Julep strainer.
5. Conical Strainer
If you’re going to be shaking cocktails, you’ll need a way to strain out any pulp, seeds, and or ice shards out of your cocktail; the smaller bits not caught by the larger Hawthorne strainer. A conical strainer is the best way to go. If you already have a small rounded strainer at home use it, it’s fine.
6. Citrus and Vegetable Y-Peeler
You’re going to want some great garnishes for your drinks, and the best way to do that is with a Y-peeler. When it comes to citrus and vegetable peelers, it’s really just a matter of what feels comfortable. With that being said, you should get a Y-peeler. The Y-peeler makes it easier to peel larger fruits like an orange or grapefruit and is also great for a lemon garnish. It does take a bit of getting used to, but you’ll be peelin’ better than you’ve ever peeled before. Oxo makes great peelers. I own the pro version because I think it is a little sturdier being all metal and it looks nicer sitting on the bar.
You may want to buy some cut proof gloves for getting used to this peeler. My first use I nicked my left ring finger, and that was not fun.
One of the most essential items you can have is a cocktail jigger, aka small measuring cup. Mixology is chemistry, so you want all your ingredients to be the right proportions. When I started out, I used the Oxo angled mini measuring cup, and I still do to this day. I love it because it has ¼, ½, 1, 1½, 2-ounce measures and 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60 ml measures, along with tbsp measurements, all in the same tool. My other go-to jigger is a stainless-steel stepped measuring cup. It has measures in ml and ounces. I like this one because it has a ¾ ounce measure. I have a few other jiggers, but I find my workhorses are these two.