The answer is yes. You can make cocktails without all the fancy home bar tools that a proper bartender uses, but it’s just not as much fun and slightly less easy.
These bartending tools have been perfected over centuries, just so your Negroni is spot on. Would you use a basic knife if you were doing an operation? No, you would be first in line for a scalpel.
Don’t forget that you are “entertaining.” Go ahead and entertain. You want to impress your friends with your cocktail making prowess! Whipping out your jam jar to shake Espresso Martinis just does not compare. There is something special about making a proper cocktail in a proper shaker to make it taste that so much better!
Still saying all that, don’t think I am a snob when it comes to barware, it’s all about personal style. If your style is jam-jar, shabby chic, then go with it.
Where Can I Buy Bar Tools
We live in a cocktail making renaissance. Buying bar tools is super easy. You can find anything from Roman amphora to 17th C gin glasses to Mad Men-style Martini glasses on the web. Here are few of my favorite spots:
- Bar Keeper – LA
- Art in the Age – PHILLY
- Car boot sales/Antique shops and fairs
- Portobello Road, London
What Home Bar Tools Do I Need
As sexy as the shaker is, I am beginning my home bar tools list with the jigger! If you can’t measure the ingredients properly, how can you make any cocktail? When the recipe calls for 25ml or 1 oz, you have your jigger to help you get it right.
The jigger style I prefer is the Japanese Style. I have no idea why it’s called Japanese, but I do know I would be lost without it. The easiest one to use in the market is the Oxo Mini Angled Measuring Cup, which shows the measurements when you look right down into it. Whether you are in the USA or elsewhere, you can find these come in ounces and milliliters.
It’s everyone’s favorite of all the home bar tools, maybe that’s why I have four of them. One was a present from my niece, one a present from Monkey Shoulder and two I bought myself.
Technically there are three types of shaker: Cobbler, Boston and French. For longer explanations of every style, you can read my post exclusively on shakers.
The easiest for a beginner is the Cobbler, made up of three pieces. Its top, bottom, and built-in strainer mean you don’t have to futz with using any other strainer.
The Boston shaker is the two piece one, usually used in most bars. They can be metal and glass or metal and metal. I prefer metal and metal, as I can be clumsy and I don’t need the stress of worrying if I am going to drop it and break it into tiny glass pieces. The glass ones do look cool though.
The French shaker is a bit more hip looking and also has a built in strainer. I actually am not sure why this third choice exists. Maybe French bartenders just want to shake things up a bit differently.
You can’t make a Martini without a Mixing Glass, unless your name is James Bond! I love the more ornate, cut-glass ones, but you can find ones that are smoother for a stream-lined, less Ralph Lauren look.
There are several different volume sizes to choose from. I have relatively small hands, so I can grab the regular sized ones perfectly. It all depends on how many Martinis you think you will be making at once.
Mixing, shaking and building are the most common methods of cocktail making and, for most of them, you need to use a bar spoon in some way. Loads of recipes require a bar spoon of this or a bar spoon of that, usually sugar syrup.
You can always use a regular spoon, but a bar spoon, with its flat head, is designed to slide down in between the ice cubes and stir smoothly around the side of a glass or mixing glass. The spirals down the shaft are also good for grip. You can even buy one with an end that can be used for muddling, if you don’t want to purchase an additional tool.
I have three different strainers for three different types of cocktails: Hawthorne Strainer, Julep Stainer and Fine Sieve Strainer. The Hawthorne is the one I use most. This is the one with the springy bit. It nudges its way into a shaker or mixing glass and, if you are practised, you can grab the strainer and the mixing glass with one hand!
You use the Hawthorne and the Fine Sieve strainer in combination, when making any cocktail with a foamy head. You don’t want those tiny shards of ice to ruin the look of your perfect Espresso Martini.
The Julep strainer comes out most on Kentucky Derby Day. It’s the one that shoves aside the ice, so you can put your mint julep straight into its silver cup.
My muddler gets most of its use during summer, when mojito are in season. Saying that, every season should be mojito season. The wooden one gets the most use, but it’s probably cleaner to have a metal one that goes right into the dishwasher. Be aware that the metal ones conduct cold, so with the wooden ones, your hands are safe from chilblains!
The first time I saw Ryan Chetiyawardana & Lynnette Marrero use one of these on Masterclass, I had to have it. Why had I spent my whole life using any other lemon squeezer!
Not only was the color divine (I use the lemon one, even for limes), but it was so easy to use. No more pushing and picking out pits. I use the KitchenCraft one even when I am not making cocktails, don’t tell anyone!
Peeler & Knife
Since we are talking citrus here – any old peeler is fine to use for making garnishes. I use the Oxo one, but I know bar people love the Kuhn Rikon’s Y-shaped peeler.
As for a knife, I get all geeky and use The Jackson Cannon knife! Love that square tip…but any knife will do just fine.
If you listen to my podcast episode, How to Help the Home Bartender, you will hear the best of the industry go on and on about ice. The short of it is that you can’t forget that ice is an ingredient in your cocktail! Forget about using the ice that your fridge generates automatically or ice cubes you make from the water that pours from your taps. Ice just sits there absorbing all the odors of all the food in your freezer.
Make it fresh and use distilled water, if you can get it. This will make your ice cubes clear. Have a bunch of ice cube trays of various sizes – smaller ones to use for shaking and stirring and larger square and round cubes for cocktails. The larger ones melt much more slowly, so your Old Fashioned doesn’t get diluted as quickly. A napkin and a mallet are good to have one hand to make crushed ice!
If you are making any sours or egg white cocktails, then having an egg separator on hand can make your life so much easier. Just be sure to crack the egg over a bowl, not your shaker, so that you don’t ruin all the ingredients you’ve already put in the shaker.
I collect vintage glassware so I love this Etsy shop. I also pick them up anywhere I can find them. If you are looking for a special glass for a special cocktail, you can read about them on my post dedicated to glassware!
This is another cocktail item I collect and find a huge selection on Ebay and in vintage stores. Show your personality and don’t compromise on these very tiny items. I use my spirit bottle themed ones to keep my olives from going astray!
Self-explanatory – any one will do – a must out of all the home bar tools!
Make some cocktails
PIN IT LATER