Why spend $13 for a Manhattan when you can make one at home for practically nothing? I don’t know! I’ve put together this list of all the tools you’ll need to make literally any cocktail at your homebar. If you were to purchase everything at once, it could get pretty expensive so I’ve decided to break this up into a few categories: Stirred, Shaken and Completely Unnecessary But Nice To Have.
My first cocktail I fell in love with was the Old Fashioned all the way back in 2012. It’s the perfect starter cocktail really because all you need is a bottle of whiskey, bitters, and a sugar cube. That’s it. I started off building my Old Fashioneds in the glass, but then when I wanted to start branching out to other cocktails like the Sazerac or Negroni, I realized I needed to up my game. This is a good idea of what you’ll need to get up and running with any stirred cocktail.
If you’re going to start making any cocktails, you’re going to need a jigger. This is the most important tool in your kit. Everything else on this list you could technically Macgyver from stuff around your house, but it’s nearly impossible to create consistently balanced cocktails without a proper measuring device. Even just being .25oz off with certain ingredients can wildly alter the taste and texture of a drink so you best get yourself the best jigger money can buy. Luckily that won’t cost you much. I have fuddled with a lot of jiggers, but the Cocktail Kingdom Leopold Jigger ($20) will be the last one I ever own. It’s perfectly shaped for your hand and comes with every measurement you’ll ever need (.25oz all the way to 2oz) in one compact design. Forget having multiple inaccurate jiggers. With this baby, it’s just one and done.
What is a mixing glass? A mixing glass is a sturdy vessel to mix and dilute your stirred drinks that are generally spirit-forward and don’t contain any citrus (think Martinis, Boulevardiers, ect.). Honestly you could use a mason jar if you really needed to, but the nice thing about a dedicated mixing glass is that the heavier build will keep your cocktail colder and mixing glasses usually have a built in pour spout – which makes serving your cocktail a much cleaner experience. I bought something very similar to this Luminarc Barcraft Mixing Glass ($17.99) and it’s more than paid for itself at this point.
You’ll need a stirring stick of some sort to start making cocktails, but you don’t need to break the bank when starting out. Portland bartender Jeffery Morganthaler advises to those on a budget that a plastic chopstick from any Chinese restaurant will do the same job. That being said, here are a few reasons a bar spoon is a good investment though:
- Barspoons are perfect for getting tricky garnishes such as Luxardo Cherries or olives of their respective jars
- Most barspoons hold roughly 1/8oz of liquid – which is great for adding a measured amount of something to your cocktail (ex. I use a bar spoon of St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur in my Manhattans)
I will say that a good bar spoon makes such a difference when making drinks. I used a shitty one for a year, and when I finally upgraded it was like night and day. I highly recommend the Cocktail Kingdom Teardrop Barspoon 30cm ($18.99) because I love the length and the lightweight feel in the hand while stirring.
I won’t spend too much time on the strainer but I would recommend a Hawthorne Strainer over a Julep Strainer. Julep Strainers, while arguable easier on the eyes, are generally meant for just stirred drinks while Hawthorne-style strainers can generally be used with both a shaker tin and mixing glass. Get whatever one you want but I recommend something simple, cheap and durable like this OXO SteeL Cocktail Strainer ($6.99)
PRO TIP: Whatever bar tools you decide to purchase, I would recommend buying the (boring) stainless-steel versions of them. I know a copper or gold-plated jigger looks fucking cool as hell, but it is going to be a bitch to clean because everything has to be handwashed. If you have any experience behind a bar, you know how sticky everything can get. Buy the workhorse model and just toss it in the dishwasher. Done.
You could honestly stop now and you would have enough tools at hand to create a good portion of all cocktails in existence. But that’s not you. You want more out of life. You’re about that Mai Tai and Margarita life and I’m here to help. Here’s the rest of the tools you’ll need at your home bar.
There are plenty of shaker tin options out there and it can make it a little intimidating to decide. Do you want a two piece Boston Shaker? Three piece Cobbler Shaker with a built-in strainer? Or maybe you want something fancy like a gorgeous French Shaker or a hipster Mason Jar shaker? Honestly, it’s completely about personal preference here and there isn’t a right or wrong answer.
For me, I use something that’s kind of a mix of all the above. The OXO SteeL Press & Pour Insulated Cocktail Shaker ($29.95) is a twist sealed shaker tin, which I like because it’s easy to open/close and there’s very little chance of leakage. It’s also insulated so your hands don’t get drenched in condensation (I know, I’m a bitch). I wouldn’t recommend using the built-in strainer though unless you have a month on your hands to wait for your cocktail to drip out. Just unscrew it and use your Hawthorne strainer and you’ll be good to go.
Using fresh citrus is critical to any sour cocktail, and you’re going to want a citrus press you can buy once and never think about again. This is that press. If you don’t want to buy one, I’m sure you can find one at Goodwill or your parents house. Cucisina Citrus Press ($8.95)
Completely Unnecessary But Nice To Have
Congrats! You have every tool you could possibly need to make almost every cocktail you could ever want. Everything below is stuff that’s either purely cosmetic or superfluous and not 100% necessary, but I like having them around for entertaining purposes.
Another strainer?! Yes! This strainer is for shaken cocktails (generally served “up”) that might have a lot of ice chips (whisky sour or a Last Word) or remains of muddled/shaken fruit pulp. This is purely optional but it’s crucial for obtaining a more beautiful texture and presentation. You don’t use it all the time, but you’ll like having one around just in case. OXO Good Grips 3-Inch Mini Strainer ($8.99)
If you’re going to be garnishing your Negronis with fresh orange peels or juicing limes for Last Words, you’re going to need a knife. I like this one (below) but any old knife will do. Bartender’s Knife ($40)
Did you know over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day in the US? That amounts to a shit-ton of unnecessary pollution and strain on our environment. Becuase of this, many bars in the US are starting to serve long drinks with metal, paper, or omitting straws entirely to help reduce this waste. But the real reason you should invest in some is that a lot of them come in a variety of thicknesses – which is great for sucking down Singapore Slings faster. But the biggest bonus is they look cool as fuck so Amazon Prime that shit today. Stainless Steel Straws ($7.99)
While you’re being so environmentally friendly with your new straws, get some sexy metal cocktail picks while you’re at it. Stainless Steel Cocktail Picks ($7.99)
Okay I really only use this for my Sazeracs, but it’s cool to have. Basically if you want to “rinse” the glass of any cocktail with a strong spirit (think absinthe or peaty scotch) these are nice to have to be able to “spritz” the inside of your class without pouring out (ie: wasting) any valuable spirit. Atomizer Empty Fill Bottles ($7.99)
Flip Top Bottles
These bottles are clutch for storing any syrups, shrubs or infusions you may be making up in your kitchen. I would recommend getting them from IKEA though cause they’re a whole lot cheaper. Swing Top Easy Cap Clear Glass Bottles ($13.99)
That’s it. Now go off and enjoy your new life as a amature bartender.
What’s your cocktail are you going to make next? Follow me and let me know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram! You can also tag me using #TheDayDrinker. Don’t forget to check out my previous cocktail post below!
And all my previous beer posts
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