In a past life, I worked (and all too frequently drank) at some pretty incredible cocktail bars in New York. And I’m sure for anyone that has ever worked in the hospitality industry, it comes to no one’s surprise that I have also dated a couple of bartenders who may or may not have also worked at these cocktail bars. So while I was never behind the bar, I learned A LOT about how to make cocktails and what you actually need in terms of tools from these very talented pros. What can I say? I’m a gal who appreciates a good cocktail shake;)
There are so many fun gadgets and tools if you love to nerd out on cocktails. BUT if you just want to have the essentials that will simply make your life and your cocktails better then this post is for you baby.
Let’s start at the beginning…
A good quality shaker is important. Also not adding any carbonation until after you shake is also important. Explosions are bad and are only made worse by poorly made shakers. All the bars I worked and drank at used metal tins. Below are a couple because if I didn’t add at least one option I might have my bar card permanently revoked. So if you want to try the real deal go for it! But when you are first starting use both hands. The one-handed, two-tin shake can be a little disastrous at first. However, there is nothing wrong with the lidded shaker for your home bar! They are super pretty and might be easier to handle:)
1. Dial-A-Drink Cocktail Shaker | 2. Large Weighted Shaking Tin + Small Weighted Shaking Tin | 3. S’well Teakwood Cocktail Shaker Set | 4. Williams Sonoma Mixology Shaking Tin | 5. Elevated Craft Hybrid Cocktail Shaker | 6. Fenton Graphite Cocktail Shaker
2. Mixing Glass
Ok, not all drinks need or should be made in a shaker. A stirred cocktail (especially for the colder months) is so good. This means you need a good mixing glass. My ex always made sure he had one and also loved how they looked (both in style and in practice). It’s impossible to not look cool stirring a cocktail (with a barspoon) in a pretty mixing glass. May I suggest a twist on a classic Manhattan? Instead of bourbon, use a nice dark rum (think Ron Zacapa or El Dorado). I have never been a big rum drinker but after one of my friends make me this drink I was in love and will order it when it’s chilly out. It will also impress your friends.
If you ever plan on making a stirred drink you are going to be SO MUCH happier in your drink-making if you have a barspoon. They make stirring way easier and you look waaaay cooler using it. So if you don’t already have one, get one. I promise it’s about the function. The looking cool is a bonus (and not a terrible one).
1. Bulu Pineapple Barspoon | 2. Gold Bar Spoon With Muddler | 3. Extendable Magic Cocktail Bar Spoon | 4. Italy Flat Cocktail Mixing Spoon | 5. Trident Bar Spoon with Full Twisted Stem Handle Cocktail Spoon | 6. Teardrop Barspoon
I’m 100% guilty of “eyeballing” my pours. And while that’s fine, your drinks are simply going to be better and more consistent when you measure. I don’t think any of us want to see our guests visibly wince when they take a sip of your too heavy “free pour” cocktail. Be a pro and make your drinks taste good… get a jigger.
I know a muddler may not seem like an essential but I promise you’ll be so relieved when you all of a sudden realize you need one and you’ve got it. Mudding isn’t just for mojitos, people. Sugar, herbs, anything else that isn’t liquid or a garnish will need a little muddling.
1. Walnut Cocktail Muddler | 2. Williams Sonoma Signature Muddler | 3. Hand-Turned Walnut Muddler | 4. Crafthouse by Fortessa Wood Muddler | 5. Easton Stainless Steel Muddler | 6. American Heirloom Pitcher Muddler
Unless you are making a muddled drink where you want allll of the ingredients from your shaker in your cocktail glass, you should be using a strainer. Even if you are making a stirred drink like a martini, you should use a strainer because who wants old ice in their nice new drink…no one. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a cocktail made in a fancy bar where a strainer wasn’t used on a drink. The mesh ones are great if you really want to make sure not a simple sliver of anything to get into your perfectly crafted drink.
1. Crafthouse by Fortessa Hawthorne Strainer | 2. Cocktail Strainer | 3. 4-Prong Hawthorne Strainer | 4. Strainer, 3-Inch | 5. Graham Hammered Metal Springed Strainer | 6. Williams Sonoma Mixology Hawthorne Strainer
7. Wine Key/Bottle Opener
It’s just a general life essential and we all need one. I actually suggest you go check now. Just because you think you do doesn’t mean you actually do. I am speaking from personal experience here. I truly thought I had three…I was wrong. I had none.
O and I feel VERY STRONGLY about a double lever wine key. Unless you are super into an electronic wine bottle opener (that’s a whole other world), don’t bother with any other kind. A double level is the best and makes getting the cork out so much easier. And I’m sure it’s clear by this roundup, I also dislike the winged openers. Too much work and awkwardness in my opinion. The pros are all about the double lever. But if you just want a simple bottle opener, then all the bartenders I’ve worked with use a flat opener like #1 (theirs were sadly never rose gold but yours can be:)
1. Heavy Duty Stainless Steel Flat Bottle Opener | 2. Double Lever Corkscrew | 3. Waiter’s Black Corkscrew | 4. Le Creuset Waiters Corkscrew Wine Opener | 5. Sommelier Waiter’s Corkscrew | 6. Gold Plated Corkscrew
Glad I could finally whip out my old knowledge and hopefully get y’all making some delicious drinks with more ease. If you are looking for more bar content you bet we’ve got it! Here is a great bar cart styling post and here is a great beginner cocktail-making guide post.
Love you, mean it.