We are so excited to announce a new series for Bartender Atlas called The Home Bartender! This series will cater to those of you who are not necessarily working bartenders but who are really interested in drinking better cocktails and learning how to make them! Each month our Home Bartender expert, Matej Novak, will run you through a new topic. This month, we start with the basics: Bar Tools!
At its most basic, making cocktails doesn’t require any special tools. As long as you have something to mix the drink in, something to stir it with and some way to strain out the ice, you can make a perfectly delicious cocktail just about anywhere.
If you make a lot of cocktails at home — or at least if you make them often — there are some tools that can definitely help. More importantly, these tools all come in different shapes, sizes and varieties. Rather than going for the fanciest or more expensive, I recommend doing a little research and trying them out if possible to find what works best for you.
Here’s my basic setup, along with some recommendations:
- Jigger: If you’re going to buy one thing, buy a good jigger. Two-sided jiggers seem to be most common, but for mixing at home, I prefer a one-sided jigger. It’s just less fussy and messy.
- Mixing glass: This can be as simple as a pint glass or a part of your shaker (see below). Get something without seams or ridges on the inside. It makes stirring more pleasant.
- Bar spoon: Since stirring a drink mostly requires you to move the ice in a steady, circular motion, you can use something like a chopstick. When choosing a spoon, make sure it can spin freely between your fingers and that the “bowl” isn’t too wide or too shallow — this will make measuring out small quantities easier.
- Strainer: There are two basic types, the hawthorne and the julep. I prefer the latter, mostly because I like the way it looks, but as long as it fits snugly into your mixing glass, you’re golden.
- Shaker: Again, two basic types, the three-piece and the Boston. They both work great and you can use them for shaken and stirred drinks, if you like.
- Peeler: Anything that can remove the peel from citrus is fine, but a Y-shaped peeler gives you more control. Cheap and basic is the way to go here.
- Ice: The ice in your freezer is probably better than the ice in most restaurants. If you want to upgrade your ice game, get a nice tray that makes actual cube-shaped cubes.
- Muddler: I like the larger wooden kind, because you can use it to crush ice as well, but there are metal and plastic versions that work just as well for their intended purpose.
There are also kits you can buy that contain all of the above, and then some, but unless you’re going to be traveling with your cocktail equipment a lot, you’ll end up paying extra for the case it comes in — and you won’t get to pick the individual pieces.
If you want something fancy, go for it, but make sure it’s also useable. The most beautiful gold jigger in the world isn’t going to make a better drink — or any drinks at all if it’s sitting on your shelf because you don’t like using it.