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Essential bar tools for perfect cocktails at home

February 5, 2024
8 min read
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Having the right gear is a crucial factor for anyone interested in whipping up professional cocktails at home. Each item serves a specific purpose and contributes to the quality and consistency of your cocktails. I often get asked what you need to make good cocktails at home with minimal equipment. So, instead of repeating myself to my friends every time, I've put together a list for you. Let's get into this:

1. Jigger

First up, a jigger is an absolute must-have. It ensures precision and consistency in your cocktails by allowing you to measure out the exact amount of spirits and other ingredients, ensuring a well-balanced drink. I know pouring freestyle looks fun and all, but believe me, unless you’ve mastered that skill, you'd better stick with jiggers. It's the precision of ingredients that can make the difference between a good cocktail and a great one. Side note: Don't be that person at the bar asking for strong drinks—the right balance is key for a good cocktail. If you want to get wasted, just go for some straight vodka or whatever.

Hand pouring fluids from a jigger into a tin shaker
A jigger is a measuring tool used in cocktail making to ensure precise and consistent amounts of spirits and other ingredients, essential for achieving a well-balanced drink.

2. Shaker

Now, there are different types of shakers, each serving its purpose. While a shaker isn't necessarily a must-must, you can technically use a mason jar or something else if you’re creative; it wasn’t invented without reason. So if you want to be at least a bit professional, why not get something fancier? There are three main types:

1: Boston Shaker with Glass, 2: Cobbler Shaker, 3: Parisian Shaker (aka. French or Continental Shaker)

  1. Boston Shaker
    It consists of two parts (either glass-tin or tin-tin). One of the key advantages of the Boston Shaker is that it can be quickly assembled and is much easier to clean compared to others. However, you'll need a separate strainer to strain the drink into the cocktail glasses (we'll get to that in a sec). Even though it may look a bit complicated, using a Boston Shaker is pretty straightforward. You just fit the top part slightly slanted onto the bottom part and secure it with a gentle tap. After shaking, give it a slight tap from the side and then take it off – see, that was easy!
  2. Cobbler Shaker
    The advantage of the Cobbler Shaker lies in its three parts and relatively easy handling. Thanks to the built-in strainer, most drinks can be strained directly into the cocktail glass after mixing. While this may seem like a big advantage at first glance, cleaning it compared to the Boston Shaker can be a bit more of a hassle, and for my taste, the liquid sometimes comes out a little too slowly because everything builds up in the small sieve and blocks it.
  3. Parisian Shaker
    The Parisian Shaker, also known as the French or Continental Shaker, has an aesthetic elegance but can be a bit trickier to handle. It's known for its chic design and solid construction. Like the Cobbler Shaker, it consists of a metal lid and a large base tin, but it lacks a third part with a built-in strainer. However, if you prioritize style over efficiency at home, the Parisian Shaker is worth considering.

Although all three types have their merits, I'm a big fan of the Boston Shaker, and I almost always use this kind of shaker. However, choosing the right cocktail shaker is a personal decision, and everyone needs to decide which one suits their needs best.

3. Strainer

Strainers are another important bartending tool. They help separate ice and other solid ingredients from your drink.

1: Hawthorne Strainer, 2: Julep Strainer, 3: Fine-Mesh Strainer

  1. Hawthorne Strainer
    The Hawthorne Strainer is my favorite because of its versatility and easy handling. It fits well on most shakers and glasses, and its tight coils hold back ice and fruit pieces. Combined with the Boston Shaker and a fine-mesh strainer, your drink won't have any stuff in it that shouldn't be there.
  2. Julep Strainer
    The Julep Strainer is basically a perforated metal piece with a handle. For shaken cocktails, pairing it with a fine-mesh strainer is essential. The Julep Strainer is mainly used for stirred drinks. It's placed diagonally over the ice in a mixing glass. However, honestly, the Hawthorne Strainer offers a wider range of applications, which is why I'd advise against it.
  3. Fine-Mesh Strainer
    A sieve or Fine-Mesh Strainer is a must-have and perfect for filtering fine particles from your drink, ensuring a smooth, clean beverage. Sieves come in different sizes and shapes to fit various glasses and shakers. A Fine-Mesh Strainer is essential for double straining.

4. Bar Spoon

Now, you might be wondering why you should invest in a spoon and what makes it better than your regular spoon. Fair point… so let me explain: a bar spoon is longer and has a spirally twisted handle. This gives your hand the necessary grip to swirl the spoon quickly through the glass. The length of the spoon makes this task easier and ensures proper stirring. "Wait, can you stir in a wrong way?" Here's the deal: Stirring the drink produces a similar effect to shaking. The movement accelerates the energy exchange between liquids and ice. The drink gets cold, plus it dilutes the drink, which is an essential part of cocktails, especially those practically made of alcohol (Negroni, for example).

A bar spoon is a long-handled spoon with a twisted handle used for stirring cocktails to properly mix ingredients and chill the drink without diluting it too much, ensuring optimal taste and texture.

5. Juicer

A juicer is essential if you're using fresh juices in your cocktails (which you always should, please... stay away from concentrate). It allows you to extract juice from citrus fruits without getting seeds or pulp into your drink. There are different types of juicers, but they all serve the same purpose: delivering fresh, pure juice.

Fresh citrus is preferred over concentrate due to its brighter flavor, higher nutrient content, purity, natural aroma, and versatility in culinary applications.

6. Glasses

Finally, glasses are an essential part of any bartender's arsenal. Let me tell you, choosing the right glass for a cocktail can actually have a significant impact on the overall experience of the drink. Each glass has its special function and can greatly enhance the enjoyment of your cocktails. I’ll be blogging about this topic soon. You can check out my favorites on Amazon here.

Glassware is important because it enhances the presentation, aroma, and taste of the drink, while also contributing to the overall drinking experience and aesthetic appeal.
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