Essential tools you need to make great cocktails at home

.

(Updated 3 August 2016)

They say a tradesman is only as good as his tools and when it comes to making great cocktails at home, the right tools can be the difference between an enjoyable afternoon of home bartending or hours of cursing and frustration.

Below I’ve listed what I consider to be the essential tools to stock for your home bar. Having this equipment (or as much of it as possible) will ensure that you can not only make drinks correctly, but also completely follow along with the lessons on this site… good right?

 

Boston Shaker

.

Boston Shaker 'Tin' and Mixing Glass

Boston Shaker ‘Tin’ and Mixing Glass

There are a few different types of shaker available on the market including the old two piece, or three piece (consisting of a shaker, strainer and lid) shakers but most cocktail bars, and you, should use a classic Boston shaker set. The Boston shaker consists of two pieces – the steel shaker ‘tin’ and the slightly smaller diameter toughened glass ‘mixing glass’. When the tin and the glass are fitted inside each other they will create a seal, allowing us to shake the ingredients inside.

Ready for some shaking

So why the Boston shaker over the three piece?

.Having a mixing glass makes it easy to see the ingredients we are adding to our cocktails, and also gives us a good glass to use to prepare stirred drinks such as the Martini or Manhattan.

Also, when you shake properly the two piece design of a Boston shaker gives the ice in the shaker a longer distance to travel during the shaking process, therefore speeding up the mixing of ingredients and the chilling down of the drink while minimising dilution… all good things when we are making cocktails! I”ll cover the actual shaking process in a later mixing methods post, so don’t worry too much about that for now.

 

.

Strainer (Hawthorne)

.

A common style strainer

 

We’ve decided we are going to be using a Boston shaker set to make our drinks but since they don’t have built in strainers to catch the used ice we’ll need to use a separate strainer to do the job for us. That’s where this little bad boy comes in, the two prong (or four prong, or however-many-prongs) strainer uses a spring to fit on the end of shaker tin and allows you to strain your drink into a glass while catching the ice and mint/berries/other crap that you don’t want in your drink. In the industry we often refer to these strainers as Hawthornes as that was one of the first major brands that produced strainers of this type; you’re unlikely to find any actual Hawthorne branded strainers now but the name continues to live on in our hearts!
.

Fine Strainer

.

‘Fine’ or ‘Tea’ Strainer

 

Sometimes a regular strainer just isn’t enough; that’s when the fine strainer (sometimes known as a tea strainer) comes in to play. Used in combination with the regular strainer it allows to to double strain, and collect even the smallest pieces of ice, pulp, mint etc. They get clogged up pretty easily so we tend to use them when we are straining into a glass without ice, such as a cocktail glass. In fact an easy general rule you can use is:

.

Whenever you want to strain a shaken drink into a cocktail glass, use a fine strainer!

.

(OK, so that might not always be how we do it but it works well as a general rule, and anyway, rules were made to be broken…)

Bar Spoon

.

‘Bonzer’ Bar Spoon

 

As you may have noticed, we in the cocktail industry spent many an hour creating interesting names for all our our equipment… shakers for shaking, strainers for straining, and bar spoons for, well, spooning?

.

Actually the bar spoon is a really useful piece of kit and definitely something you should get a hold of. There are a few different styles available, a good standard one you will see is the long twisted design with a spoon on one end and a flat disc on the other end. These spoons allow us to stir drinks, measure syrups and sugar, muddle ingredients with the disc end, and also help with us when we want to layer ingredients. So like I said, more useful that the spoon in your kitchen drawer.

Citrus Press

.

Citrus press

 

You’ll notice once we start making cocktails that a large amount of drinks call for either fresh lemon or lime juice. In cocktail bars we literally get through liters of the stuff each night and therefore many venues will buy the juice in or have large industrial style juicers, not really practical for making drinks at home so a citrus press is a better option . Much faster and easier to use than a citrus sprout, and you can usually get a bit juice out of each piece of fruit as well (saving $$$, a good thing if limes cost as much for you as they do here for me!).

Jigger/Measure

.

 

A jigger with 25ml and 50ml measures

Jiggers and measures are essential as they allow us to put the right amount of each ingredient into our cocktails, giving us balanced, consistent drinks. You can probably get by if you have small kitchen style measuring cups but it’ll be easier if you use equipment made for liquids.

.

If you’re buying measures be careful to check what type you buy; most are available in either imperial or metric, so check to see whether you want mls or oz before you buy. Since I’m based in Europe I tend to use metric measures, mostly multiples of 25ml/50ml.

Muddler

.

 

A good solid muddler allows us to press ingredients like fruit, extracting the sugars, oils and other flavours to use in our cocktails. A muddler can also be used as a quick (if somewhat violent) way of making crushed ice when used with a mixing tin and a bit of brute force.

Blender

.

A good blender that can crush ice will help allow us to make frozen drinks, like frozen Margaritas, Frozen Daiquiris etc. You can also be creative and use it to blend other ingredients for drinks… a certain bar chain in London blends chocolates and cookies to make real ‘cookies and cream’ shots. Not really my sort of thing but they appear to be pretty popular.

Chopping Board and Knife

.

Pretty self explanatory, a good chopping board and knife are necessary for cutting up fruit and preparing garnishes. Has also been known to help break open the seals of annoying bottles… although I’m not officially recommending that!

.

Pouring spouts/Speed pours

.

Common pour spouts, or ‘Speed Pours’

 

Maybe not super essential for the home bar but they are still quite handy to have on bottles you’ll be using a lot. Bartenders use pour spouts to increase the speed and accuracy of pouring alcohol and also to ‘free pour’ (pour consistent measured amounts by counting while they pour). We don’t need to free pour at home (although I will explain how in a later intermediate lesson if you’re interested) but they’ll still help your overall speed and accuracy, and hopefully lower the amount you spill.

.

And that’s it! If you can get hold of most of this equipment it’ll go a long way towards helping you make cocktails like a professional in your own home. Proper equipment will also make the whole process of making drinks much faster, easier and therefore less frustrating. If you need to get any of this equiptment you should be able to find it at your local catering supply store, otherwise you ccan find some good bartender sets online.

 

 

.
Any questions, make sure to leave a comment or contact me.

.

/ David Turnbull, Örebro, Sweden