Essential Cocktail Tools

1. Citrus Juicer

2. Jiggers -  2 oz/1oz and a ¾ oz/½ oz

3. Muddler

4. Shaker - preferably tin on tin

5. Mixing Glass

6. Barspoon - teardrop is my choice

7. Hawthorne Strainer

8. Julep Strainer

9. Fine Strainer

 

 

Basic Kitchen Stuff You'll Need

Good sharp paring knife

Vegetable Peeler 

Measuring Cup 

Bar Rags, Kitchen Towels or Paper Towels

 

Tools That Are Nice to Have

Large Ice Cube Trays

Microplane

Blender

Immersion Blender

Juicer

Ice Crusher

 

 

 

Tools

Where to Buy Tools

 

 

Cocktail Kingdom - Best quality, for the dedicated. 

I get most of my tools online from Cocktailkingdom.com, they make the best tools on the market.  They are definitely on the pricier side, but you get what you pay for and they are also quite beautiful.   Cocktail Kingdom also sells cocktail books, bitters and glassware.

 

Bar Products.com - Solid quality, ideal for a starter kit.

Perfectly good bar tools and much more affordable.  As you'll notice, they cater to all walks of bartender, but if you know what you're looking for you'll be just fine.  

 

Other Options

Amazon.com -  They have everything, as you know, including a lot of products from Cocktail Kingdom and Bar products. Which is a good and a bad thing.   It's a lot to wade through.

Retail - Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Pottery Barn, etc. - You can get some ok stuff from these places.  But the selection is much better online.

Restuarant Supply Stores - If there's ome near you, they usually have all the basics and for very cheap.  That's where I got my first set of tools.

Intro

Like cooking food, making cocktails requires a few tools to do them well.   Unfortunately, many cocktail tools for home use are designed with aesthics rather than  functionality in mind.  So it's best to use the tools that professional bartenders use, stay away from all those cocktail tool kits, attractive as they may be.   Pro tools are affordable, easier to use and make better cocktails. 

 

What you need.

Here is a list for what I recommend for a basic home bar tool kit.  Click on each to get to a deeper look at each tool and advice (and links) to the best and afforable options.  Also, what you can use if you don't have one (the lack of a tool should never stop the fixing of a cocktail).   

 

 

Essesntial Cocktail Tools

 

Don't worry if you have something in a different style than I recommend.  My obsession with cocktail perfection and should be taken with a grain of salt (dash of bitters?).  If you’re happy with the cocktails your tool makes, that’s all that matters. The tool doesn't make the cocktail, you do. 

Citrus Juicer 

 

Why do I need it?

If you don't already, juicing fresh citrus juice is the biggest step you can take towards making better cocktails.  This is your most important cocktail tool! 

 

What to look for. 

Juicers come in a wide variety of size, price and capacity.  I say, keep it simple.  

 

Everyday Use - Basic Hand Juicer

For most of you this is all you'll ever need. It’s fast, effective, cheap, easy to clean and you get a nice light forearm workout in the process. It’s worlds better than the other styles of hand juicers and far less of a hassle than the big hulking ones.  It comes in a variety of sizes with corresponding citrus colors but I think the yellow is the most versatile.  

 

Higher Capacity Option

If you’re going to be throwing Gatsby-sized cocktail parties, OK, you may to consider upgrading to one of the industrial options.

Commerical Hand Juicer

Electric Citrus Juicer

 

 

Alternative Option

Looks like you're squeezing juice with your hand!  Which is totally fine, though cleanliness and efficiency will probably be compromised.

 

 

 Return to Tool List

 

 

Jiggers

 

What is it and why do I need it?

Mini double sided measuring cups for cocktail ingredients. Great cocktails are all about balance, so measureing is key.  Free pouring just won't cut it. In the U.S. jiggers are in ounces, the way cocktail recipes are written. Everywhere else not sutbbonrnly clinging to the past, they're in millilieters.

 

 

What to Look For. 

I recommend getting two metal jiggers: a 2oz/1oz and a ¾oz/½oz. With those you will be able to execute any recipe you encounter (if you need 1½ oz just do ¾ oz twice) and you won't have any repeated sizes.  Fewer jiggers = less clutter.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

  Return to To Tool List

 

 

 

 

 

Muddler 

 

What is it and why do I need it?

A muddler is bascially a pestle without a mortar.  It's for crushing fresh ingredients like herbs and fruit to incorporate their flavors into a cocktail.  Want to make mint juleps and mojitos?  You need a muddler.

 

What to look for.

This is a pretty basic tool, so almost any option will get the job done. These are my preferecnes:

 

Wooden - Metal or plastic are fine too, but I prefer the feel of a wooden muddler.

Unlaquered - They may look nice, but any varnish or coating will eventually scrape off and fall into your drinks over time, as demonstrated in this photo. The smaller one to the right used to be completely lacquered!

On the larger side - 10 inches or so.  More comfortable grip, better leverage and you can cover more crushing ground.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shakers 

 

What is it and why do I need it?

 For shaking cocktails! This is easily the most iconic cocktail tool and one of the most important to have.  You've got three basic options, pictured right. 

 

2-Piece/Boston Shaker tin on tin (my preference)

2-Piece/Boston Shaker glass on tin

3-Piece Shaker/Cobbler Shaker

 

What to look for.

Most people have the three-piece shaker with the removable top piece for straining.  While that certainly is convenient, I prefer using a two-piece shaker.  There's more room for the ice to travel, better chilling and aerating your cocktail, which is the whole point of shaking.   In the three piece shaker the ice feels cramped. The two piece takes some getting used to, see below, but once you get the hang of it it's easier to use and the drinks are better.  Here's a quick look at the options.  

 

 

 

 

Two-piece Tin on Tin - Best Option

Approx 18 oz and 28 oz shaker tins

By tin, I mean the metal shaker piece. Two tins are lighter than glass on tin, which makes forming and breaking seals easier, and metal gets colder faster than glass does. This is what I, and what most cocktail bartenders use.  Here are two good options:

Cocktail Kingdom:

28 oz Koriko Tin

18 oz Koriko Tin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-Piece/Cobbler Shaker

My knocks against this one, is the ice can't travel, the top piece is easy to loose and if you muddle anything it'll clog up the strainer. But all quibbles aside, if you have a cobbler, and like it, don’t throw it out and buy a two-piece.  It makes fine cocktails and for most the difference is negligable.  It just depends on how much of an obessive perfectionist (like me) you are.  You can make a great cocktail regardless of the shaker you choose.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mixing Glass

 

What is it and why do I need it?

A large glass for stirring cocktails.  Truth be told this isn't as vital as some of the other tools, you could stir in a metal tin if you wanted, it won't make a bad drink.  But I highly recommend using a mixing glass. Metal tins tip over easily and, more importantly, stirring in them doesn't look or sound nearly as cool. 

 

What to look for.

For home use there aren’t really any practical advantages from one to mixing glass to another.  It’s mostly about aesthetics, which certainly have their place when it comes to cocktails.  Here are some of the choices.

 

 

 

Yarai Mixing GlassHigh End "Beauty" Option 

Pronounced “yar-eye,” this newer cut-glass style has a heavier base and a spout, which makes stirring and pouring easier.  And, obviously, it’s gorgeous.  Though it's not cheap, around $35 compared to around $9 for a basic pint glass.  Cocktail Kingdom now has a varitey of different sizes and styles available which you can explore here, you'll find there plenty of copycats out there too.

 

Basic Option - Standard Pint Glass - 16 oz

This is literally a pint glass.  the heavier you get the better.  This is a totally solid option, with no downsides.   

 

Large Mixing Glass, 22-24 oz

Stirring for two?  Cocktail Kingdom makes some great (and expensive) large mixing glasses.  The one above is a vintage piece from the height of the cocktail hour age of the 1950s and 60s.  You can find similar ones for pretty cheap at thirft shops and on sites like Ebay and Etsy. Check your grandparents cabinets too. 

 

Alternative Option

Any other wide, straight edged glass that is 16oz or so and will fit a strainer.

 

 

 

 

 

Barspoons

 

What is it and why do I need it?

Barspoons are spoons with long handles for stirring cocktails. The length is for reaching the bottom of a mixing glass.  Other uses:  Unit of measurement, sometimes a “barspoon” of an ingredient will be called for in a recipe (about half a teaspoon) and they are deft fetchers of garnishes like cherries, olives and cocktail onions (for a Gibson Martini).

 

What to look for.

The main distinction between barspoons is the twisted grooves you often see. Those are for gripping it to get more torque as you whip it around helping to stir faster and with less effort.  Stirring like a takes a little practice to master, the idea is to have the spoon glide around the inner perimiter of the glass (more about that on the techniueqs page).  So spoons with light or no grooves are easiest. Here's a breakdown of the basic options:

 

Best High End Option -

Teardrop Barspoon 30 cm - $35

Easily my favorite barspoon, made by Cocktail Kingdom of course.  The grooves are light, making stirring effortless but deep enough to still be able to stir quickly.  It's little pricey to be sure, but if you're going to spluge on one bar tool it should be this one.   There are different lengths and variations within this style at Cocktail Kingdom.  You can peruse them here.  

 

Great Beginner Spoon - Smooth Edge Barspoon

 I learned to stir with this spoon. Since there are no grooves, you can easily push it around and get a feel for how your hand is supposed to move when stirring.  

 

Common Retail Option

Broad “Red Cap” Spoon - 

I say stay away from this one,  of course it's the eaisest to find. The thick grooves make it almost impossible to stir with.  And what's that red cap for? However, the broad bowl is great for cracking big ice cubes. Which is all I use it for.

 

Nerd Option - Temperature Spoon

There a themometer at the end of the spoon that let's you see how cold your drink is.  It's definitley precious but I have one and love seeing how cold I can get my drink without over-diluting it.  For the perfectionist.

 

 

 

 

Strainers

What is it and why do I need it?

These are for straining your cocktail from mixing vessel to glass while keeping the ice you shook or stirred with at bay. 

 

What to look for.

I recommend getting one of each of these strainers.   Though if you get just only one, the Hawthorne strainer is the most versatile of the bunch.  Of course, if you have a cobbler shaker, you don’t need a strainer at all (but you know how I feel about that). 

 

Julep Strainer

Best for straining stirred cocktails from mixing glasses because it fits better than the Hawthorne.  It’s also good for scooping ice. It actually has nothing to do with making juleps.  Here are high end and standard options.

 

Hawthorne Strainer

The slinky-like coil allows it to adjust to a variety of different sized vessels.  Best used with large metal tins and shaken cocktails, though it fits on glass too.  High end and standard options.  

 

Fine Strainer 

Basically a tiny chinoise, also called a tea strainer.  This is used in conjunction with the Hawthorne strainer to give your shaken cocktails a smoother texture.  It will catch tiny bits of muddled ingredients or ice chips that make it through the Hawthorne’s initial defenses.  Prices on this don't vary much. 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic Kitchen Stuff You'll Need

 

Good Sharp Paring Knife

Cocktails involve cutting stuff!

 

Vegetable Peeler

For making twists, I prefer to use these rather than the channel knives that makes those long string-y twists, which are pretty but don’t contain nearly as much citrus oil - which is the whole point of a twist.  The Oxo ones are nice.

 

Measuring cup 

About 2 cups or so.  Like a Pyrex.  Very handy for several cocktail operations.  Particularly for holding juice and making simple syrup.

 

Bar Rags, Kitchen Towels or Paper Towels 

You're gonna spill stuff!

 

 

Additional Tools That Are Nice to Have

 

Large Ice Cube Trays 

The bigger your cubes are, the slower they melt.  You can get silicone trays that make perfectly shaped large cubes of various sizes.  A real game-changer for sipping cocktails and spirits on the rocks.

 

Microplane 

For grating nutmeg, Egg Nog anyone??

 

Blender

If you’ll be getting into frozen drinks, which I recommend you do.  It doesn’t need to be super fancy, Magic Bullets work well too.

 

Immersion Blender

Another kitchen tool that is helpful for syrups and blending large batches cocktails.

 

Dasher Bottle

Some recipes call for just dashes of something, and if it isn't bitter that's difficult to accomplish when pouring out of a bottle. You can by nice dashers at Cocktail Kingdom.  You can also use old bitters bottles or oil and vinegar dashers.

 

Juice Extractor

If you’re into making your own syrups this is a great tool to have.  It’s a bit more expensive compared to the other tools here but it will really open up your cocktail possibilities - ginger, jalapeño and watermelon syrups just to name a few.  Not to mention you'll be able to seriously step up your green juice game.  I use this one.

 

Ice Crusher

There are several classic (and contemporary) cocktails that call for crushed ice.  While you can certainly make them without it but they are so much better with.  To get crushed ice, in lieu of whacking a canvas bag with mallet (a totally viable option), you can either get an electric ice crusher or get one with a crank - which is what I use.

 

 

Solid Basic Option

The shorter squat ones you often see are perfectly fine and much cheaper.  The 2oz/1oz is everywhere. The smaller ¾oz/½ oz is a bit tougher to find. Here's one.

3. Standard Jigger 2 oz/1oz

4. Standard Jigger ¾oz/½ oz*

 

Jigger Alternative - Use a unit converter!

You can use measuring cups and spoons.  It's slightly more cumbersome, but just as effective.  Here are conversions for common cocktail quantities.

2 oz: ¼ Cup

1 oz: 2 tablespoons

¾  oz: 1½ tablespoons

½ oz: 1 tablespoon

¼  oz: ½ tablespoon

Barspoon: ½ teaspoon 

Higher End Option - Japanese Style

The narrower Japanese Style are a little easier to pour into since you can see them filling up better. They also have lines inside for additional measurements. These are what I use.

1. Japanese “Big” Jigger 2 oz/1oz* - $8.95

2. Japanese “Baby” Jigger ¾oz/½ oz -  $7.95

Muddler Alternative - Channel You Inner MacGuyver

Look for anything broad and blunt.  Handle of a wooden spoon, back end of a hammer, dismembered chair legs actually work really well.

Shaking a with 2-Piece Shaker 

 

 

There's a bit more of a learning curve when using a two-piece shaker because you need to form a good seal so the two pieces don't come apart while you're shaking. Then you need to break the seal to strain out the cocktail.  But it's an easy and surpsiringly rewarding skill to know.  Learn how on the techniaues page.

Some Good Options

Most muddlers are pretty cheap so there aren't really high end and low end options.  It's mainly a question of what style and material you prefer. These are all great.

Pug Muddler (My Pick)

Cocktail Kingdom - Natural Wood Muddler

Epic Products Wooden Muddler - 10 inch

 

Two-Piece Glass on Tin

Approx 16 oz pint glass and 28 oz tin.

The upside here is the pint glass can double as a mixing glass for stirring cocktails. The downside is glass is much heavier than a tin, so it's much harder to break the seal.  Also, glass breaks!  

Alternative Option

This is a tough one to replace.  A large mason jar works, as these guys cleverly figured out, though it isn't designed to standup to hard shaking.  You can also pour your drinks back and forth between two glasses four or five times, which is call "rolling."

 

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tom@socialhourcocktails.com Brooklyn, NY

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