Making drinks at home can be rewarding and fun especially when you want to impress your friends or a date! But remember a good bartender is only as good as his bar tools so make sure to invest in the right cocktail equipment.
We are going to go into a bit of depth on how to use bar tools correctly and layout the must-have items so you look and feel the part as a home mixologist. Below you will find our top bar tool picks and how to use them.
There are three main methods for making cocktails. Built, Shaken and Stirred. Built cocktails are all made in the vessel the drink is being served in. Usually, you would start with any fruit or herbs, then liquor, ice and finally any sodas. Think Mojitos and the Old Fashioned.
Moving on, next we have stirred. The main reason to stir is to chill the drink and also to create dilution. Usually, you would want to stir for up to 40 seconds.
Lastly, we have shaken. Well everyone has their own shake but as long as you use enough ice and shake with enough force, your cocktail will turn out well. Between 10 – 12 seconds your drink will have reached thermal equilibrium, meaning it’s ready to drink. We have a great Espresso Martini article here is a classic shaken cocktail.
When making cocktails, add all your ingredients first, with the least expensive liquor last, just in case you make a mistake on the way. Then follow up with the ice.
Like we said above, everyone has their own shake. To get technical, the two variables to concentrate on are the quantity of ice and force. During shaking a cocktail you are creating tiny air bubbles that add texture to a drink through the process of aeration.
Shaking a cocktail with enough force, and with a fluid motion, will help the ice hit the sides of the tin. You want to shake for 10 – 12 seconds which is the point your cocktail will reach thermal equilibrium.
Basically this means it has hit ‘optimum temperature’ and anymore shaking will create unwanted extra dilution. You can see from the chart below from ‘Tales of the Cocktail’ the process of shaking and how the temperature is affected. A great shaken cocktail to start with is this Pisco Sour recipe from Ivy Mix.
The Y-axis (vertical line) shows the temperature and the X-axis (horizontal line) shows the time shaken. The only other way to reach a lower temperature would be to keep your glassware and possibly alcohol in a freezer before serving.
For a long time, the Boston tin on glass was seen in almost every bar. Although yes durable, they are clumsy and heavy to deal with. We recommend using these tins instead. The metal is better for conducting temperature and you will find they are easier to handle. They are also near indestructible.
The Cobbler shaker is a great addition to your home bar and you will find it in many metal finishes. This shaker has three parts to it, with the lid having a built-in strainer and a small cap to cover it whilst shaking. Perfect for practising the Japanese hard shake made famous by Kazuo Uyeda.
The Parisian Shaker, also known as a French shaker, is somewhere between a Cobbler and a Boston. The shape is similar to the Cobbler shaker, but does not have a built-in strainer.
While the two peice shaker is designed to fit perfectly together, it can be troublesome to pul apart.
Visually it is impressive and great for batch shaking cocktails.
Like shaking, with stirring you are trying to chill your cocktail and achieve dilution. Now most shakers can be doubled up to be used as mixing vessels too, but there are also some really stunning mixing glasses out there that will make you bar look super sleek.
When stirring cocktails, like above add all your ingredients first, with the least expensive liquor last. Add as much ice as possible to the mixing vessel, in simple terms the reason is that ‘the less ice the less it melts!’ but to be technical it creates faster chilling and slower dilution.
Hold your spoon centrally with you forefinger and middle and keep the spoon circling around the inside sides of the vessel. What this should do is keep all the ice spinning in one structure. If it sounds like your ice is churning you are doing it wrong!
A Stylish scientific style mixing glass often seen in some of the top London bars. Tall and thin this is a great all rounder with it’s sleek design. This bar tool is a staple to have on any bar.
Speigelau has a great range called the ‘perfect serve’ with this mixing glass being part of it. Not only does it look great with its crystal cut base but its very durable due to its think shape and heavy base.
In a bar enviroment, we choose these stainles steel mixing tins. The surfaces are polished and look proffesional in any setting. The advantage of using tins is that metal chills drinks much faster and more consistently than glass. Keep this in the freezer for about a minute before using it for a more precise temperature controlled drink.
A good bartender relies on his tools for precision, efficiency and ease. This is our extensive list of the essential tools every home bartender needs. The next section we will cover strainers but be sure to put this section at the top of your shopping list.
Jiggers are the most commonly used bar tool, which are used to measure liquid accurately. Spoons are used to stir ice to chill and dilute your cocktail. And strainers are used to pour the liquid while keeping ice in place. There are a number of other pieces of equipment you may want to get but if you stick with the basics you can make the majority of cocktails.
If you want to learn more about the world of bartending why not check out our podcast ‘On The Back Bar’ where Christopher Menning sits down with industry leaders and experts from across the globe. Learn about how some of the greatest bartenders started on their journey and how the best bars in the world run their cocktail program.
Jiggers are the double coned measuring tool that are a bartenders essential best friend. Measuring drinks with precision is a key factor in succesful cocktail. Opt for a double coned jigger which are usually 25/50 ml measurements.
Not as heavy as the one above, this fancy looking jigger is fantastic to use and keeps measurements on point. We find this one much easier to use especially if you are in a hurry and need to make multiple drinks!
The bar spoon is what you will need to stir ice and mix drinks. The choice is yours and depends on what you are comfortable with. We prefer a longer spoon because we find it easier to stir with the additional weight.
Use a paring knife to cut any fruit, herbs or vegetables you plan to use for your drinks. This knife by Victorinox is durable and comes in a pack of two for when the first gives up. It’s important to choose a quality knife and take care of it. Damascus steel is also a very good option that many top bars have. but if you are on a smaller budget don’t worry. Just mind your fingers!
Perfect for peeling long strips of lemon, orange or lime peel. We like to keep our strips long and rustic looking. This tool does the job nicely. You should peel a long slice of each zest and use the knife above to cut it to your desired shape. why not a triangle shape?
This tunnel peeler is useful for peeling long thin strips of lemon peel for those Martini’s you plan on whipping up. This zester takes a bit of getting used to, especially if you are left handed like us.
Great for zesting fruit and veg and spices like nutmeg. This one also comes with a protective cover. A great cocktail to use these tool perfectly is the brandy Alexander with a dusting of nutmeg on top. Or, if you are feeling tiki, grate some lime zest over a juicy highball.
Also known as the Mexican elbow. Easier and more precise to juice your fruit. Just be careful, we’ve seen juice fly into a bartenders eye on occasion. Painful.
A waiters friend indeed. This is quite a cheap corkscrew but frankly if you look after it well there is no reason it shouldnt last a lifetime.
These pipettes are used for measuring tiny amounts of liquid consistently. This is great for delicate flavours or any bitters you may have.
Atomisers are great for spraying a thin mist of alcohol as a finisher or spraying the inside of glass as an additional flavour. There a few metal versions but let’s face it, this one looks awesome and we will really add that flair to your cocktail game.
Perfect for holding your garnishes in place (no one likes to go fishing for that olive). Choose metal above anything else, they are durable, resuable and you are doing you part to save the planet.
Ice will make or break a drink. Ideally we would all use ice blocks from the freezer and cut what is needed but that’s not always practical. These silicon molds are easy to pull the ice it and easy to keep clean. When choosing it is better to go for large cubes like this ones so the dilution rate is slower.
There are only 3 types of strainers you will need to get you through cocktail making. We use strainers to hold ice in place or to filter out small particles that are not for the final product.
This cross between a julep and hawthorn is perfect for the job. You could get away with just having this one. The spring around its edge fits comfortably in different tins and mixing glasses.
A stylish Julep strainer which was frist created for julep cocktails to hold the crushed ice and mint in place. Now it is used for mixed drinks to keep the ice out of the glass.
Tea strainers are used to catch little shards of ice after shaken a cocktail. Or for catching small pieces of fruit or other bits you don’t want in the final drink. Stylish, durable and practical.
Ok now we are getting into the fun stuff. The list below is for the advanced bartender or for those who really want to look the part when they are hosting a cocktail party. You don’t particularly need these items but hell if you going to build a home bar, why not?
Now we think the first thing you should have is a decent cocktail station. Aim for a small section of your kitchen or living room, or buy the bar cart listed below. Then month by month top up your collection of bar tools and equipment until you could run your own bar out of home. Not all these items are necessary but you will impress the socks out of everyone who visits.
If you are making long cocktails then straws will make it a lot easier to drink. They also look good and these metal straws are resuable. Each pack comes with a small brush to help clean inside the straw. Once again choose metal, save the planet.
Perfect for when hosting guests. Save yourself the hassle of running back and forth to the freezer and just top up a bucket before hand. Ever heard the term mise en place?
We love cream whippers. They are a handy tool for adding carbonation to a drink and can be used for rapid infusion cocktails. You could also make some tasty meringues/ foams for your cocktail with this tool. Just egg white and sugar syrup is sometimes all you need. This Isi is a little bit more expensive than the norm but there are so many built in safety features that it will last a lifetime.
Ok you may be thinking, but shouldn’t I have a sexy glass art deco style bar trolley? Yes of course you can but in terms of price and durability, this wins top marks from us. The three tiers are great for holding all your tools, and produce, There is a glass rack on the bottom shelf, A bottle rack to hold four of your liqueurs in place, it has a removable top to act as a tray and to top it all off it has wheels! For the price of £74.95 it’s a steal.
Once again not completely necessary but you will wow your guests and show how professional you really are. It also helps for when you mess up and spill your cocktail everywhere. Save that shirt!
A good blender is worth a bit of investment. For overall performance the nutribullet is a winner. This is perfect to make any fruit purees or syrups quickly.
Probably our favourite piece of equipment on this list. This precision sous vide cooker is incredible. Just plug it in, set the temp and time and let it sit in a pot. No heat or gas needed. The Anonva will precisely rotate the water and it can all be controlled from your phone. And the amazing part is that it’s going for under £100.
Of course, if you are going to be using the sous vide technique make sure to buy some pouches.
Does exactly what it says on the tin. For the very reasonable price of £30.
Now this one is fun. If you really want to up your garnish game invest in a dehydrator. You can use this for fruit and veg to make some interesting looking cocktail garnishes, like dehydrated pineapple and lime. When cutting your produce, slice thin.
What did you think of our bar tools list? Did we leave anything out? Now you have your shopping list or you’ve already got some of this stuff on the way you have taken your first step to being a professional home bartender. Next time we will be writing a list on all the glassware you will need for your bar but in the meantime why not check up on one of our articles to start making cocktails!
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