Wow, good question, person reading this. Alright, so I’m guessing you’re the type of person who usually drinks beer and wine at home. Maybe you’ve started accumulating some bottles of liquor, and you’re tired of ripping shots straight from the bottle. We’re out of lockdown, you don’t need to do that to yourself anymore.
The only problem is that you don’t have any bar tools to make yourself cocktails, and even if you did, you wouldn’t know how to use them. Well, on today’s Ted Talk, I’m going to review all the tools you’ll need as you start your home bar, how to use them, and which are the most essential bar tools to own.
Ok, for me, this might be the most important bartender tool you can have at your home bar. You can probably MacGyver a mixing glass out of any regular glass. You can probably get away with stirring a drink with a regular spoon; you might look ridiculous doing it, but it would work. But you can’t really replicate the importance of a jigger. And if you’re thinking, oh, but David, can’t I use a shot glass or measuring cup? No, hush up.
A good jigger can measure ¼oz – 2oz , which are the only measurements you’ll need to know as a bartender. If you can properly measure a cocktail, you can make a well-balanced drink.
How to Use
So there are a number of different jigger styles. These two are the only ones worth owning. Bartenders will argue which style they like better, but as long as they have all the measurements listed above, I’m good.
Typically, the bigger side will measure 1½oz and 2oz; the smaller side will measure ½oz, ¾oz, and 1oz, and if you’re lucky ¼oz. Hold the jigger at the smallest point in the center, between your index and middle finders. Look at you! You already look like a bartender.
Now, when you’re pouring something into the jigger, do not be afraid of those lines, alright? If a recipe calls for an ounce, you better hit that line. No underpours here at HBIC.
One of my favorite sounds is the sound of two tins (cocktail shakers) clacking together, and someone shaking a cocktail. It’s loud, but somehow elegant. Unless, of course, you don’t know how to shake.
There’s no shame in it, we all started somewhere, and none of those places were pretty. Alright, so build your cocktail in the tin, then top it with some ice, seal it, and shake it. One thing to note when you’re shaking is to envision the ice and liquid hitting every point of the shaker. As you’re shaking your cocktail, flick your wrist, so the liquid rotates around the tin as it hits both ends of the shaker.
Also, do yourself a favor and buy a nice stainless steel shaker, and stay away from those Boston shakers with glass…you know, the ones.
When to Use
So, a good rule of thumb is if the cocktail calls for juice, it will probably get shaken. Not only is this important for home bartending, but if you’re out at a bar and you see a cocktail and none of its components are juice, then it will be a stirred cocktail. The number of times people have ordered the stirred mezcal drink on our menu only to send it back because it wasn’t a Margarita…I swear to god, it makes me violently shake. Pun intended.
What you want when you shake a cocktail is to pour out an airy drink with a nice foamy head. Please, you don’t need that much ice to do this; filling up the smaller tin with some ice cubes will be more than enough.
Some of my favorite mixed drinks are made in, well, a mixing glass. Stirred drinks are almost always made from just liquors, bitters, vermouths, etc., all the things you probably have in your fledgling home bar, so these are probably the best cocktails to start with. Also, what’s a better way to end your day, than a nice, stiff Martini?
You’ll need a bar spoon for this. I mean, maybe not need, but c’mon, look at this thing. You’ll want it. Also, some cocktail recipes call for an ⅛ of an ounce, but that is just a bar spoon full, so there you go. Now you can build anything.
Why to Use
Kind of like the opposite of a cocktail shaker; the mixing glass should be used for drinks without juice. The reason behind this is that stirred drinks kind of need a velvety texture and you lose that when you shake a cocktail. Suck it, James Bond.
There are three main cocktail strainers you’ll need, and much like mixing glasses and cocktail shakers, each strainer has its own time and place.
Hawthorne strainers are for cocktail shakers, like cats are for sitting in small boxes. It just fits. Hawthorne strainers have a coil to help keep small shards of ice or muddled fruit from making their way into a drink.
But it can’t strain everything by itself! Double strainers will catch anything a hawthorne didn’t. It may seem unnecessary, but no one wants to chew on their cocktail.
Finally, the julep strainer. This one may be unnecessary if you have the other two, but if you use a Hawthorne strainer on a mixing glass, you might lose a shard of ice through the pour spout of the glass. The julep strainer is just made for a mixing glass, and I still think you should get one.
Any other Bar Supplies
I’d say you probably have a peeler, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, and some kind of juicer. If you don’t, maybe you’ve got to do some home shopping before you think about building your bartender kit. But if you are starting your mixology or home bar journey, we recommend checking out Cocktail Kingdom for all of your barware needs.
If you are ready to learn how to bartend and you want to learn from real bartenders, please join our fam over at Head Bartender in Charge.
P.S. Don’t Forget the Ice
Seriously, if you’re making drinks for more than just yourself, you underestimate how much ice you’ll need. Prepare yourself…because the more drinks you learn how to make, the more people will ask you to make drinks. Welcome to the club. Cheers.