Shaken or Stirred? Home Bartending Tools
Whether you pop a top, twist off, pour, shake or stir a few essential bartending tools can add a little extra flair to your drink presentation.
How to set up a home bar and what you need depends on three factors: budget, what you (and your guests) drink and how much space you have.
Buying bartending tools the professionals use makes sense. Commercial bar tools and supplies are designed to withstand the repeated use of a busy restaurant or bar. If they can do that, they certainly stand up to occasional bartending at your house. And guess what? Professional bar tools are often less expensive.
A list of your favourite beverages - alcoholic and non-alcoholic - is a great place to start to figure out what bar tools you need. And you should probably consider your family and friends’ preferences as well. Great Aunt Edna will be dazzled when you can make her a perfect Mint Julep at the next family BBQ.
Your home bar may have a permanent place in your basement but could be just a single bar cart. Wherever and whatever it is, ensure your collection of bar tools doesn’t exceed the space you have available.
Many tools that bartenders use increase efficiency, quality and consistency of their liquid libations and although that isn’t important to most home bar keeps, using them regularly will certainly mix up your drink game. Here’s a primer for what home bar essentials you should consider having on hand to serve your favourite cocktails.
For mixing drinks
Jiggers: Simply using a shot glass as a measuring tool is slow and inefficient for professional bartenders but works fine for home use. But consider using a jigger, which provides half-ounce measurements up to 2.5 oz, allows for significantly more precision, especially for cocktail recipes with differing amounts of spirits.
One-sided jiggers are available, but double-sided jiggers add a little bit more speed (and look cooler pouring in front of guests).
Muddlers: Muddlers allow you to mash fruit, vegetables or herbs to enhance the flavour of whatever drink you’re making. Choose from a classic wooden muddler with a flat head, a stainless steel or plastic muddler with a meat-tenderizer style head or a metal shaft with a nylon tenderizer head.
Shakers: Also called cocktail shakers, these are the key vessel for mixing cocktails, a 3-piece cobbler shaker (which has a built in strainer and small shaker) is popular for making cocktails at home.
A 2-piece Boston shaker tin (simply a big tin and smaller tin) is preferred by professionals as it is quicker for drink making, but requires more skill to use and a separate strainer.
Mixing glasses: For booze-only cocktails, you don’t want to shake them as that breaks down the ice too much and dilutes the drink, so you’ll want to stir it.
You can stir in a shaker tin, but a mixing glass or pitcher adds a touch of class. Ranging in sizes in a variety of materials, look for a mixing glass with a pour spout.
Strainers: A cocktail strainer is a must to keep unwanted ice cubes, muddled items and seeds out of your finished product.
A Hawthorne strainer is most popular, with coil springs at the top that allows for flexibility in the speed you pour out of the shaker, while also being fine enough to preserve foams (compared to a mesh strainer).
Spoons: Required for stir drinks and adding small measurements of items (such as sugar), bar spoons range from 25-40 cm long.
Spoons can have a knob or a small ice hammer at the end, while the tip can either be smooth or fork-like.
For prep and garnish
Knives: A compact paring knife used just for the bar is perfect for home. They take up minimal space and when paired with a bartender's cutting board you are always ready to prep for your next classic cocktail.
Peelers: Garnishes put the finishing touch on a drink. While a regular vegetable peeler can suffice, for added precision (especially for something like a lemon twist in a martini), you should have at least one citrus zester on hand as well.
Rimmers: Having at least one rimming tray is also a must, to quickly and easily rim glasses with salt, sugar or whatever spice mix your cocktail requires! A rimming tree has two to four sections that swing out for your customized combo of rimming ingredients and easily swing back to take up minimal space when not in use.
For budding professionals
Juicers: Nothing beats the flavour of fresh citrus juice in a cocktail, so having a hand juicer allows you to quickly get the juice out of a lemon or lime — and get more juice than simply squeezing with your hand.
Bar mats: Made from thick and heavy rubber, bar mats can be thin and narrow to go in your drink-making area, protecting your glass and shakers from slipping while usually sitting a half-inch deep to catch any spillage.
Pour spouts: Using pour spouts, also called pourers, adds precision (and reduces spillage) by regulating the speed and volume in which spirits come out of a bottle. There are full plastic spouts available but metal spouts, with a rubber base that snugly fits into the neck of a bottle, are the most durable and reliable spouts.
There are also spouts available that regulate volume, which will stop pouring once the desired amount (0.75 oz, 0.5 oz. 1 oz.) has passed through the spout in one turn and resets when the bottle is tipped back up.
Scoops: Used for scooping your ice from the bucket/bowl into a glass or shaker, stick to something small (5 - 12 oz.) and light for best efficiency.
Openers: A wine opener is a must for, well, basically everyone. You can use a classic waiter’s corkscrew, a winged corkscrew or even a T-style corkscrew.
The fastest and most efficient option is a double-hinged corkscrew — with provides two points of leverage for removing stubborn corks. The head can also be used to open bottles.
If you are new to mixing up cocktails or just want to raise the bar on your beverage offerings, grab your essential home bar tools and start pouring!
Written by Jared Hochman