Essential Bar and Cocktail Tools
The Tools You Need for a Basic Home Bar
With simple tools at hand, it's easy to mix signature party cocktails or your guests' favorite beverages. Add glasses, an assortment of liquor and mixers, plus a few garnishes, and you'll impress all of your guests with your bartending skills. Check out these tools for a no-stress party bartending experience.
Shakers are a staple for making gin or vodka martinis and many other drinks. A shaker combines liquids with ice to chill drinks quickly. The most common cocktail shakers consist of a bottom, a top with a built-in strainer, and a cap that often can be used for measuring. Other styles of cocktail shakers consist of only a top and bottom and usually require a separate strainer. Shakers come in many decorative styles, shapes, and materials. Make sure you hold the top when shaking; they have been known to come loose.
Editor's Tip: Wrap a small towel around the shaker, if you'd like, to keep your fingers from getting as icy as your drinks.
A jigger measures liquids. A two-ended jigger may have a 1-1/2-ounce (shot) end and a 1-ounce (pony) end. Use these devices to get the proportions right for whatever cocktail you're mixing.
A strainer fits over a cocktail shaker and catches the ice and any other solids while you pour the liquid into a cocktail glass. The spiral rings of a Hawthorne-style strainer create a tight fit to the sides of the cocktail shaker.
A corkscrew is the obvious tool for pulling a cork out of a wine bottle. Corkscrews come in multiple styles, shapes, forms, and materials, but most are categorized as waiter, lever, twist, or pump style. Whether you prefer a classic version or an upgraded style (there are even battery-powered versions), test corkscrews until you find the type that works best for you. Keep several on hand to make quick work of opening wine for a party.
Editor's Tip: Purchase a foil cutter to remove the sometimes-stubborn cork wrapper. Some corkscrews incorporate a foil cutter.
When hosting a party, bottle pourers keep the bartending area neat and efficient. The device -- available as either a simple bottle topper or as a measured pourer -- prevents splashing, eliminating the mess of sticky liquors. Measured pourers deliver 1-ounce pours, making it quick and easy to measure the correct amount of spirits for each drink.
Fresh citrus juice completes many a cocktail. As when used for cooking, a juicer squeezes juice from citrus fruits, strains seeds, and has a lip for pouring. The bar version tends to be stainless steel and a bit smaller and lighter than those used in the kitchen.
A long-handle bar spoon is used to mix drinks right in the glass. The long handle reaches easily into tall glasses and pitchers. Some versions can be used for muddling, or slightly crushing, ingredients, such as mint leaves.
A party necessity, an ice scoop keeps hands out of the ice bucket. Available in styles to suit any party and decorating style, ice scoops quickly transfer ice to glasses or cocktail shakers.
The cocktail muddler is used to bruise, or "muddle" fresh ingredients when making cocktails, such as mojitos. Crushing or bruising fresh herbs, fruits, and zests releases their flavors. This technique may be done in a glass to muddle ingredients for a single drink or in a pitcher to make cocktails for a group. A traditional muddler resembles a miniature wooden baseball bat. Newer styles are made of stainless steel.
Drink or cocktail picks add finishing panache to many drinks, whether it's olives for the classic martini or speared fruit for a tropical drink. Drink picks also serve double duty as hors d'oeuvre picks, and can be stylish additions to any party.
Garnish Tools, Stirrers, and Drink Tags
Cocktail stirrers, drink tags, and paper umbrella picks or party-theme cocktail picks will give your party real flair. Garnish drinks with traditional accompaniments or personalized garnishes to suit you and your guests. Offer drink tags to avoid the confusion of misplaced drink glasses during the party.
Party Cocktail Chart
With these home bar basics at hand, you have the components for stress-free bartending at your next party. Get our free Beverage Quantity Guide to ensure you also have enough beverages for all your party guests.