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Home Bar Essentials | Tools & Accessories

We cover a lot about cocktails here, but we also want to provide guidance on technique. Let's start with some real brass tacks stuff. Before you can even get into basic cocktail mixing technique, you have to have the right tools. In this guide we'll touch on the necessary items you need to be able to make delicious cocktails at home. We've broken them down into three sections: must haves, should haves, and nice to haves.

Let's get started…

4 Must Haves:

  • Boston Shaker
  • Hawthorne Strainer
  • Measuring Cup or Jigger
  • Vegetable Peeler

  • Boston Shaker

    This is most important tool. Sure, you can shake drinks in other things, but if you want to make a real drink, you'll need one of these. The brilliance of the Boston Shaker is that it works with any standard-sized pint glass. That glass also serves well for stirring, which, for moderate use, is an acceptable stand-in for a dedicated stirring glass.

    While the Cobbler Shaker is probably the most commonly used shaker because it has a built in strainer and fitted top, bartenders prefer the larger Boston Shaker style to better chill drinks.
    Hawthorne Strainer

    The two main strainers are the Hawthorne and the julep strainer. The Hawthorne fits snuggly inside the glass and will strain out small ice bits from a shaken drink. Also, they come from Boston, which we love. We think the OXO Steel version is the best around.
    Measuring cup/Jigger

    A standard jigger has two-sides and is key for being able to quickly measure ingredients when mixing. Named after the amount of liquid it typically measures (a jigger or a “shot") this handy tool helps you make a balanced drink. For a more versatile tool we recommend a small measuring cup with both ounce and tablespoon options. Our current favorite is this hybrid jigger/measuring version; the OXO Steel Angled Measuring Jigger.
    Vegetable Peeler

    You probably already have one of these in the kitchen. This tool is indispensable for a majority of garnishes – and not just ones that look pretty; more importantly the ones that add key flavor elements to drinks. The OXO and Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peeler are our favorites.

    6 Should Haves:

  • Julep Strainer
  • Mixing Glass
  • Bar Spoon
  • Muddler
  • Juicer/ Reamer
  • Ice Cube Trays

  • Mixing Glass

    In a pinch a pint glass works as a mixing glass but the wider area of a real stirring glass makes a huge difference. An easy-to-find and attractive option is the Yarai Mixing Glass. Keep your eyes peeled at flea markets and thrift shops, there are some real gems of these out there waiting to be scooped up.
    Julep Strainer

    Less versatile than the Hawthorne strainer, the Julep is the strainer of choice for stirred drinks, which don't involve breaking the ice into very small fragments that need straining. They look great working with the Yarai glass, too.
    Bar Spoon & Muddler

    The reason a bar spoon isn't on the absolutely essential list? Chopsticks. They are stirring champs. It's tough to look the part of bartender when stirring with them, though. Bar spoons are used mostly for spirits-only drinks that have that crystal clear, clean look. A lot of people consider a muddler, a must-have tool. If you're are making lots of smashes or mojitos at home you definitely need one, but for the vast majority of drinks they are not necessary. We're partial to this great muddler and bar spoon set.

    Squeezing by hand will get you juice, but it's not that clean or efficient. A juicer or citrus press will save you time and pain. For an even smaller tool, a reamer is ideal. We find it extracts more of the juice quicker than other options.
    Ice Cube Trays

    Any ice will work for drinks but having perfectly cubed ice is always better. Tovolo makes a full line of various-sized silicone cube trays. The 1.5-inch cubes are great for mixing drinks and work well as a single rock for straight alcohol or to fill a glass for am mixed drink. For an Old Fashioned, try the King Cubes or spheres to make your drink extra special.

    4 Nice To Haves:

  • Fine Strainer
  • Swizzle Stick
  • Channel Knife/ Zester
  • Dedicated Bar Knife

  • Fine Strainer

    This fine mesh strainer will remove really small bits of ice from a drink. Sometimes you want to do that but that level of perfection is generally for the pros, not for home. A fine strainer is also nice for straining things like raspberry seeds out of a syrup.
    Swizzle Stick

    Swizzle sticks are primarily for drinks where you want to stir ingredients poured into a taller glass while still allowing for some sort of float on top. For the home bartender generally just stirring is fine. These are pretty fun to use though…
    Channel Knife/ Zester

    A garnishing tool. This zester with channel knife combo features sharp holes at the top for zesting while the channel knife allows you to cut garnishes and decorations easily. Remember the vegetable peeler can also do the same things. The channel knife is pretty much a one-trick pony, but it does let you make those curly lemon peel garnishes.
    Dedicated Bar Knife

    Reserve a sharp utility knife for your bartending endeavors. This type of knife is slightly larger than a pairing knife and gives you more range in what you can cut. We're a big fan of the locally-made bar knife that was designed by Boston bar legend Jackson Cannon. The sharp tip will help with more intricate garnish work, or for starting on some stubborn citrus peel.