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You don’t need to sidle up to the bar of a craft cocktail spot to have an excellent cocktail. With a home bar loaded with your favorite liquors and an armory of bar tools, stellar home cocktails are in sight. “With this small investment, anyone at home can create a great classic cocktail and even experiment with their own recipes,” says Michael Gaines, of Los Angeles’ Las Brisas and Solita. With the guidance of Gaines and a few fellow industry experts, we’ve put together a list of essential gear to build a drinks lover’s home bar.
“I always prefer wooden to metal muddlers,” explains Hilda Ysusi of Broken Barrel in Woodlands, Texas. “They are much easier to clean and don't impart any flavors to the drink.”
Her particular favorite muddler is similar to this one made with food-safe Beechwood. The rounded carved wood is comfortable to hold, and a wide bottom crushes up fruits and herbs with minimal effort. “I love it because it has a flat end. There are no ridges, so it muddles everything perfectly without pieces getting stuck,” Ysusi explains.
The thick wood handle curves naturally, fitting comfortably in the hand to let you muddle drinks quickly and easily. The durable wood is designed to last through years of tough muddling.
A jigger helps you measure out the perfect amount of alcohol for your drink. Chris Chernock, who handles the bar at Los Angeles’ beloved Broken Spanish, says, “I absolutely cannot live without my Leopold Jigger. Jiggers come in all shapes and sizes, but if you've ever held and worked with the Leopold, you'll instantly notice the weight and balance of the jigger itself, which is ideal for bartending in high-paced environments. It's not light by any means, feels solid within your hand, and has all the measurement markings I need, including the elusive quarter-ounce measurement, which isn't as common as some might think.”
Made by Cocktail Kingdom (one of the leading barware brands in the world and the owners of the award-winning Katana Kitten and Mace bars in New York City), the jigger is copper-plated and banded, with a design inspired by vintage jiggers. “It's super classy, easy to clean, and comes in plenty of colors to match your personal preference although classic silver is my go-to,” says Chernock.
Though the jigger is on the pricier side, Chernock confirms that the quality makes it worthwhile.
While many bartenders prefer using a quick hand juicer, Pia Days, owner of Chocolate Tenders bartending company in Los Angeles, loves a stainless steel cold press juicer. “With 1,000 watts, it’s very powerful and efficient,” she explains. “It can juice whole fruits and vegetables, which significantly cuts down on labor and time.”
The heavy-duty Juice Fountain Cold Plus has a centered knife blade that quickly breaks down fruits and vegetables. Not only can the juicer produce fresh lime and lemon juice for daiquiris, but it can tackle a range of fresh vegetable and fruit juice for creative cocktails, juices, and more.
This unit is particularly appealing, as it allows you to batch enough juice—fruit, veggie, or whatever you please—to keep you quenched through the night. No need to squeeze lemons and limes between each round of drinks. It’s also easy to clean; dishwasher-safe parts disassemble effortlessly.
There are many different types of shakers you can add to your home bar—cobbler, glass-on-tin, and tin-on-tin. The latter is a crowd favorite in the mixology world. “Most bartenders, myself included, love Koriko weighted tins,” says Eric Hobbie of Las Vegas’ Clique Hospitality. “They have the best seal, and they are light to hold.”
Though the tins are easy to handle, built-in weights help balance the tin and ensure the container is tightly sealed throughout the shake. “Shaking a tin can take a toll on your joints and tendons, so the weight matters!” Hobbie explains.
Made up of two stainless tins—a large, 28-ounce tin and a smaller 18-ounce size—this shaker comes in sleek rose gold, classic silver, gold, or black. Wael Deek, from New York City’s Osteria 57 agrees: “The Koriko tins keep the contents of the drink nice and cool. It’s just a great shaker overall.”
“While I believe most, if not all, cocktails taste best if made in a shaker,” Broken Barrel’s Ysusi says, “a strainer is key to make sure you can pour drinks perfectly into the sipping glass.”
When it comes to straining her cocktails, she recommends the Mako Hawthorne Cocktail Strainer. "It's affordable, reliable, and very durable,” Ysusi says. “The coil is not stiff, so it is easy to handle.”
The Hawthorne-style bar strainer has small coils and tight coils that quickly filter out ice, as well as herbs and citrus, while easily fitting your preferred shaking vessel. The 100 percent stainless steel strainer is designed to be an industry workhorse, built with durability to last through hundreds of cocktails. Cleanup is easy: Just pop the strainer in the dishwasher after making your cocktails.
“I love the classic Teardrop bar spoon,” says Nick Touch, bartender at The Family Jones Spirit House in Denver, Colorado. “It is nicely weighted, has a simple and elegant design, and the bowl can be used for 1/8-ounce measurements. It's sometimes referred to as the standard ‘bar spoon’ of modifying ingredients, such as absinthe”—you will often see the term ‘add a bar spoon of ingredient’ in cocktail recipes.
The 30-inch-long spoon, tall enough for any cocktail glass, features a swirling stem that runs the length of the handle to allow for smooth, steady stirring. A weighted teardrop at the end helps balance the spoon, making it easier to pour and stir with control. Alternatively, the weighted end helps stir up liquid contents in a glass that's too small for the spoon. It will be a workhorse in a range of stirred cocktails—think martinis, Manhattans, and mixed drinks that require building the cocktail right in the glass, like highball and lowball drinks.
While you may immediately gravitate towards a classic push-button blender, a handheld unit is a great alternative for frozen drinks. Touch loves his KitchenAid immersion blender, with its 8-inch blending arm with a fixed blade and a two-speed motor. Use it to quickly crush up ice in your favorite blended drink (like a piña colada), or puree a boozy smoothie.
The two-speed motor lets you decide how blended each drink will be. The removable blades separate from the blender with the push of a button, making it easy to spray clean or pop into the dishwasher.
The blender comes with a three-cup blending jar, but the adaptable blender can be used in a regular shaker tin. Outside of mixing cocktails, the mixer is versatile in the kitchen. Use it to make sauces (perhaps pesto), blend soups, or mix smoothies.
Rochelle Tougas of Houston’s FM Kitchen & Bar says this tool tops her list of favorites thanks to its simplicity. “I was gifted one by a friend when I was working at my first ‘dive-esque’ bar, and that thing really came through with helping me to work fast and efficiently. The one I received was very thin, making it easy to grab and go. There are times I feel my blade is just an extension of my arm!”
This V-Rod style opener is the staple of working bartenders. The unique shapes help it do everything from open beer bottles to remove corks and spouts. The tool is magnetic, so it can attach easily to metal bar carts, fridges, and more. “It's a dependable staple tool,” Tougas says. “Not having it makes you feel a little off-kilter the whole night.”