Essential Tools for your Home Bar

Words: Robyn Paterson

Home bars are stylish and very chic. Whether a small cart or a dedicated hole in the wall, a home bar just elevates your space and makes you ready to entertain whenever someone calls. It’s also very handy to be able to whip up your favourite cocktail on any ol’ evening. So, we thought we’d help you out with a guide on how to fashion your very own home bar.

This handy guide will show you everything you need to curate the best home bar — from shakers to spoons, to jiggers and even glassware.

Bar Trolley

Not essential by any means, but a bar trolley will definitely elevate your home cocktail game to the next level. Plus it makes for a lovely looking addition to your living room space. We recommend getting one with wheels, so that you can take your cocktail station right to your entertainment area.

Jigger

A jigger is your measuring tool for liquor and it’s very useful to get one that allows for easy and quick pouring, ensuring minimal spillage. If you aren’t a professional bartender, you probably don’t have a good eye for ounce measures, so we recommend getting a jigger that has ounce measures inscribed on the inside and outside of the tool, like this one from Yuppiechef.

Shakers

If you’re a fan of shaken cocktails, then you definitely need to get yourself a good quality cocktail shaker, should you want to master the art of proper, restaurant style margaritas, sours cocktails or cosmopolitans, to name a few. Our two favourite types of cocktail shakers are:

Boston Shaker

Our favourite type of shaker and the one most bartenders use. Boston shakers are made up of two tin cups that fit into each other and form a seal when you shake. Some even come with a larger tin cup and a smaller pint glass, which works just as well, but the glass runs the risk of breaking when unsealing it from the tin — the last thing you want is broken glass in your drink!

Cobbler Shaker

The Cobbler shaker is a three-piece shaker that comes with a built-in ice strainer. It’s a bit more user-friendly for those new to shaking, as it doesn’t require you to make your own seal like the Boston shaker. One downfall though — the seal made with the lid when you shake the cocktail can often be very tight and difficult to loosen.

Mixing Glass

If you’re a fan of classic stirred cocktails, like a Negroni, Martini or Manhattan, then a mixing glass is your go-to piece of kit. Basically, it’s what you’ll mix your cocktail in before you strain it into your chosen serving glass. Mixing your cocktail, as opposed to shaking it, allows you to control the dilution of water into your drink, resulting in a more textured cocktail.

Although not a very technical piece of kit, it is useful to have one that’s tall enough to accommodate enough liquid and allows for an easier stir. You can spend a bit of money and get a crystal option or you can use a pint glass. If you’re making the effort to kit out a home bar, we suggest this gorgeous Spiegelau number from Yuppiechef.

Strainer

A strained cocktail is the difference between a good cocktail and a terrible one. For both shaken or stirred cocktails, straining is essential! It removes any broken ice chips or pieces of fruit pulp that will make your cocktail diluted or cloudy. There are two types of strainers you should aim to have in your home bar:

Hawthorne Strainer

The Hawthorne strainer is definitely more widely used, as it is compatible with most Boston shakers and mixing glasses. It has a fine sieve that will catch any ice chips, fruit pulp or muddled herbs. Try this one from Takealot.com.

Julep Strainer

The Julep strainer is traditionally used with a mixing glass and has slightly larger holes. When mixing a cocktail, you won’t have to worry about tiny pieces of ice, as your ice won’t ever break down that much — but it is still important to strain your drink in case any smaller pieces break off during the stirring process.

Bar Spoon

A bar spoon is mostly used for mixing drinks, so it needs to have a long and comfortable handle that allows for an easy stir. Spiralled bar spoons look great and provide a good grip, but we recommend using the ones with a tighter twist, as it’s easier on the hands. It’s also helpful to find one that has a weighted handle, as it helps balance the spoon while stirring.

Bar spoons are also used for layering different alcohols in certain drinks, like in a Long Island Iced tea. Try getting your hands on one that has a deep, curved bowl — you’ll be using the back of the spoon to layer the alcohol, so you need it to be nicely rounded.

Knife

A cocktail isn’t much fun without garnish, right? So, make sure you have a good, sharp knife that lives on your bar trolley. A smaller, paring knife works better, as it allows for more control when cutting small fruits like limes or lemons.

Juicer

Ask any bartender, freshly squeezed citrus is the only citrus that belongs in a cocktail. Buying a handheld citrus squeezer is a much easier (and less messy) way to juice your fruit, especially since you won’t be needing to juice tons for cocktails at home. This lemon squeezer from Yuppiechef is perfect.

Muddler

Some cocktails, like a Mojito or a Caipirinha, call for fruit to be muddled with sugar at the bottom of the shaker or mixing glass. You just won’t get the same result with the back of a spoon, so a muddler comes in handy. You’ll also use this for drinks like an Old Fashioned, that requires muddled sugar, orange and bitters. We recommend this one from Takealot.com.

Glassware 

Glassware is a very important part of how a cocktail is served. It not only influences the aesthetic of the cocktail, but also impacts the taste and how fast the ice melts. We’ve divided essential glassware into three categories:

Lowball/Rocks Glass

The lowball glass is a short tumbler with a heavy bottomed base and is typically used to serve spirit-forward cocktails served over ice, like an Old Fashioned. You’ll also use a lowball for neat pours of any spirit. They are very versatile and a must for any home bar set-up. They are sturdy and short, so aren’t knocked over easily and the thicker bottoms allow you to muddle easily.

Highball/Collins Glass

The highball glass is skinny, tall and great for carbonated cocktails. The high sides allow the bubbles to travel up the drink. The extra space also allows for extra garnish, so these are perfect for fruity summery drinks, like a mojito or Pimms cup.

Stemmed Glassware

Stemmed glassware is a large category, as it includes wine glasses too. We’ve narrowed it down to our favourite cocktail glasses to make it a bit easier. The purpose of stemmed glassware is to keep your cocktail chilled for as long as possible. You’re meant to hold the glass by the stem, so that the heat from your hands doesn’t heat up the bowl too quickly — genius!

Martini glasses are great for stirred, spirit-forward cocktails, such as Martinis, but also Manhattans. The Coup is also a great choice, as it looks amazing, but is a bit sturdier than the Martini glass. The Nick and Nora provides even more sturdiness, as it falls between the Coup and the Martini glass, so it’s the best of both worlds.

Feeling a bit parched? Check out Our Ultimate Cocktail Round Up.

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