The measure of a well-stocked bar is more than the count of bourbons, gins, Scotches, and vodkas—a proper well-stocked bar includes the essential tools to make a great cocktail, and trust that how you stock your bar says an awful lot about you. While experienced bartenders have turned cocktails into craft, never doubt that with the right ingredients, proper tools and the right attitude you, too, can create your own magic. Start with these essential tools and you’ll be well on your way to concocting the drinks of your dreams.
Shake it up with a Boston shaker! And not just because it is the choice of the professional bartenders, but because it’s quite literally impossible to make a proper cocktail without this two-piece ingenuity that seamlessly mixes spirits while rendering a perfectly chilled cocktail.
Stir is up—Putting aside an obvious question, ‘’to shake or to stir”; you might be surprised to know that there is actually a “proper” technique for the seemingly simple task of stirring a cocktail. Gentler than shaking, stirring with a properly used stirrer combines the ingredients with an agitation that helps create a uniform flavor for the cocktail and essential for drinks that require a little more finesse to coax the flavors out.
And then there’s the strainer, who’s essential contribution is to keep ice and other little bits in the shaker while you pour into the serving glass. When it comes to what kind of strainers, you don’t need to get complicated; simpler is better.
Batter up! Yes, it looks like mini baseball bat, but it’s the best way to crush ingredients like fresh fruit and herbs at the bottom of a glass to release their essential oils and rich flavors. There are many styles; just start with your hand size and find the best fit.
Zest with the best—A key piece in lots of cocktails is citrus and it’s certainly the most prominent ingredient after spirits and ice. The deeper you get into making great drinks at home, the more you’ll regularly be grabbing lots of fresh limes and lemons.
To measure ingredients, bartenders use a tool called a jigger. These are standardized measuring cups, and supermarket options often feature 1-oz (a “pony”) and 1-and-1/2-oz (a “jigger”) portions. Instead, we suggest a different route: a 1 and 2 oz, and 3/4 and 1/2 oz. This way, you can just look at them and remember the bigger one has whole measurements, and the smaller has the fractions. If you need a quarter ounce, you can eyeball it by filling the 1/2 oz one halfway, or busting out your bar spoon and filling it twice. (One teaspoon = .16 oz)
Here’s to the bartenders that always keep your glass half full.