As my obsession with cocktails has grown over the last couple years, I’ve had more and more friends and family members picking up the hobby as well.
It seems as if it’s almost on a daily basis someone is texting me to ask about a recipe, or ask some other home bar related question.
But there’s one that I get more than any other:
“What cocktail tools do I need for my home bar?”
I’ve answered this question so many times now, that it’s clearly time to write a post detailing all of the essential home bar cocktail tools that everyone needs if they want to get into cocktails.
Some of these will be more specific than others, and I’ll do my best to highlight ones that I believe are essential versus simply “nice to have.”
But I can’t stress enough how much more enjoyable making drinks is when you have the right tools. That’s not to say you can’t get by without a dedicated cocktail kit, but having a few essential bar tools will not only make your life easier, but it will make your drinks taste better as well.
So, without wasting any time, let’s jump right into this!
Best Cocktail Tools: Essential Items for the Home Bar
Ok these are the things I truly believe are essential to any home bar. If you’re only going to pick up a handful of items, these are the most important and the most difficult to try and hack.
1) Jigger (1oz/2oz)
The way I usually find out what the most essential cocktail tools truly are, is when I’m either on vacation or at a friend’s house and trying to make drinks.
You discover very quickly what the most painful items are to be missing, and for me, a proper jigger is top of the list.
For the un-initiated a jigger is essentially just a fancy two sided shot glass that allows for precise measurements.
They come in all different sizes and style, but the most useful for me is the standard 1oz/2oz jigger.
I particularly like items from A Bar Above, they make fantastic bar tools and they’re jigger in particular is great, as they added in notches by the 1/4 oz inside of it – so you can truly get precise.
If you’re making any craft cocktail that requires precise measurements, this is a must have. Unless you like making your drinks using a tablespoon….
This is the taller Japanese style jigger, which just makes it a little bit easier to measure
This is absolutely essential for any home bar. And while this might feel a little expensive for what is essentially a shot glass, you'll use it for every single drink you make.
2) Boston Shaker
There’s a very good chance you have a shaker. There’s also a very good chance your shaker sucks.
All too often I see people buy shakers because “it looks cute” or because it has a built in strainer.
Every single time I’ve used a shaker like that I’m disappointed. Either it leaks horribly, or you have trouble getting the lid off, or it gets too messy – invest in a good shaker!
The standard Boston Shaker is the style that comes with two stainless steel cups, one smaller than the other that fits inside.
This is what you want.
It doesn’t look fancy. The strainer isn’t built in. But it will allow you to easily make fantastic shaken drinks without the headaches those “pretty” ones give you.
There’s a reason that this is what you see nearly all truly high quality bartenders using.
It’s worth noting that I also prefer the full stainless steel shaker, as opposed to the ones that have a pint glass on one side. I’m always terrified I’ll break the glass…
3) Hawthorne Strainer
If you’re using a Boston Shaker, then obviously it’s not going to have a built in strainer. To to fix this, you’ll want what’s called a hawthorne strainer.
This is a strainer that includes a coil spring to fit around your shaker and to ensure that no ice or pulp gets into the drink.
I’ve personally rarely had any issues with the ones I’ve used, so any should do, but I’ve had great luck with this one.
The absolute worst is when you show up to a vacation house or a friends and realize there’s no
Try doing that without a
This is something I use all the time, so getting a high quality one is worth the investment. I also like the ones that are slightly larger that can do lemons – they work just as well with limes.
A juicer of some sort will save you SO much energy and struggle. If I'm making drinks somewhere, a juicer is often the most painful item to be missing. Try squeezing a dozen limes without one...You can find these for less, but it's worth investing in a high quality one.
The *Almost Essential* Cocktail Tools
These items are basically essential in my eyes, but there are easier work arounds than the items listed above. But if you’re serious about your home cocktails – you’ll want to pick these up.
5) Mixing Glass
Contrary to what you may have been told, you do not shake every single cocktail.
On a very broad level, you usually shake things with citrus, and stir things that don’t have citrus. There are plenty of instances where that is broken, but it’s a good starting point.
So if you’re stirring cocktails, ideally you’ll have a mixing glass.
This is listed in the “almost essential” because there are obviously other glasses you can use to stir your cocktails, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference a proper cocktail mixing glass actually makes.
Here’s a great one:
Also, Pro Tip: Only use your ice once. For instance if you’re making an old fashioned, stir over ice in a mixing glass, and then strain over a fresh large cube. Don’t just dump the ice you mixed with into the glass.
6) Bar Spoon
Yes, technically you can use any spoon to stir your cocktails. But again, you’d be amazed how much more effective a long stem proper
If you mix a lot of drinks, a
This is a very cheap way to make creating stirred cocktails much more enjoyable.
You can tell the difference between someone who takes their drinks seriously and one who doesn't simply by their spoon. Seriously.
7) Chinois (Fine Mesh Strainer)
Now you may be asking yourself, “what the hell is a chinois?”
And to you I’d reply….I don’t blame you for not knowing what this is.
Essentially it’s a very fine mesh strainer, and it’s become an essential tool for me.
If you’re making shaken drinks and then you strain using the hawthorne strainer mentioned above, there are still going to be little shards of ice and possibly other debris that makes it into your cocktail.
You use a chinois to do what’s called a “double strain” where you strain from the shaker, and through the chinois to ensure you get a perfect cocktail. It really does make a big difference, and you’ll see them do this at pretty much any of the top bars in the world.
8) Large Ice Cube Tray
These days having large cubes has pretty much become essential. Not just for presentation, but for functionality as well.
A huge pet peeve of mine is when you order an old fashioned and it comes with standard bar ice that melts too quickly and waters down your drink.
Having a large cube both looks more pleasing, and has the added benefit of not melting as quickly, allowing you to savor a cocktail that is meant to be sipped, rather than guzzled.
If you want to get really pretentious you can make your own clear ice, but that’s starting to get into truly cocktail nerd territory.
Finally the last item in our “almost essential” category is a muddler. Now you may be the type of person who hardly ever makes a drink that requires muddling. Great, move this to the bottom of the list.
But that first time you decide you want to make a mojito (or I suggest the fantastic Smokescreen), you’ll wish you’d picked one up.
There are all kinds of muddlers out there, but whether you go steel or wood, my main criteria is that it’s long enough to allow you to grip it outside of the shaker or glass. Anything less than 10 inches can make this difficult.
Nice to Have Cocktail Tools
These things aren’t essential, but they’re certainly nice to have.
Making lots of drinks? Having an electric
You can do this with a regular hand
11) Clear Ice Maker
I’m pretty spoiled in the sense that my dad has all of a sudden become a clear ice aficionado, and he brings over a batch anytime he’s at my house (he also revealed all his clear ice secrets here.)
But not all of us want to go through this process.
And for the rest of us, there are clear ice makers that work surprisingly well. I have this one below, that makes spheres rather than cubes, and is excellent. Only downside is it only makes two at a time, and you have to remember to take them out around 24 hours after you put them in.
12) Portable Cocktail Tools Kit
Finally, if you can’t tell from reading the rest of this post, I often find myself making drinks on vacation or at friend’s houses.
I used to load up all of my cocktail tools in a big ziplock, and truck them to wherever I was going, inevitably losing something along the way.
So I finally picked up a second portable cocktail kit to take with me when I need to make drinks elsewhere. This one listed below is actually much nicer than mine, but has just about everything you could want.
Finally, Want to Getting Your Cocktail Tools Easier?
Going through and picking up all of these cocktail tools or choosing between the best of each product can be difficult. If you want to make it easy, you can get most of the essentials all in one fell swoop with this starter set:
What tools do you have that you can’t live without? Drop a note and let me know!