There is nothing better than making a stellar cocktail at home. It’s cheaper than the bars and perfect for lazy weekends. I’m not a professional bartender, but here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years from being the official mixologist of my family. Just like everything else, the proper tools make all the difference when making good drinks. Could you hammer a nail with an adjustable wrench? Yup, I bet you could but it would take forever and be twisted in six different directions (I know because I’ve tried). Here are some essential bar tools and a few easy tips that will help you be a better bartender.
What Bar Tools Do I Need?
Here is a reasonable bar set that I personally use and love. It’s the perfect starter kit to get you well on your way to making a better cocktail. I will dive into the details more below, but I can’t recommend enough the value of investing in a simple bar set.
Get a Boston Shaker and Hawthorn Strainer
What’s the secret to a smooth cocktail? It’s all in the shaker. A Boston shaker consists of a pint glass and a metal canister. The advantage is more volume and more room to shake. I add a handful of ice, 6-7 cubes, and shake cocktails vigorously for 7 to 10 seconds before serving. When I say vigorously, I mean two hands and VIGOROUSLY. This will chill the drink and crush the ice, introducing some water. A little water will take the burn off and bring out the flavors of most spirits. Plus, a chilled cocktail will always taste smoother.
A Hawthorn strainer is designed to fit snug around the pint glass and will ensure ice and muddled fruits or herbs won’t end up in your cocktail when serving.
Use Better Ice
Ever go to a nice cocktail bar and get a single large ice cube in your drink? It looks cool, but there is actually a science to it. If you’re drinking a cocktail on the rocks, a jumbo ice cube will melt slower keeping your drink chilled without diluting or introducing too much water. Good ice chills without diluting, bad ice leaves you with water with a side of whiskey. You can find what I use here.
Measure, Measure, Measure Everything
Don’t eyeball or guess on your drinks. Unless you’re pouring straight Jameson of course…Otherwise, get a jigger (two-sided measuring device) or measuring glass and carefully measure each ounce or part. One part typically equals one ounce. I still measure out drinks I’ve made one hundred times. Why? because it will always turn out perfect and it’s hard to estimate pours…especially if you’ve been drinking.
Use a Muddler
Making mojitos? A muddler is the key to flavoring cocktails with natural flavors such as mint. It’s great for muddling fruits, bitters, vegetables, orange or lemon peels, herbs, or even sugar. A wooden muddler is inexpensive and will last a lifetime. I’ve tried wooden spoons, knives (really bad idea), and other random kitchen utensils (whisk handle?!?). None seem to quite extract all of the necessary juices and flavors from any given garnish as well as a muddler.
Freeze Your Glasses
This is an easy one. Keep your drinks cooler for longer by keeping cocktail glasses in the freezer. At a minimum, I’ll throw a few glasses in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. This will keep your drinks colder for longer. Also, you’ll look like you really know what you’re doing.