Everyone enjoys a fancy cocktail once in a while, especially here in Frederick where we have tons of great bars to choose from (The Tasting Room, VOLT, and Cafe Nola to name a few). But what if you want to try your hand at recreating one of those drinks at home? You can easily find recipes online and the ingredients at a well stocked liquor store. The tools, however, are a different story. They can be confusing, pricey, and difficult to find. Read on to find out what tools a beginner bartender should always have on hand.
Measuring the ingredients just might be the most important step in preparing a cocktail, making a jigger the most important tool behind your bar. A jigger is two cones of differing measurements connected at the tips. If the cocktail is built on ratios simply choose one side of the jigger to use as your ‘part’. If the drink recipe is more specific regarding ounces of ingredients, you will need to be aware of the precise measurements.
Stirred cocktails are combined with ice in a heavy bottomed mixing glass in order to blend the ingredients evenly while thoroughly chilling the drink. Although traditionally made of glass, a mixing glass can also be metal. They are available in many shapes and sizes, pick one that appeals to you and fits your bar spoon.
An elongated bar spoon is vital for producing a properly stirred cocktail. Choose a version with a twisted stem for easy handling, and a trident fork on the opposite end of the spoon for spearing olives and cherries.
Originally designed as a way for drinkers to enjoy iced beverages before the invention of plastic straws, the julep strainer is now used to strain stirred drinks. Form meets function in this beautifully designed object. To use, simply place over your mixing glass, concave side up, and hold down as you pour. The ice will be held back, leaving only your crystal clear drink.
Shaken cocktails are strained with a Hawthorne strainer, a small slotted plate with tabs for grasping the lip of the shaker. The Hawthorne strainer also has a spring on its underside for snagging up ice shards and other small solids. This keeps the cocktail pristine, with a uniform texture and no extra water from ice pieces. Some bartenders double strain their cocktails using first a Hawthorne strainer and then a fine mesh strainer, but this is by no means necessary.
Cocktail shakers come in two varieties, cobbler shakers and Boston shakers. A cobbler shaker is what most comes to mind for most people, made up of three parts: a cup, a lid, and a cap. Invest in a thick walled version that can be easily opened even when loaded with ice. Professional bartenders prefer Boston shakers for their high volume capacities. This style of shaker comprises of two containers, a smaller one fitting into a larger one. However, it takes some finesse to open properly.
Now that you have the basics down, have fun practicing and experimenting with cocktails. Shop all our bar products here to build up a collection of tools as your passion for mixology grows. Bottoms up!