Bar Tools for Stocking your Home Bar
Alright folks, it's time to get down to some practicals in my home bar series. Among the cocktail questions that I get, there's probably no question I get more than that of how to go about stocking your home bar. If you're anything like me, then it's a bit of a long game and labor of love. It's picking up a cocktail shaker here, a muddler there, and a couple kitschy tiki mugs, a martini glass, and other cocktail glasses somewhere else down the road. And then two years later, you've got a fully stocked home bar and don't have to use a spaghetti strainer and pint glass when making and enjoying cocktails.
Or, you can simply use this as a shopping (or Christmas) list and get everything in one fell swoop. While I'll be talking more about which spirits, liqueurs, and bitters to stock your home bar with, today I'm talking about bar tools for stocking your home bar with. By and large, you should be able to get the basics (save for a full glass set) for less than $100. Furthermore, while you can buy all of these things separately, there are a number of stores, like Crate and Barrel or Bed Bath & Beyond, that sell home bar kits with a majority of these items sold as one package. Hello, stocking stuffers. So let's get to those practicals for stocking your home bar.
As an Amazon affiliate, and for streamline and convenience sake, I link below to products (and their corresponding photos) found on Amazon. Nonetheless, the products and brands I link to are either ones I've used or come highly recommended.
Bar tools for stocking your home bar
Cocktail Shaker. Let's start with the basics. You'll be limited by the variety of cocktails you can make without a cocktail shaker. Most bartenders are going to tell you to get a Boston shaker, which is a metal tin shaker with a mixing glass (or tin). However, if using a Boston shaker, you'll also need a separate strainer. For convenience you can just get a cobbler shaker (which in this case by Barware Styles comes with a jigger), which is your everyday cocktail shaker that includes a top with a built-in strainer. The downside of a cobbler shaker being that they don't always have the shelf life of a Boston shaker, and the top can often become difficult to remove because of the vacuum seal that's been created when shaking. I have both and don't feel strongly about either one. I think if you're just a home bartender making drinks for yourself and entertaining friends and family, then a cobbler shaker is a fine cocktail shaker. But if you want to be more legit and have something that'll get you more mileage, then I'd recommend the Boston Shaker. Or, if you're southern and hipster like me, or function isn't as important as looks, then get a mason jar shaker (yes, really).
Measuring tools. It seems as if the variety and number of different measuring tools equals or surpasses that of glassware. You've got everything from shot glasses to mini measuring cups to jiggers to angled jiggers to measuring spoons. It can feel a little bit overwhelming. Go into most bars, and you'll find bartenders using the classic double jigger, which measures in different ounce increments. However, using a jigger at home can get messy since you're often filling to the very top of the jigger. As such, I'd recommend a mini measuring cup. They often feature multiple conversions, plus avoid the mess that can often come with a traditional jigger.
Strainer. Cocktail lovers rejoice, because there are far less options for strainers than every other bar tool. While there are other types of strainers that you'll find in bars, like julep and fine strainers, you'll typically only ever have need for a standard stainless strainer, which conveniently fits snugly into Boston shakers and your typical cobbler shaker. For a good one that'll set you back no more than a few dollars, look no further than the OXO Steel Cocktail Strainer.
Muddler. Like strainers, you shouldn't have to look very far for a muddler. The only decision you'll really have is the type of muddler, whether traditional wooden or steel. Some muddlers will even come with a bar spoon. If you're in a pinch, you can always use a large wooden spoon. After all, you're just using a muddle to crush and break down fruits, herbs, sugar cubes and other ingredients.
Citrus Squeezer. Like many of the home bar tools here, there are a lot of fancy, and often expensive citrus squeezers. If you juice at a high volume, be it for your morning juice or cocktails, then you may want to get an electronic juicer. However, if you're just juicing lemons and limes for cocktails, then a manual handheld citrus squeezer is all you need. I just have a manual citrus squeezer, like this citrus press juicer, which presses lemons, limes, and small oranges. Simply add half of the fruit to it, facing down, and press over a bowl or glass. Bonus points that it strains the juice so that you aren't left with seeds.
Glassware. Where do you even start with cocktail glassware for stocking your home bar? When in a pinch, just having a few old-fashioned glasses (a.k.a. rocks glasses) will work, since you can use these for a variety of different drinks. However, at a minimum, for properly stocking your home bar, I'd recommend old-fashioned glasses (fittingly, for old-fashioned and other cocktails with higher booze proportions), coupe glasses (for cocktails served up), and highball glasses (for gin and tonic, Tom Collins, and other cocktails that have higher mixer proportions). I don't bother with martini glasses, in part because of their size and awkwardness, and I'd just prefer to use a coupe glass. And don't tell anyone, but I actually use mason jars for highball cocktails.
Cocktail glassware that you don't necessarily need, but make a nice splurge or Christmas gift: Moscow mule mug, mint julep cup, margarita glass, absinthe glass, mint julep glass, and brandy snifter. Nonetheless, I actually do own one brandy snifter, and I have a few champagne flutes, because champagne.
Mixing glass. Last, and probably least, is the mixing glass. Some bartenders may tell you that a mixing glass should be at the top of the list for stocking your home bar. However, I've often gotten by using alternative glasses, and when in a pinch, a large beer glass. Friends and family probably aren't going to judge, or even notice, if your cocktails are made without a proper mixing glass. However, a proper crystal mixing glass is convenient if you make a lot of stirred cocktails, plus looks damn sexy on your home bar.
Note: I used Amazon affiliate links for some of the products below, but all opinions are my own. Per Amazon’s disclosure agreement, I’m a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.