You’ve finally carved away precious square footage to make room for that most sacred of household additions: the home bar. But turning out top-notch drinks while in your slippers takes more than good intentions. There are bottles to buy, tools to agonize over and techniques to master. Follow us as we help you navigate your home bar basics.
Fact: Cocktails that contain only alcoholic ingredients, like the Martini, Manhattan and Boulevardier, should be stirred—always and forever. While you can cheat (gasp!) and use a metal shaker tin, a cocktail glass lets your guests see the booze swirling and magic happening. There are several styles that vary on the spectrum of aesthetics, practicality and function. We’ll help you make the clear choice for your home bar.
Yarai mixing glass (image: Tim Nusog)
The first method used to mix a cocktail in the 1800s was called rolling, a technique that involves pouring the booze mixture back and forth between two glasses. (It’s still used today for drinks including the Bloody Mary to keep the tomato juice thick and palate-coating.)
Then the Boston or Cobbler cocktail shaker came into use, allowing a drink to get cold via mingling it with ice. But the vessel has its drawbacks, namely that all that sloshing around with hard-edged cubes renders a libation frothy or cloudy when you might prefer it smooth and bright.
Using a mixing glass to stir a cocktail instead of shaking it lets you maintain its texture while controlling the amount of dilution. Most readily available is the multitasking pint glass, a veritable workhorse that holds, as its name suggests, 16 ounces and is tapered toward the base. The Yarai mixing glass, named for the Japanese diamond pattern etched on the outside, is crafted from thicker glass, or stainless steel, with a heavier base, nontapered design and curved pour spout. Finally, a stemmed mixing glass can look spectacular on the bartop yet be highly impractical.
Andra Johnson, the general manager and beverage director of Macon Bistro & Larder in Washington, D.C., admits that the Yarai mixing glass can be fragile and expensive. Still, it has two huge benefits over the pint glass.
“Your mixing spoon glides more gracefully because of the standard width throughout the entire glass,” says Johnson. And since you don’t have to hold it, “you can shake another cocktail or spritz your Martini glass with vermouth without the worry of tipping over the glass while stirring.”
At his home bar, Patrick Thomas will never stray from the durable, versatile pint glass, which is dishwasher-safe, stackable, wallet-friendly and feels most comfortable. “You can use it to stir or pair it with a tin and shaker, plus it will never lose its utility as a drinking vessel if you’re bad at doing dishes,” says the general manager of Red Herring in Los Angeles. “Besides, I’m clumsy and it’s cheap!” He doesn’t recommend stemmed mixing glasses, which he deems an accident waiting to happen.
(image: Tim Nusog)
And there’s another style cropping up lately that’s reminiscent of the Yarai mixing glass shape but crafted from stainless steel. “They seem to drag a bit more than glass when stirring, but they stand up to the rigors of a busy bar and look really sharp,” says Christian Hetter, the bar manager of The Berkshire Room in Chicago. He buys them online on Umami Mart for his bar.
“For the home bartender, I would suggest the pint glass for functionality but keep a Yarai as a conversation piece,” says Johnson. “Depending on your personal experience with bartending and your beverage preference, the Yarai may suit a Manhattan, Negroni, Boulevardier, etc., drinker but cannot be used to accommodate house guests that may prefer a Cosmopolitan or a Sidecar.” Hetter says if the mantra of “fashion over function” makes sense anywhere it’s a home bar and is thus partial to the Yarai. “It will not only look sharp, but home use should be a little less intense than a busy bar,” he says. “Although in fairness, I don’t know your home.”