The Basics Bar Tools

Home Bar Basics: Everything You Need to Know About Mixing Glasses

How a Japanese mixing glass can elevate your home bar.

Bartending equipment is set up on an elegant wooden bar tray: a patterned mixing glass, two strainers, a vintage three-piece cocktail shaker, two stoppered bottles, a metal jigger, two long-stemmed bar spoons, and a metal muddler with a rubber end. Overlay text reads: Home Bar Basics The Mixing Glass
Image: Tim Nusog

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.

As a rule, cocktails that contain only alcoholic ingredients, like the Martini, Manhattan and Boulevardier, should be stirred—always and forever. And while you can use a metal shaker tin, a cocktail glass lets your guests see the concoction swirling and the 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.

A clear stirring glass with an etched diamond pattern sits on a wooden kitchen paddle. A long-handled bar spoon rests in the glass, and next to it are some shakers and stoppered glass bottles.
Tim Nusog

The Backstory

The first method used to mix a cocktail in the 1800s was called rolling, a technique that involves pouring the 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 by shaking it with ice. But the vessel has its drawbacks when it comes some drinks, 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 and viscosity while controlling the amount of dilution. Most readily available is the multitasking pint glass, a 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, non-tapered design and curved pour spout. Finally, a stemmed mixing glass can look spectacular on the bar top, yet is rather impractical.

Centered in the photo is a clear mixing glass filled with large ice cubes. The mixing glass is on a wooden cutting board surrounded by other bar accoutrements including bar spoons, strainers, and shaker tins.
Tim Nusog

What Experts Say

Andra Johnson, the bar director at Serenata 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 Los Angeles-based sales representative. “Besides, I’m clumsy and it’s cheap!” He doesn’t recommend stemmed mixing glasses, which he deems an accident waiting to happen.

A clear mixing glass with smooth walls is filled with two large ice cubes and a bright red spirit. The bottom end of a twisted bar spoon is extended into the glass, and two small blue bottles stand next to it. All of it is placed on a wooden bar tray with a bronze railing around it.
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.

The Takeaway

“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.”