It’s hard to say how many times we’ve started to make a drink at a friend’s party, only to realize that we’re missing a muddler or a strainer. And while we’re no strangers to getting creative to solve the problem, why not make sure you’re prepared next time?
A while back, we asked our Facebook fans what tools and other supplies they thought was most often missing from home bars. We got more than 150 responses—everything from cocktail shakers to corkscrews—but there were a few that really stood out. And it’s not all bar tools.
So no matter if you’re making complicated cocktails or are just looking to ramp up your whiskey-drinking game, we rounded up 10 essentials you should always have on hand.
Like one of our Facebook fans said, “Most home bartenders overlook the extreme importance of accuracy when it comes to making drinks at home.” And we agree. Proper proportions can make or break a drink. So be sure you’ve got this simple tool in your home bar—we recommend owning two: a one-ounce/two-ounce size and a half-ounce/three-quarter-ounce size—to make sure you’re making the perfect drink every time.
Try this: Cocktail Kingdom’s Japanese-Style Jigger
Often the most convenient ice comes in the form of tiny half-melted cubes from a bag you bought at the gas station. They will make your drink colder, but sometimes that just won’t cut it. As long as you invest in a couple of good ice cube trays, you can make cocktail bar-worthy cubes in your own freezer.
Summer’s on its way: Time for Mojitos and Mint Juleps at home. Sure, you could smash and clang using the back of a spoon. But the best way to extract oils and flavor from mint leaves—and other herbs or even fruit—is with a sturdy muddler. With most fruit, you should use it like a nonna wields a mortar when making pesto, but be a bit more gentle with herbs and citrus peels, which can become bitter if over-muddled.
Try this: Oxo Steel Muddler
Shaking a drink when it’s called for not only chills the cocktail properly, but also ensures proper dilution and aeration. Delicious proof: There’s no way to make a proper Ramos Gin Fizz without one. Buy a two-piece shaker and a separate strainer like the pros do. These are effortless to clean, easier to open after shaking and don't become clogged with bits of fruit or herbs.
Try this: 3-Piece Bar Cocktail Shaker Kit
This bartender essential was one of the most mentioned by Facebook fans when we asked what home mixologists were missing. If you have a jigger for accurate measurement, pour spouts are definitely easy to go without, but they do help ensure that you don’t spill any of your precious booze, and they’re dirt-cheap.
Try this: Speed Jet Liquor Pourer
No matter if you’re stirring a Manhattan or Martini, or floating wine atop a New York Sour, you’ll need a long-handled bar spoon. (And no, your typical tea spoon won’t cut it—too short and too wide). Go double-duty by choosing a spoon with fork-like tines on the handle end, which makes spearing cherries or olives out of the jar a breeze.
Try this: Trident Barspoon
Fresh fruit juice is imperative to dozens, if not hundreds, of cocktails. Whether it’s lemon for Whiskey Sours, lime for Gimlets, orange for Blood and Sands or even pomegranates for homemade grenadine, squeezing your own juice will make a noticeable difference to your homemade drinks. Go with the largest-sized juicer, which can handle any size citrus, and be sure to use the right technique: The cut side of the fruit should face the holes in the juicer.
Try this: Sur La Table Orange Juicer
How else are you going to know how to make all of your favorite cocktails and have hundreds of new drink recipes right at your fingertips? While our cocktail database is a great resource, there’s no replacement for a truly great cocktail book—and we’d much rather have a sticky page or two than a short-circuited computer.
While all of these gadgets are important for making cocktails at home, you really can’t do much without a good selection of booze. Yeah, we know, good bottles can be expensive. The good news is that not all of them are: We found nine bottles of everything from tequila to rye whiskey that are not only delicious, but also under $25. So no matter if you prefer homemade Margaritas or a well-made Old Fashioned, you can have it all without breaking the bank.
Looking for more ways to make your life better? Check out these recommended gifts for guys from our partner AskMen.
Mixing your cocktail