Inevitably, as people start getting more and more into cocktails, the cocktail tools continue to get better and better. There are, at this point, a few tools that I can no longer live without. A great cocktail takes a number of different things working together in harmony. It takes quality spirits, an understanding of the classics, proper technique and the right tools to get the job done properly.
The first thing you need to understand is that you need to STIR when you have all spirit cocktails and SHAKE when you have fruit juices and spirits together. It’s a viscosity thing, more than anything else. To apply this rule, stir manhattans, martinis and the like. Shake margaritas, cosmos, aviations and last words. Once you conquer this, you’re 50% there. Moving on.
Here is a list of what you need to make good cocktails and where you should get them.
1. Shaker: I like separate weighted shaking tins, as opposed to the three piece shakers or the Boston shaker (which uses a pint glass). The weighted tins are all stainless which allows your ingredients to get colder, they’ve got good weight so you can get better leverage, and they look cool. All important components. I like this Koriko large tin and this Koriko small tin from Cocktail Kingdom.
2. Bar Spoon: I hate bad bar spoons. Those short, crappy, wide twist spoons with the red caps should get banned. For not too much more money, you can upgrade to a tighter coil with a little more length. The purpose of stirring is to gently combine the ingredients without cracking too much ice, so leverage and efficient technique are important. You could upgrade to this one for a mere $20, this one for $30, or my personal favorite 50cm Japanese gold tight coil teardrop for $40.
3. Mixing Glass: You’ll need something to stir your cocktails in. You could cheat and stir in your mixing tin or shaker, but that’s cheating and you should really stir in glass. A better way to cheat is to use a normal pint glass, nothing fancy. You’ll have 16 oz worth of space in a regular pint glass which is plenty for your Manhattan, which should only be 3-4 ounces. If you want to get fancy, buy a Yarai mixing glass like the one below on the left.
4. Strainer: There are two main types of strainers – the julep strainer (on the left) and the hawthorne strainer (in the middle and on the right). The hawthorne strainer is better for drinks that have fruit juice or pulp as the spring piece will help keep that pulp out of your glass. Julep strainers are a bit more elegant and work great for boozy drinks like a Manhattan, Red Hook, or Martini.
5. Jigger: It is IMPORTANT TO MEASURE! Don’t underestimate this step. Your cocktails will be inconsistent and sub par (at best) if you don’t measure. Measuring is pretty standard and can be done with your everyday kitchen measuring cups or, more easily, with an inexpensive jigger. I have a few to choose from, all in different increments so that I can be accurate when making drinks. Snag some cheap ones here.
6. Muddler: This last tool isn’t required for your bar, but you may as well pick one up. If you want to make caipirinhas or mojitos, you’ll need something to mash up those limes. You can snag a nice wooden one, a cheap plastic one, or the back of a metal whisk.
7. Glassware: Finally, get some good glassware. Go raid some antique stores and find some old coupes. At the very least snag some v-shaped martini style glasses. I got the glasses below for $3 each at an antique store in Baltimore.
If you follow these links, buy good bar tools and learn some solid technique, I guarantee your cocktails will improve tenfold. Measure, stir when required (and shake when required), strain, get good glassware and you’ll be on your way.