Like any minor obsession, piecing together a good bar set can get pricey. Do you need everything? No, probably not. But if you want to be able to make any drink at a moment’s notice, you’ll need the right tools.
But first, because I’m a spineless millennial, I have to say that I’m not the preeminent scholar on the bar setup. In fact, I’m just a guy who likes making cocktails and reviewing things. So take this list as part educated suggestions, part warnings. (Some decisions came from going to Crate and Barrel and touching everything during my wedding registry walkthrough… “ooh, this seems sturdy!”)
Here are the sources I’ve used to make most of my good purchasing decisions:
- The Best Barware for Making Cocktails at Home – The Sweethome
- Imbibe! – by David Wondrich
- Cocktail 101: Glassware Basics – Serious Eats
- 3 Reasons Why You Should Start Using Lab Beakers In the Kitchen – The Kitchn
- Various product reviews on Amazon
And now, onto the current setup.
I’ll be totally honest in saying that I wouldn’t know a good mixing spoon from a bad one. My friend Kevin has one with a little muddler on the end that adds a nice counterweight, but I’m sure it was more expensive, and I doubt it makes drinks considerably better. Maybe one day I’ll give it a test drive.
One night I was looking all over for a nice stirring glass, but I wanted to keep the price down to not make this cocktail thing seem ridiculous to my wife (we’re well past that now). The Sweethome recommended something that was like $40, and some other site recommended a $50 option, so I had to start looking for unusual alternatives. It turns out science beakers work super well for cocktails (and pourover coffee) – the OXO Hawthorne strainer fits in it perfectly, it’s durable, and it looks kind of cool to make cocktails in lab equipment.
The large and small mixing tins are sold separately, so be sure to get both. Long story short, it’s a nice Boston shaker that keeps a seal when you shake it and doesn’t leak. I haven’t used many other Boston shakers, but I can’t imagine one being better than this.
It looks nice, it’s inexpensive, it’s comfortable to pour with, and it fits everything I’ve put it on. Highly recommended.
Sometimes you buy things thinking you’ll use them all the time. I used it once, liked it, and haven’t used it sense. I’ve been making a lot of stirred drinks lately though, so when I pull out the Boston shaker for summer drinks, the fine mesh will probably come in handy.
My jigger before this made 1 1/2 oz cocktails. This one makes 2 oz cocktails and has little lines for all the sizes in-between.
I started with larger coupe glasses from CB2 (still have them, but they’re not used much anymore), but the size of the bowls make simple drinks like daiquiris look cheap. Word to the wise: get the smallest cups you can find.
Me at my wedding: “These glasses are amazing! They’re so big and heavy!” Me a year later: “I can fit the world’s largest ice cube in here!” Me now: “Why are these glasses so big?! Old fashioneds are what… 2.5 oz?”
Another wedding registry choice, although this one wasn’t quite so bad. My only real complaint is how thin the cups are. I mean, I like a nice delicate glass, but I worry every time I even think about dropping them.
These work fine, although I keep breaking the stems when I clean them. So maybe they don’t work fine. As with all the more delicate Crate and Barrel stuff, be careful.
- Unknown martini glasses
Some glasses you get when you get married, some you marry in to. My advice here is much like my coupe glass advice: get the smallest martini glasses you can find. Your typical martini has less than 3 oz of alcohol and mayyyybe 3/4 oz of dilution. You don’t need an 8 oz martini glass for a 4 oz drink.
Pardon my French, but ho-ly shit. These made-in-the-Copper-State (AZ) mugs are made from pure American copper, and they’re just perfect. My wife got me four for Christmas (!!!), and I think they might be the coolest things I own.
They’re sharper than my last peelers! If I could redo this life decision, I probably would’ve just picked up a single peeler… although you never know when you need a serrated peel for a cocktail recipe.
The brand name is an abomination, but this juicer is amazing. It cleans nice, gets a ton of juice out, and doesn’t spray all over the counters. Just be sure to put the flat side of the lime down… my first try clearly didn’t go very well.
Another bar part that moved in with me when I got married. I don’t muddle things all that often, but when I do, this does a fine job. There’s probably something better out there though – if you want to get fancy.
- Small vermouth bottles
I guess you could spend money on empty bottles, but I just reuse old vermouth bottles for things like simple syrup and shrubs.
The trick is getting the hot sugar water into the bottle without getting it on you. For that, you’ll need a funnel.