You’ve got your canapes on serving platters, a hearty meat entree in the oven, and a freshly-baked pie cooling on the rack. The last step to throwing your perfect at-home dinner party is the booze. And while a great bottle of wine or even an elegant punch bowl will do the trick, shaking and stirring individual cocktails is the ultimate personal touch.
Thankfully, this is the easiest part of your prep and a fun, simple task you can delegate to any one who’s helping you (especially one you might not trust with the grub). You’ll of course need some simple recipes to keep in your back pocket, a standard lineup of go-to liquor—start with a standard bourbon or rye, tequila, rum, gin, and vodka if you’re focusing on classic cocktail recipes—and some basic citrus and sweetener elements.
Ready to make some drinks? To bartend like a professional, consider some of the essential gear and glassware that industry bartenders use. Keep in mind there’s no right or wrong set of tools, and that every bartender has their own preference. We’ve rounded up a handy checklist of home bar essentials both beautiful (because why not?) and useful, from shaker tins for refreshing drinks with juice to the bar spoons you’ll need to stir more spirits-forward numbers.
How To Build A Home Bar
Koriko Weighted Shaking Tins from Cocktail Kingdom
Beginners may be more comfortable using a standard shaker with a jigger cap, for measuring, and built-in strainer—for some added sophistication, this Williams Sonoma number showcases a hand-hammered stainless steel design that not only looks pretty but allows for an easier grip. Fancy yourself more advanced? A set of stainless steel cocktail tins, such as the Koriko weighted tins available on Cocktail Kingdom, allows for a higher volume of two drinks and also facilitates building of more complex cocktails: place the shorter tin in front for all your liquids, and toss the solids (ice, fruits, mint leaves) in the larger one. Pour, clamp shut, and shake. Cocktail Kingdom
Yarai Mixing Glass from Cocktail Kingdom
For stirred and strained drinks served in stemmed coupe glasses, such as Manhattans and negronis, you’ll want a stirring glass for building. Any tall glass with a wide opening will work, so long as you can plop your strainer on top, so grab an old pint glass or opt for something more stylistic, such as this Yarai mixing glass, whose seamless interior allows for quieter stirring. Cocktail Kingdom
BarConic Disk Bar Spoon
There are several types of bar spoon ends, from the standard weighted ‘teardrop’ to one with a muddling disc and a trident for spearing things. For most stirred drinks, you can get away with just having the first one, which you can snag in three different finishes from Sur La Table. The bar spoon with a muddling disc, however, is perfect for crushing white sugar cubes, say, for an old fashioned or sazerac. And my personal favorite is the whimsical skull barspoon from Cocktail Kingdom, developed in collaboration with tiki master Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry. Sur la Table
Winco Stainless Steel 4-Prong Bar Strainer
If you chose to go with the set of two cocktail tins, as opposed to the shaker with a built-in strainer, you’ll need a Hawthorne strainer—the flat strainer disc connected to a coiled spring—to keep the ice and fruits from going into your glass. For drinks built in the mixing glass, you can also use a julep strainer (we recommend the heavy duty julep strainer which goes for just three bucks on BarProducts.com). Amazon
Multi-Level Stainless Steel Jigger Cup by Franmara
I may be biased, having learned to bartend this way, but I find that a graduated jigger (make sure you get one with the measurements written out) is the easiest way to measure out more complex ingredients. Pour up to the first line for a half-ounce measurement, with the top of the jigger representing two-and-a-half ounces. Amazon
Muddlers, hardly matters where, so long as you’re smashing
Mojito-town, here we come! As you’d expect, it hardly matters what big stick you use to smash some mint. Ingalls Photography
Tovolo King Cube Ice Mold Tray
Cube ice molds can be used for drinks served on the rocks, while long drinks seved in a Collins glass, such as bucks and rickeys, can use a stack of small cubes or one tall stick of ice for added flair. Drinks served in a sour or coupe glass, naturally, need no ice. Amazon
Double Old Fashioned Whiskey Glass
There are no laws about how you should serve your cocktails—pour them in Mason jars or emptied-out mustard jars if you want. Go crazy. But for a classic cocktail bar set-up, consider glassware whose measurements align with most recipes you’ll be making. That means a standard rocks glass, a double rocks glass, a coupe glass, a sour glass, and a Collins glass. SAVEUR
Cocktail Kingdom Steel Julep Spoon
Spoon straws are so. much. better. Amazon