It's true that you don't need proper Bartender Tools to make Cocktails. But having the right equipment will make your life a lot easier and help you to make better drinks. It's also true that you don't need all this when you start making drinks. You can manage with even more basic equipment. Or even alternative things you may have lying around your house.
Most people would start with a simple 3 Piece Shaker (aka a Cobbler or Manhattan Shaker) and a Jigger. Although with some 3 Piece Shakers, the Lid can act as a Measure. Of course, this equipment will get you started. You can make perfectly adequate Cocktails with just these 2 pieces of equipment. But it will be slightly limiting.
We've seen many articles telling you you need 15 or 20 different pieces of equipment, but we feel the proper number is 10. There are 10 Essential Bar Tools that you need to up your Cocktail Game. Although even in this list, there are a couple of things you may be able to get away with.
A lot of Bartenders do prefer a 2 piece Boston Shaker. They are quicker and easier to use. But it also stems back to when the 3 Piece Shakers weren't as good a quality. Therefore, they used to be a pain to get to pieces once shaken and cold. However, if you do spend a little more, you can get some really good quality 3 piece shakers now.
This is only really applicable to Boston Shakers, as a 3 piece shaker has a built-in strainer. But every bartender will have a Hawthorne Strainer. Which type you prefer is entirely down to you. 2 prongs, 4 prongs, no prongs, straight handles, handles with little grooves. There is no right or wrong. Simply what you're comfortable with. Steve the Barman (our YouTube Creator), for example, prefers a Heavy Duty Hawthorne Strainer with a straight Handle and no Prongs.
When you make Cocktails for Martini Glasses or Coupettes, ideally, you don't want any tiny shards of Ice in your Cocktail. Or bits of fruit if you've shaken fresh fruit. So a Fine Strainer, or a Cocktail Sieve, is crucial to give you a silky smooth finish to your Cocktail.
Cocktails are all about Ratios. So you need a Jigger, or Measures so you can accurately pour ingredients. It's a non-negotiable. Even an extra 5ml can throw a Cocktail off balance. We'll discuss different types of Jiggers in a future Blog.
A muddler becomes vital if you love a Mojito, or if you like using Fresh Fruit such as Berries. However, even in this list of 9, it's probably the one piece of equipment that's not as important as the rest. If you don't like Mojitos, or you use Puree instead of fresh Fruit, then a Muddler won't actually get used that much. But if you do like Mojitos, then Muddling Limes can be the difference between a great Mojito and a fantastic Mojito. That zesty citrus flavour and aroma is hard to beat.
A Citrus Juicer (Aka a Mexican Elbow) is another vital piece of equipment for Cocktails. The amount of Fresh Lime and Lemon you use in Cocktails is huge. Now here at Drinkstuff, we do sell 100% Long Life (30 days after opening) Lemon and Lime juice. But for those who prefer Fresh, a Citrus Juicer is a must have!
Have you ever tried to make 5 or 6 drinks and not used Pourers? Just pouring straight from a Bottle? If so, you'll know why Pourers are a must have. Even the steadiest hand can result in overpours (remember we said earlier that Cocktails are all about ratios!) or simply covering your fingers with alcohol or sticky syrups. Pourers come in a few different varieties. The more common version for bartenders are Chrome Medium Flow Tapor Pours. They are a little more expensive, but don't rust, and the Rubbers lasts much longer.
Whether it's Lime Wedges for Mojitos, or Garnishes and cutting Peels. You need a decent Bar Knife. And unless you want to scratch up your work surfaces, you need a hygienic Chopping Board to cut fruit on!
When you make Cocktails regularly, you'll get wet and sticky hands. So a Tea Towel is great to have lying around. Steve the Barman always has one tucked into a Belt Loop or back pocket! But remember, don't use this one for polishing Glasses. You need a clean, dry Tea Towel for that!
Ideally, you need a Mixing Glass for stirring down Cocktails. Now, of course, you can use the larger end of your Cocktail Shaker. But the benefit of having a Mixing glass is that they have a wide base, which makes it easier to stir your drinks.
Julep Strainers were all the rage back in the 90s and 00s. Many Bartenders would use them with their Mixing Glass. However, a decent Hawthorne Strainer will do the same job.
A lot of Wine these days comes with Screw tops. So a traditional Corkscrew or Waiters Friend is becoming less and less of a necessity. But it's still wise to have your own Corkscrew to hand for that traditional, and probably more expensive, bottle of wine that you may encounter.
We will cover Blenders in another Blog post, as there are a few types that you may need and they do very different jobs. Essentially, either creating Slush Puppy style Cocktails. Or traditional Tiki Style Cocktails.