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Bar Necessities: Shakers, Stirrers, Mugs, Glassware, And Other Tools

"The best thing for a case of nerves is a case of Scotch." W.C. Fields

Here's a list of what you need to make sure you can make professional quality drinks and serve them in style. For some drink ideas, visit my drink recipes pages.


jiggerJigger/measuring shot glass. You needs one at least 1.5 ounce capacity, that's a full jigger. But it must also have a marking for 1 ounce, a pony. Sadly, the numbers wash off many of the glass measures so the tried and true metal two sided jigger from reliable Oxo withmeasurement etched into the stainless steel and a non-slip grip is the best choice. It's the same kind the pros use. One side measures a 1.5 ounces with 3/4 ounce and 1/3 ounce increments. The other side measures 1/4 ounce, 1/2 ounce and 1 ounce increments. Dishwasher safe.

cocktail shaker

Cocktail shaker. There are scores of designs of cocktail shakers. My fave is this one from Libbey. There is a 20 ounce glass mixing glass, a stainless steel shaker, and a stainless steel Hawthorn-style cocktail strainer. It is dishwasher safe, although hand washing is recommended. Beware of any glass with painted on letters. Machine washing will eventually fade or remove them. But handwashing doesn't damage them at all.

cocktail strainer

Hawthorn-style cocktail strainer. The Hawthorn-style cocktail strainer from OXO is like so many of their other products, thoughtfully designed. It fits over the top of a cocktail shaker and keeps ice and seeds out of your drink. It has a short handle so it doesn't take up a lot of space in the junk drawer, and a slightly raised lip to make pouring easier with less spillage. There is a thumb rest and it is dishwasher safe. It can also be used for making real lemonade.

cocktail spoon

Bar spoon. A bar spoon is a handy tool with a long twisted handle for stirring drinks.

citrus juicer

Citrus Juicer. There all kind of fancy gizmos designed to get the juice out of citrus including one that looks like a giant garlic press. It works fine, but you've gotta be strong. Nothing works better for me than an old fashioned juicer with a little built-in bowl and a strainer like grandma used. I bought a nice glass one at an antique store. Check this stainless unit out: Stainless Steel Citrus Juicer.


Muddler. Many classic drinks such as mint juleps and mojitos use fresh mint leaves. More modern drink recipes use herbs such as basil. To extract their flavors they are placed in the shaker or glass and crushed with a mini-baseball bat called a mddler.

wine decanterWine decanter. You want a wine decanter with a wide mouth, large capacity, steady base, and a good pouring lip. Like this. They can be used to aerate young wines or for pouring old reds off the sediment that forms with age. There are many beautiful designs, but frankly, a cheap one is all you need.

corkscrew worms and augers

Corkscrew. There are more designs for this vital tool than grill designs. To discuss their strengths and weaknesses, I have written a separate article just about corkscrews and their designs.

Coleman 40 Quart Cooler

Coleman 40 Quart Cooler. Capacious (67 cans), with can holders in the lid, large wheels, a long tow handle, and a drain plug. The manufacturer says it is sturdy enough to sit on, keeps ice for 6-7 days at ambient temperatures up to 90°F. Oh yeah: You can keep your meats and marinades in it too. For the 40 quart cooler, click here. For the 50 quart cooler, click here.

DIY Cocktails: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Drinks by Marcia Simmons & Jonas Halpren

Adams Media, 2011, $18.99, 228 pages, paperback, numerous color photos.

DIY CocktailsI own several bartending guides and I've seen many others, but I have never seen anything like this. In an era where bartenders are becoming "cocktail chefs", and mixed drinks are now made with weeds and meat extracts, Simmons & Halpren, DrinkOfTheWeek.com editors, have managed to not only concoct something creative and unique, but something really useful.

Gold AwardDIY Cocktails is based on categories and ratios so we can understand the concepts of what the elements of a balanced mix. Their motto is "ditch the recipe, use the ratio".

They break ingredients into these categories: Strong (spirits), sweet (sugars, syrups, liqueurs, and fruits), sour (tart things like citrus, and berries), aromatic (a subset of sour including vermouth, and bitters), weak (water, club soda, tonic), and mild (a subset of weak including milk and cream).

They give you guidelines for creating a recipe with ratios, so a typical tropical drink has a flavor profile of 4:3:1, 4 parts strong, 3 parts sweet, 1 part sour. At the core of the book are 10 foundation ratios, and then scores of recipes built on these foundations.

There is also a section called "Tools & Techniques Cheat Sheet" that discusses prep, glassware and drink sizes, chilling, muddling, measuring, and mixing. Along the way they teach us about ingredients, like how to make infused spirits. If you haven't noticed, spirits steeped with herbs, citrus rinds, fruits, peppers, and vegetables are all the rage in bars nowadays.

But don't worry, it is not all conceptual. There are scores of recipes ranging from the old standbys like the Old Fashioned, to surprisingly tasty treats like the Watermelon-Cucumber Refresher. Then they show you how to customize them. Just reading it significantly enhanced my bartending skills.

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