Before quarantine it was easy to get a quality drink simply by stopping at a nice cocktail bar. Now however, if you want a great drink there’s a good chance you’ll have to make it yourself. Here are the top cocktail tools you’ll need to make better cocktails at home.
1. Mixing Glass
A cocktail mixing glass is where you build your stirred cocktails (cocktails like old fashioneds, martinis, manhattans, and negronis— usually drinks without citrus, egg white or coffee). I recommend getting one that’s large enough to make more than one drink at a time (plus large enough to accommodate plenty of ice), one that’s well-balanced and weighted, seamless, and one that you think looks nice— there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing a lot of it.
Some cocktails require more aggressive ingredient integration than simply stirring. These cocktails often include ingredients like citrus, coffee, cream, or egg white: some examples being margaritas, espresso martinis, pisco sours, and brand alexanders. For these drinks, you’ll need a good shaker. The one pictured above by Viski has been a favorite for years, but I also love a good boston shaker like this one.
Cocktail recipes often require precise measurements and having the right cup can make a big difference. This is one of my favorites because it includes many differentiated measurements (unlike a simple jigger), it has a lot of conversions on it (like ounces, tablespoons, and milliliters) and it’s also on the large side, measuring up to 4 oz (which makes it good for mixing multiple cocktails at once). I own at least three of them.
A proper mixing spoon is very useful for achieving optimal temperature and dilution in your stirred cocktails. The swirled, thin handle allows you to mix the proper way (here’s a video on stirring technique) that’s both smooth and rapid. Alternatively, I sometimes like to stir with a food thermometer to make sure I’m making my martinis as chilly as I like.
Fresh citrus (and for high-quality cocktails it has to be fresh) is a crucial part of many classic drinks like sidecars, daiquiris, whiskey sours, and margaritas. But getting fresh citrus juice can be a bit of a pain without the right cocktail tools. These citrus squeezers make the process so much faster and easier— I resisted buying one when I was new to making cocktails, but they are legitimately life-changing if you mix a lot of drinks.
I recommend buying both a lemon and a lime squeezer if you want to get all the juice you can out of your fruit (having the right size helps), but if you only want to buy one I’d go for the lemon squeezer.
Whether you’re making a cocktail in your mixing glass or your shaker, you’ll need a hawthorne strainer. These strainers are great because they allow you to pour out your drink into your cocktail glass while keeping the ice you chilled your cocktail with inside your mixing vessel (most of the time you want to serve your cocktail on fresh ice, not the ice you shook/stirred your cocktail with— serving it with its mixing ice is called a “dirty dump”).
However, you’ll often need more than just a hawthorne strainer. Which brings us to…
While a hawthorne strainer is great for keeping big cubes of mixing ice from getting in your drink, it doesn’t stop smaller particles from escaping. Small chips of ice, citrus pulp, and muddled fruit pieces all often get in the way of a pleasant mouthfeel for your cocktail, so you need a fine mesh strainer to stop them from sneaking into your drink. Using a hawthorne and fine mesh strainer is referred to as “double straining” and it’s a must if you want your cocktail to taste and look its best.
Ice chips in a martini is a crime, so don’t forget this step.
Getting nice, juicy twists of lemon, grapefruit, and orange can make a big difference in your cocktails. Not only do citrus garnishes look pretty (here’s how to make a citrus rose and a citrus heart garnish) they actually change the drinking experience. When you slice off a twist, you should then express the citrus oils from the rind over the surface, rim, and even the stem of the cocktail. That way when you (or your guest) drinks the cocktail the scent of the citrus oil mingles with the flavors to add some complexity and vim to the drink.
You can’t achieve this without a good citrus peeler, and this stainless steel one is a great pick.
Muddlers are useful for crushing sugar cubes, expressing flavor from herbs, and for releasing juice from fresh fruit. I recommend one with a nice long handle so you don’t have to stick your hand into your mixing vessel while you muddle (it’s painful).
10. Cocktail Picks
Garnishes are important.
Not only are they often functional for complementing the flavor of a cocktail, they also add to the enjoyment of drinking by making a cocktail look as appealing as it tastes. And one of the best ways to affix a garnish to your drink is through an interesting cocktail pick.