Cary has really gotten into cocktails this summer. He's been doing a ton of research on different liquors, techniques, flavor combinations, and recipes, and even started a website full of interesting liquors and cocktails. He helped me put together this list of his favorite bar tools, glassware, and accessories. While some of these items might not be essential for everyone, we use and enjoy every item listed here. I've included a list of the absolute essentials at the end of this post as well if you're just starting out or enjoy the occasional mixed drink. Having the right tools is important for a fully functional home bar, no matter the size. If you're in the market for barware, these are great options!
Muddler: We used to have a stainless steel one but weren't happy with it, so we recently got this pretty wood one. It came highly recommended so hopefully it works well! I do love wooden kitchen tools.
Mixing spoon: A long spoon is necessary for stirring up drinks in the shaker or mixing glass.
Jigger: Cary got this particular one because it has measurement lines on the inside.
Hawthorne strainer: This is important for mixed drinks when you don't want the ice or muddled ingredients poured into a glass with the drink.
Mixing glass: You don't need a special glass for mixing, though one with a lip for pouring like this one is handy.
Peeler: Cary uses a vegetable peeler any time he wants to make a garnish with citrus peel. We just got this one based on the great reviews for cocktail making in particular.
Corkscrew: Every house needs a corkscrew. We like this no-frills option - easy to use and doesn't take up a lot of space.
Mesh strainer: This has come in handy for so many things, not just drink making, including for any liquid you need filtered or powdered material that you need sprinkled.
Boston shaker: While there are a few types of cocktail shakers, Cary has really enjoyed the Boston style, though the technique of sealing the two pieces together to prevent leaks while shaking takes some getting used to.
Lime juicer: We use these citrus juicers every day - great for cooking as well!
Lemon juicer: Even though you may not need two different sized juicers (limes fit in the lemon one just fine), we use both of them so often it hasn't felt excessive.
Large bodega: We primarily use these glasses for drinking water, but they are great for large cocktails, beer, and cider as well.
Medium bodega: These are great for medium-size cocktails, and we also use them for drinking juice with breakfast.
Small bodega: We use these small glasses every day - I like using them for wine (like they do in Spain!), and they are also great for tasting liquors or other small drinks.
Wine: We have these universal wine glasses on our wish list. They are pricy, but we enjoy wine so much we think it will be worth it, especially when we have really nice wine or on special occasions.
Wood cup: I wouldn't consider this an "essential," necessarily, however it's been a really fun take on a tiki cup for some of Cary's tropical cocktails.
Collins: I think drinks look so elegant in collins glasses. Perfect for refreshing summer-time drinks.
Double old fashioned: We have these on our wish list - while the traditional old fashioned glasses are great, this bigger version fits the large ice spheres better and can allow for larger portions.
Old fashioned: A heavy-bottom glass is perfect for drinking whiskey or other similar liquors.
Beer & Cider: We have a little collection of beer and cider glasses we've collected from some of our favorite breweries and cider houses. It's nice to have a little eclectic, personal touch in our collection.
Fizz: We love these little vintage-style cocktail glasses! I got them for Cary's birthday and wasn't sure how much use they would get, but Cary uses them all the time. They are also really fun to serve cocktails when we have guests. This little fizz one is my favorite.
Martini: A smaller version of your typical martini glass. Nice for champagne, too.
Coupe: Coupe glasses come in all shapes and sizes. I like the bowl shape of this one. I also like drinking champagne out of these.
Nick and Nora: The smallest of the cocktail glasses, perfect for low-volume cocktails.
Glass straws: We love the simple, streamlined, and understated look of these glass straws. We also considered stainless steel, but thought we would give these a try first.
Cocktail sticks: These cocktail sticks are perfect for garnishing drinks with fruit, citrus peel, etc. I love how simple and unique they are.
Dropper bottle: Cary recently got a few of these to experiment different designs in and on top of drinks.
Sphere ice molds: We've had these for a while and they are great - love a giant ice sphere in a cocktail!
Square ice molds: Cary just got these because he really wanted to make crystal clear ice. It's a bit bulky but if you have room in your freezer it makes really nice ice!
Storage basket: Cary keeps the bulk of his cocktail supplies in a little basket in a kitchen cabinet. It's helpful for keeping everything in one place, especially since our kitchen is very small and we didn't have enough drawer space.
Slate coasters: We really like these slate coasters for protecting our wood furniture. They do chip fairly easily if dropped, though. If we ever buy new ones I might get some with a small lip on the sides to keep any liquid contained.
Carafe: Carafes are great for serving water, wine, or mix drinks during get togethers. We have a few that I picked up at Goodwill over the years, but these are nice options as well.
Glass pitcher: Another great serving option for drinks, water, etc. in larger quantities.
Cocktail napkins: Fabric napkins are an absolute essential in our house. We have really cut back on our paper product usage in recent years, and fabric napkins are also more pleasant to use and are more attractive than paper ones. You don't need cocktail-size napkins, necessarily - standard fabric napkins like these or these are also great to have around. I'll do a post soon on our essential kitchen linens!
The Absolute Essentials
If you don't have much space in your home for bar tools, or if you don't like having a lot of stuff in general, having the bare minimum may be the way to go for you. Of the items listed above, the ones below are the items that Cary considers to be absolute essentials if you enjoy the occasional drink. Many of them are multi-functional and can be used for other tasks around the kitchen as well!
Large bodega glass: For beer, cider, or large cocktails.
Medium bodega glass: For whiskey or medium cocktails.
Small bodega glass: For wine, tasting, or small cocktails.
Napkins: Any cloth napkin will do, they don't have to be cocktail-size.
Muddler: There really isn't a good alternative for a muddler - we just got this wood one because it was highly recommended by a few reliable sources.
Corkscrew: Essential for any kitchen. We love this simple one.
Jigger: Having something to accurately measure out small amounts of liquid is a must.
Citrus juicer: This lemon size can also hold limes. It juices lemons and limes much more thoroughly than squeezing with your hands, plus it catches seeds.
Cocktail shaker: While you can easily stir a mixed drink in a normal glass, a cocktail shaker is a must according to Cary.
Hawthorne strainer: Hawthorne strainers fit nicely over mixing glasses and shakers to strain any seeds, pulp, muddled fruit, or other bits out of you drink as you pour it.
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