Thursday Roundup: Essentials for the Basic Home Bar
You find yourself entranced by the sheer beauty of the cocktail above. You’re just dying to know how to make it at home. When you do you want it to be absolutely perfect… Sound familiar? It certainly does to me. I live it everyday because I’ve got the cocktail bug. Maybe you have it too. I can spend hours perusing recipes, reading about spirits, and trying to come up with things on my own. I love sitting at a bar where it’s abundantly clear that the bartender has an incredible passion for making amazing drinks. People often ask me what transforms a cocktail from the recipe you find in a book, or write down on a scrap of paper, into a beautiful drink like the one above. My answer is always the same. It takes 3 things: impeccable technique, quality ingredients, and great equipment. It’s this last factor that I’d like to focus on today by telling you about a few essential items that you’ll need to get started with your own home bar.
- A mixing glass for making drinks that are stirred. You can also use something as simple as a pint glass, but it’s nice to have the spout to make pouring easier.
- A set of Boston Shaker tins in 2 different sizes, usually 18 oz and 28 oz for shaken drinks. The tins fit inside one another and form a tight seal while shaking.
- A muddler to muddle fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the bottom of your shaker tin. This is the Bad Ass Muddler and it’s the one I like best. It’s PVC so there’s no worry about wood splintering, it’s easy to clean, and it has nice straight sides that fit against the shaker tin to get to all your ingredients. For my post on muddling techniques, click here.
- A set of jiggers. Go for good quality so that the engraving on the inside will be easy to read. These are Japanese style, which I prefer, but you may like another style better. That’s fine as long as they’re made well.
- I use an eyedropper when measuring bitters because I find it to be more accurate. One dropperful equals 1 dash. Eyedroppers also come in handy for garnishing drinks like whiskey sours, or for adding an ingredient slowly when you want to float it on top, or create layering.
- A long-handled bar spoon for stirring drinks. Again go for good quality; look for spoons with coils that are closer together rather than further apart. It’ll be much easier to use and that will help you to develop a consistent style of stirring, which is so important for making a drink the same way every time.
- A Julep strainer for straining a stirred drink. Because most stirred cocktails don’t have citrus or other fruit in them, you can use a strainer with larger holes whose main function is to hold back the ice cubes. The Julep strainer fits into the mixing glass and you’ll hold your finger against it as you pour.
- A Hawthorne strainer for straining drinks that have been shaken. Most shaken drinks will have citrus or other fruit in them so you need a strainer that will hold back particles as well as ice. This is a very good Hawthorne strainer called the Koriko, which has a tightly wound spring that does a great job of straining ingredients.
- A fine mesh strainer. You’ll want to pair your Hawthorne strainer with a fine mesh strainer to ensure that you’re keeping very fine particles out of the drink, and to filter out any small pieces of ice than have broken off while shaking the drink.
- Cocktail picks! There are so many options to choose from, but having something more than just an average toothpick will add finesse to your garnish game.
- A citrus zester with a channel knife. I don’t use this as a zester as much as I use the channel knife part to create long strips for garnishing. It takes a bit of practice, but it’s definitely worth it.
I also recommend a cutting board dedicated to your cocktail making, a bar mat (available from restaurant supply stores) to help keep your bar area clean, a good pairing knife or vegetable peeler, and good citrus juicers. I’ve covered juicer options in another blog post, which you can read here. You’ll also want to invest in some good glassware which I’ve covered in yet another post. Click here for that one. Finally, silicone ice trays from Peak will help you to have crushed, medium, and large size cubes on hand all the time. Never underestimate the importance of the right ice in a drink!
Get Lucky from Scott Teague via Death & Co
2 oz. Flor de Caña extra-dry white rum
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. ginger syrup*
1/4 oz. orgeat syrup*
1/4 oz. acacia honey syrup*
Peychaud’s bitters, to garnish
In a pilsner glass, gently muddle the blackberries. Fill the glass with crushed ice. In a shaker, whip the remaining ingredients, shaking with a few pieces of crushed ice just until incorporated. Strain into the glass. Garnish with a thin layer of bitters and serve with a straw. Enjoy!
*All Death & Co recipes, available in their book or online.