Top 5 Bar Tools to Make Cocktails Like a True Mixologist

Picture this:

It's 9 pm and you are at home feeling like having a Martini.

You think “I wish I could drive all the way to the closest bar, but I’m alone, tired of work and I’m running short of cash”.

There’s two things you could do:

  1. Go sleep; or
  2. Make your own Martini.

But how do you make one? Easy: you follow a simple recipe, like the one you can find in the Wikipedia page, and that’s it!

Fortunately for you, you have the ingredients (vermouth and gin) from a party you made a few weeks ago.

Now you need the tools.

“Uhm, ok, I guess. But what tools do I need to make a Martini?” you ask yourself.

Fortunately, to make almost any cocktail you only need a few basic tools. The best part is, they’re really easy to use.

Here are the 5 essential bar tools you need to have on your home bar to make any cocktail like a professional bartender. 

1. Cocktail Shaker

The cocktail shaker is perhaps the most basic bar tool. It is used to shake cocktails that include mixers (such as juice, dairy, or egg) to blend flavors from the various spirits and ingredients and to chill, aerate, and dilute the drink.

Whether you want to shake a tasty Cosmopolitan or stir a clean classic Martini in the mixing glass, your cocktail shaker is going to be your most used piece of bar equipment.

There are many types of cocktail shakers that differ in functionality and design. However, there are only two basic ones that you’ll most likely use in your home bar: 

Cobbler shakers: they are more popular with home bartenders. They separate into three pieces: a canister, a lid with a strainer, and a cap to cover up the holes. These have a tendency to leak, but they don’t require a separate strainer.

Boston shakers: they are mostly used by professional bartenders. This type of cocktail shaker are made of a large and small cups that fit together. Both cups are usually metal, but sometimes bartenders use a tin made of glass for the smaller one. A Boston shaker requires a little more finesse to connect and shake, and needs a separate strainer.

    How to Use a Cocktail Shaker

    1. Pour ingredients into the main canister, add ice, assemble the shaker, then shake.
    2. If working with a Boston shaker, place one hand on either side of the shaker, with the top of the shaker facing you. 
    3. Use a slight rocking motion, tipping the joined tins from end-to-end. 
    4. Start slow, then work up to shaking more rigorously. Shake for 10 to 15 seconds depending on the size and quality of your ice.

    2. Jigger

    The jigger is a small liquid measuring cup used to measure the ingredients for both shaken and stirred cocktails. 

    Since most cocktail recipes need two ounces or less of liquid, neither a full-size measuring cup nor a shot glass will do; the former for being too big, the latter due to its inaccuracy.  

    Most jiggers are sold individually but can also come in sets. In most cases only one jigger is needed.

    Jiggers come in many sizes, the best one having a 1oz/2oz capacity (that is, one side being able to hold up to 1oz, while the other larger side 2oz).

    It’s important to note that jiggers are truly necessary for any home bartender. You may be accustomed to see your favorite bartender pour liquor right from the bottle into the shaker or mixing glass, but that’s due to the fact they’re professionals.

    Since you’re new to making cocktails, using a jigger to measure the ingredients offers a lower margin for error, and therefore better cocktails. 

    How to Use a Jigger

    1. Hold the jigger in your non-dominant hand between your thumb and index finger. 
    2. Slowly pour the liquid into the jigger. 
    3. The surface of the liquid should be flat or slightly rounded, not overly convex or concave. 
    4. Then tip the jigger to pour the liquid into the mixing glass or shaker. 

    3. Strainer

    A cocktail strainer is a bar accessory used to remove ice and herbs from a mixed drink while it is being poured into the cocktail glass.

    The strainers are placed over the mouth of the cocktail shaker or glass where the cocktail was made, while the small holes in them allow that only liquids are able to pass through as the beverage is being poured.

    There are two main types of cocktail strainers:

    Hawthorne strainer: this is the most common type of cocktail strainer. Its wire "spring" that encircles the rim gives a very distinctive look to it. The rolled spring around the edge of the strainer is necessary to keep the ice in the shaker while still allowing some of the fruit pulp, and even some small shards of ice into the glass. This type of strainer is commonly used along with the boston shakers.

    Julep strainer: it is a single piece of metal, with a round, slightly concave surface that is studded with holes. It adds an old-school and classy touch to any bar. This type of strainer is usually used to strain cocktails made in a mixing glass. 

      How to Use a Strainer

      1. Place the strainer inside the lip of the shaker tin or mixing glass. 
      2. Use your index finger to push the strainer against the edge of the tin or glass and pour the liquid into your cocktail glass.

      4. Bar Spoon

      A long-handled metal spoon used to mix and layer both alcohol and non-alcohol based cocktails. Since stirring doesn’t create air bubbles, it’s preferable for spirits-only drinks, like martinis.

      They come in various sizes and styles, but the great majority of bar spoons you’ll come across are between 30 to 50cm long (approximately 12 to 20 inches long).

      This length ensures that it can reach to bottom of the any mixing glass while being able to mix the ingredients in them.

      Also, you will see some bar spoons have different tails. Some of them have a trident, while others have a flat surface or even a teardrop shape.

      On their own, these tails make no difference on the mixing quality. They’re purely decorative.

      The mixing spoons that have a flat surface tail may have some sort of functionality since they can also be used as muddlers.

      You can’t expect to muddle that much with such a tiny surface. Still, for some people that can work. 

      How to Use a Bar Spoon

      As Jeffrey Morgenthaler says in The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique

      “Lightly grasp the spoon in the middle, using your thumb and forefinger. The concave bowl of the spoon should be facing the interior of the glass, and the convex back of the spoon should be nestled in between the ice and the wall of the glass interior. Using your pinch on the spoon as a pivot only, begin to push and pull the spoon away from and toward your body, using your ring and middle fingers.”

      Stir for 30 to 45 seconds.

      5. Mixing Glass

      Any cocktail that’s made entirely of alcohol, such as a Martini or a Manhattan, should be stirred.

      (There’s a reason for that, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.)

      Mixing glasses are traditionally made of glass rather than metal; glass is a better insulator and allows the guest to watch the cocktail being made.

      Also, their design adds a nice luxurious touch to the whole experience.

      How to Use a Mixing Glass

      1. To use a mixing glass, first chill the glass. 
      2. Measure the ingredients into the glass and fill the glass ¾ with ice. 
      3. Insert the bar spoon.
      4. Strain the cocktail into a serving glass. 

      What About the Rest?

      By now you know what are the absolute necessary tools to make the great majority of cocktails you’ll ever drink. However, many of you may have seen other bar tools that are also used to make cocktails.

      Some of these tools are: 

      1. A muddler
      2. A citrus juicer
      3. A garnishing tool
      4. An ice pick

      While some of these tools can and should be used to make specific cocktails, especially those that use herbs and fruits in them (like the caipirinha), they’re not that useful.

      If you want and have the money, by every mean buy them. But to make things simple, I recommend you start with the 5 tools we’ve described before, and move on to the rest once you’ve master the first ones.

      Check Out This Recommendations

      All through out this guide we've talked about the different tools you must have to make all your favorite cocktails in your home.

      Since we know choosing a bar tool can be exhausting, we've summed up our favorite bar tools for you to pick. They represent the perfect balance between design, value and price.

      Just click on each one to see what they are all about.

      Or check out the At Home Bar mixologist tools line. You'll love it.

      BONUS: Get a Video Tutorial for Each Bar Tool (and +10 Cocktail Recipes Video Tutorials)

      Since you've read so much about what tools you need for your home bar and how to use them, right now you must have a pretty good idea on how to get started making cocktails like a bartender.

      However, I know many people are more visual than others (ie. they need to watch something instead of read it).

      Because of that, we're offering a short list of videos that will show you step-by-step how to use each tool.

      As a token of my appreciation, I'll give you some extra videos with recipes for over 10 classic cocktails, including the Mojito and Cosmopolitan.

      This is all included in our one-page PDF you can download by clicking the button below: