How annoying is it when you take up a new hobby and have to fork out on some very specific equipment only to never use it again? When it comes to curating an at-home bar, this is especially true, as the variety and seeming complexity of barware might be overwhelming. In today’s post kicking off our series on building a bar cart and unleashing your inner mixologist, we’ll give you a proper rundown of who’s who in the cold metal world of barware tools.
To make sure you’ll see them more often than when they fall on your head once you open the cupboard, we’ve selected only the most essential and stackable accessories needed to create the cocktail chemistry in the comfort of your own home. Soon you’ll realize that it’s your bar where the magic actually happens.
A cocktail shaker is used to mix drinks that need to be shaken, typically with ice. Here we’re looking at three options — the Cobbler shaker, the Boston shaker, and the up-and-coming Parisian shaker. Let’s shake off the confusion and discuss the pros and cons of each one.
Cobblers are considered to be the most beginner-friendly shakers for multiple reasons. While some of the other shakers have parts that are made of glass, the Cobbler three-piece is entirely metal. While glass can break and shatter your dreams of becoming a bartender, the worst that can happen to the Cobbler shaker is that it might freeze while you're mixing a cocktail with ice — but don’t worry, that can be easily remedied by running it under warm water. Cobbler shakers are also better for petite hands because of their smaller size compared to the Boston shaker most popular among professional bartenders.
- easy to use
- no need for additional tools
- better for petite hands because of its size
- not dishwasher-safe, the polish might come off
- might freeze shut after mixing with ice
- longer cleaning time after each pour
At its simplest, a Boston Shaker is a two-piece cocktail shaker, consisting of a glass and a metal tin, and it has no built-in strainer.
It is the shaker of choice for professional bartenders because of its capacity, speed, and efficiency. The Boston shaker has quite a steep learning curve for newbies, however: for instance, bartenders slam the tins together for a tight seal before they shake the ingredients together, which can be way too challenging for beginners.
Then, of course, you would need to separate the tins when you’re done shaking, and learning where to hit the tins to dislodge the seal will take some time. And how do you break the seal without breaking the glass?
However, if you’re up for the challenge, check out this tight-fitting professional grade shaker tin by Viski cast from stainless steel and weighted precisely to achieve perfect balance. The 828 milliliter vessel is then carefully contoured for quickest closure and smoothest separation – and smoother experience even for a beginner.
- easy to reuse and clean
- larger capacity
- doesn't get jammed shut that easily
- requires more skills
- the glass can break
- requires extra accessories
The Parisian is relatively new to the US, and it’s a cross between the Cobbler and Boston shakers. Looks-wise, it has the shape of a Cobbler, but on closer inspection, it misses the built-in strainer like the Boston. If you are looking for a convenient yet elegant cocktail shaker and are excited about using a separate strainer, the Parisian shaker would be a perfect choice for you.
- sturdy and safe
- can be cleaned easily
- the seal is not as secure as with other shakers
- small capacity
Like we said, the Boston and Parisian shaker do not have an in-built strainer, so if you end up choosing one of those, read the following part on strainers carefully.
A cocktail strainer is an accessory used to filter off ice from the drink you just mixed. Like with the shakers we reviewed, there are three kinds of strainers — the Hawthorne (goes on top of your Boston shaker), the julep (goes on top of your mixing glass), and the mesh cone strainer designed to keep your drinks clear of small bits of fruit and ice chips. What’s important to know to avoid confusion is that the mesh strainer is not a replacement but an addition to the first two.
A Hawthorne-style strainer consists of a flat metal disk with a spring coil attached to it, which allows for a more tight fit inside the rim of the shaker tin or mixing glass as compared to other strainers.
- fits any mixing glass or shaker
- can adapt to different sizes
- the spring might be hard to clean
- less robust than the julep strainer
Traditionally, the julep strainer is used for stirred cocktails, because there’s no citrus pulp or ice shards and double strain is not necessary. It might not be the best choice for beginners, as usually it doesn't sit easily on top of a shaker or mixing glass, requiring more practice to master straining cocktails with it.
- easy to clean
- requires more skills
- can be slow
Mesh Cone Strainer
The main purpose of a fine mesh strainer is to filter off herbs, fruit and fine bits of ice that other strainers will let through. Generally, that is not a problem, however, some cocktails are meant to be perfectly clear and have this smooth, velvet texture. The cone shape of the Viski Mesh strainer will help with the flow of liquid and save you some time to chat with your guests, as it accommodates a full drink in a single pour.
Jiggers are those hourglass-shaped steel measuring tools that bartenders use to measure the liquor into the shaker or mixing glass. It’s an open secret that the key to crafting exceptional cocktails is precision and consistency, and to achieve that you’ll need to find the right tool that works best for you, be it a fancy metal jigger or your favorite measuring cup. We would however recommend getting a jigger, as spirits are measured in small amounts and you want to be exact in order to be able to replicate some of your best cocktails.
Our favorite is this gold jigger by Viski. Definitely a trophy, but won’t be a drain on your pocket. Cast in lustrous gold with a band that separates its one- and two-ounce sections, the interior of each side is scored with pinpoint mixology measurements: 1.5, 0.75 and 0.5 ounces.
If you want a smaller one though, try this smaller-size double jigger that holds 0.5 and 0.75 oz and is marked with 0.25 oz measurement inside of it. It makes for a quick and convenient tool in recipes that call for measures in between the typical one and two ounces.
Much like the shaker, the mixing glass is a glass or metal container used to quickly chill cocktail drinks, primarily by stirring with ice using a spoon and straining with a strainer. Some mixing glasses (or cups) may be also used to shake drinks to chill.
For the beginner mixologist, a mixing glass can often be a missing glass due to them being overlooked and confused with other glasses used throughout the process. The mixing glass is a glass or metal container used to quickly chill cocktails, mainly by stirring with ice using a spoon and straining with a strainer.
As an option, you can use a simple 16 oz pint glass, a metal shaking tin or even a cauldron, and you’ll be quite content with it but only until you try a decent cocktail mixing glass. An essential bartending supply for any master mixologist, the mixing glass has its advantages: it’s sturdy and won’t tip over as easily. We recommend this classy and elegant mixing glass from from Rolf Glass’ Bleecker Street collection, so you can feel like a professional bartender any time you try your hand at making a new drink. After all, in mixology, all the usual rules apply, so fake it till you make it. A palatable cocktail, that is.
If you’re making a stirred drink, a mixing or barspoon is also necessary. Designed for the smoothest swizzling and stirring, this classic teardrop-tipped barspoon is precisely balanced for effortlessly adept mixology. Available in gold, copper, and gunmetal.
Even though cocktails are traditionally served in different types of glasses and it’s tempting to buy all of them, that’s unnecessary when you’re just starting out. At the beginning of your mixology career, you can easily make do with an all-purpose cocktail glass like this rocks glass by Rolf Glass. The Art Deco inspired mix of delicate, diagonal and bold lines complement the precise engraving and flawless polish, elevating any beverage from your home bar. Even if you totally mess up the cocktail you make, no one will dare to say a single world.
To recap, in order to build your bar cart wisely, start small and upgrade as you get more confident in your mixology superpowers. Thoughtful investments only!