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Mixing Up a Home Bar

Mixing Up a Home Bar

A Guide to the Must Have Tools For Mixing it Up at Home

By Veronica Rinaldi

It’s cocktail hour on a Friday night, and you want to be prepared. You could go out to a bar and have your favorite cocktail made for you by a professional bartender; however with the right tools and some practice you could do it yourself at home.

Stocking up on all the handy tools to make cocktails at home can start to add up very quickly. As a kitchen and bar tool addict, I know this from experience. So, we’ll start with a few basics and I’ll leave it up to you to upgrade or add as you see fit.

Cocktail shaker  

spirited-away-shakersThese are available in three configurations: the Boston, French and the cobbler. The cobbler is a three-piece shaker made up of a shaking tin, a strainer top and cap for the pour spout on top. For the beginner this is the one I recommend, it is all inclusive and doesn’t require the purchase of an additional strainer.


spirited-away-cocktail-strainerThere are two types of strainers to pick from, the most commonly used is the Hawthorne. This strainer consists of a flat disc with several holes affixed a coiled spring on the bottom. The alternative is the julep strainer, which looks like a large metal scoop with holes in it. The julep strainer can also double as an ice scoop, but unless you only make juleps at home I would recommend starting with the Hawthorne. You will find it comes in handy even with the cobbler shaker.

Jigger or measuring cup 

spirited-away-jiggerA jigger is the small hourglass-shaped metal device you’ve probably seen in many bars. It usually measures one jigger, or 1.5 ounces, on one side and half a jigger, or ¾ ounce, on the smaller side. These come in different measurements, so make sure you know what you’re working with. Alternatively, you can use any measuring device with markings from ¼ ounce to 2 ounces. No matter what you use to measure, it is very important to be consistent with your ingredients.


A Muddler in a Tall GlassImagine a 9-inch baseball bat and you’re pretty close. Muddlers are usually made of wood (some lacquered, some not), but you will also be able to find plastic or stainless ones that are dishwasher safe. Muddling is a culinary technique in which an ingredient is crushed to extract its juices for Mojitos or the old fashioned and other drinks.

Long bar spoon 

spirited-away-bar-spoonsA bar spoon can be very essential for making stirred drinks. Look for a spoon that is about 12 inches or longer. Many long bar spoons will have a useful little tool on the end such as a muddler or olive trident.


spiritedaway-citrussqueezeThere are many styles of citrus juicers out there, from professional lever-style hand press to a simple wooden reamer. You can go old fashioned with a fork if you want, the important point here is to use fresh juices whenever possible. I recommend the lever-style press, you’ll find it handy in the kitchen as well as the bar.


Of course, the most critical of ingredients for your home cocktail experience is booze. The six base liquors are: whiskey, tequila, brandy, rum, vodka and gin. Beyond these, grab some bitters, vermouth (sweet and dry), and various liqueurs (such as triple sec, crème de cassis, or schnapps).

With your tools and booze acquired, you’ll find it’s helpful to keep a few ingredients such as sugar (honey, sweetener, etc.) and citrus on hand. Remember to use the freshest ingredients you can in your cocktail, it makes all the difference.

Please drink responsibly and enjoy your cocktails.

Veronica Rinaldi is a bartender for Albuquerque Press Club who never shies away from a new cocktail.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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