Making your own cocktails at home is fun, but what tools do you need for a home bar? There are so many bar tools to choose from, which bar tools do you need exactly? In this home bar guide, we’ll show you the most common bar tools and highlight the differences between them so you can pick the best tools for your bar. And with Barfly, you know you’ll be getting professional-grade tools that will last.
What are the essentials I need for my bar? These are the tools that you absolutely need for making cocktails at home: cocktail shaker, jigger, and strainer. Barfly has created essential bar tool packages to help you get your home bar started. If you want the complete toolset, they also offer larger bar tool sets to fully deck-out your home bar. But what about all these sharker, jigger, and strainer styles? Check out our overview below of bar tool styles to find the perfect style tool for your home bar.
What is a cocktail shaker? A cocktail shaker combines, aerates, chills, and properly dilutes your drinks. When ingredients are shaken with ice many process are happening. The ice is smashing around as you shake which aerates and changes the texture of your cocktail. The ice is not only chilling the drink, but the ice is slightly melting adding dilution to your cocktail. Many believe a heavily iced drink is "watering it down" but expert bartenders know that all properly made cocktails need a small amount of water to balance all the flavors, ingredients, and textures. Which cocktail shaker will be best for you? Find out the differences below.
Cobbler Shaker - Generally considered easier to control and pour from than other style shakers, the cobbler shaker is great for home use. Comprised of three pieces - the shaker base, lid with built-in strainer, and cap. The built-in strainer makes the cobble shaker very easy to use because you won't need a separate Hawthorne strainer to pour out your cocktail. We do recommend a fine mesh strainer for all style cocktail shakers and stirrers.
Boston Shaker - This is the traditional shaker and most commonly found at bars that can make multiple cocktails at once. This two-piece shaker set includes an 18 oz half-size shaker and a 28 oz full-size shaker that has been made with precision, fitting perfectly together to make a seal and releasing easily (with some practice) so you can swiftly create cocktails for your waiting guests. A separate Hawthorn strainer is required to filter out your ice. There is a bit more labor involved with this shaker, but you can achieve a better-shaken cocktail with the large volume the Boston Shaker offers.
Parisienne Shaker - This is a combination of a Boston shaker and a cobbler shaker. The Parisienne looks and works similar to the cobble shaker but has a large space for shaking like the Boston shaker. The Parisienne lacks a built-in strainer so a Hawthorn strainer is required. It is much easier to lock and unlock compared to the Boston shaker for leak-free shaking - this is a good option for someone who has some drink-making experience with a cobble shaker but wants to up their game with a sleeker-looking shaker.
Cocktail Stirring Glass - When your cocktail recipe does not contain fruit juice, then that cocktail should be stirred, not shaken (I don’t care what James Bond says!). The stirring glass is specially made with a heavy bottom for easy stirring. Your classic old-fashioned and gin & tonics should be made in a stirring glass. Be sure to pair this with a Hawthorn strainer, and bar spoon at the minimum.
Barfly 3-Piece Cobble Shaker | Antique Copper
Barfly Shaker/Tin Set | Gold Plated
Barfly 2-Piece Parisienne Cocktail Shaker Set | Vintage
What is a jigger? It is a simple measuring tool essential for any home bar. There are many styles, but all have the same basic function, quickly measuring a portion of your cocktail ingredient. Each style of jigger has its advantages described below.
Japanese Style - Designed with a longer body for more precise control with a rolled lip that allows for easy pouring with less mess. The Japanese style is the most light-weight jigger. This style has the most size options to choose from - many combinations US oz or Metric mL to match the recipes you're using.
Bell Style - This is the heaviest weighted jigger making it feel great to use and the most durable. 1oz and 2oz side with easily visible measurement marks on the inside for more options. It also has the most style of all the jiggers (in our opinion).
Measuring Cup - This is the easiest to use style jigger. You can measure your liquor and spirits with ease & accuracy with ounce measurements one side and tablespoon measurements on the other. This is also the least messy option because of the single side. This jigger has a medium weight.
Measuring Spoons - Regardless if you are crafting basic drinks or complex cocktails you are going to have to measure ingredients, make it easy on yourself with the Measured Bar Spoon Set. Barfly's set of spoons includes measuring spoons from 1 tablespoon to a 1/2 teaspoon, making it a great versatile tool for any cocktail you want to tackle. These are also commercial-quality - very heavy weight for years of use.
Barfly 1oz x 2oz Japanese Style Jigger | Copper Plated
Barfly 1oz x 2oz Bell Style Jigger | Antique Copper
What is a cocktail strainer? A cocktail strainer's main job is to keep the ice in your cocktail shaker (or stirrer) and out of your drinking glass. There are a few styles of strainers that will help to achieve this:
Hawthorn Strainer - This strainer is essential when using a Boston shaker. It sits on top of the cocktail shaker then when poured, the drink passes through the holes while the ice is held back. There are multiple styles of Hawthorn strainers - the main difference is going to be the number of prongs. We recommended 4-prong strainers because they are easier to use and the strainer does not fall into the shaker while pouring
Mesh Strainer - The fine mesh strainer is used to filter out any small shards of ice or fruit pulp that make it through the Hawthorn or cobble shaker strainer. This is essential to pickup for any style cocktail shaker - those bits of ice and pulp can make a cocktail an unenjoyable experience. The fine mesh strainer is also good when making your own infused simple syrups to strain out herbs and spices.
Julep Strainer - Julep strainers are typically only used with cocktail stirring glass. It essentially does the same job as a hawthorn strainer but is more ornate looking. Some stirring glasses may not properly fit a hawthorn strainer in which the julep strainer would be the proper strainer to use. There are multiple shapes available.
Barfly 4 Prong Heavy-Duty Spring Bar Strainer | Vintage
These are tools that you'll need to keep on hand in your home bar to quickly and easily make a variety of cocktails. Many recipes will call for these tools and it's easy to be prepared when you have this essential checklist:
Muddler - A simple tool to macerate (aka smash, or muddle) fruit or herbs in the bottom of a glass or cocktail shaker. Used with mojitos, old-fashioneds, and tropical drinks.
Bar Spoons - Essential for cocktail stirring glasses. Barfly offers bar spoons with tools on the opposite side such as muddlers, forks, and small strainers for garnishes. The “bar spoon” is also a measurement in some drinks and is handy to have for quick measurement. Multiple lengths available - some bartenders prefer longer spoons for easier stirring.
Bar mat - Making cocktails can be a messy adventure, the bar mat helps your barware from getting easily knocked over and also catches any spills or messes from being made on the counter.
Cutting board & Knives - One small chef knife, paring knife, and cutting board should do the trick for your home bar - you need something to slice lemons and limes in half and a space for making garnishes.
Ice Cube Molds - Ice GREATLY affects the flavor of cocktails - even if you use top-shelf spirits but use refrigerator ice, then your cocktail taste like unfiltered fridge ice -yuck. I always purchase my ice for any drink but love using a large ice sphere or cube when I want to enjoy an old fashioned. A fun ice mold will make your cocktails look as good as they taste!
Y Peeler - The best tool to make citrus zest garnishes. Kuhn Rikon’s Y peeler is the most ergonomic and easy to use. It also stays sharp thanks to the carbon steel blade.
If you are making cocktails at home, a majority of them are going to call for fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice. Please - don't buy the plastic lemon-shaped bottle from the market. Fresh citrus can last weeks in the fridge and taste 100% better than any pre-bottled juice. Pickup at the minimum a hand-held juicer to quickly get the fresh lemon or lime juice needed for your recipe. Here are our recommendations for juicers:
HandheldJuicer- Don’t waste your time with grandma’s old citrus reamer - quickly juice a lemon or lime with a handheld clamp juicer (like this one from OXO)- literally juices in seconds with no fuss.
Cilio Juicer - If you really want to step up your juicing game, a Cilio professional juicer is amazing for juicing all sorts of citrus, even larger ones like oranges and grapefruit.
Slow Juicer - The slow juicer is perfect for making specialty juices for cocktails (and mocktails!) like mango, pineapple, guava, passion fruit, and more!
Swingtop Bottles- These are great for storing your homemade simple syrups and other cocktail syrups (homemade grenadine anyone?) Don’t forget to pick up a funnel while you’re at it for easy filling.
OXO Citrus Squeezer - Yellow
Frieling Cilio Professional Citrus Press
Kuvings Whole Slow Juicer - Silver
Bormioli Rocco Swing Top Glass Bottles | Multiple Sizes Available
These are tools that are not essential for most making cocktails but can definitely take your drinks to the next level. More seasoned home bartenders will appreciate these tools to help them make the perfect craft cocktail.
Dasher Bottles - These are great for consistent size dashes of bitters or if you make your own bitters. Looks great at the bar as well compared to the manufacturer’s bottle.
Atomizer/mister - Used to add a mist of potent and aromatic liqueurs such as absinthe to your glass before you pour your cocktail - remember, your sense of taste is greatly affected by what you smell!
Tweezers - Great for grabbing a Luxardo cherry out of the bottom of the jar and precisely placing on the top of your crushed ice to crown your cocktail. Also good for grabbing garnishes without making your hands all sticky.
Lewis Bag & Wood Mallet Set - Essential for making crushed ice for cocktails. Keeps ice shards from flying everywhere
Ice Picks - Good for breaking up larger pieces of ice and shaping and sculpting ice for your cocktail glass.
Cocktail Picks - Sure, you could use toothpicks, but these reusable cocktail picks from Barfly are longer for cocktail glasses and much more fun with sword and skull patterns to choose from.