I’ve got a lot of things planned for you, like bar stocking guides and recipe databases for some of the most popular cocktail books out there, but before we get into any of that, we need to make sure we’ve covered the basics of home bar happiness: equipment and technique. We’ll be covering these in two posts, starting with the former.
When it comes to Equipment, you can either spend anywhere from $10 to $10,000 pursuing all the latest and greatest gadgets. We’re going to start small with the absolute bare minimums and then expand our list slightly to encompass a few more oft-used tools:
Absolute bare minimums:
- Steel Shaker: One half of the Boston Shaker. One between 28oz-30oz is sufficient and should run you $7.
- Pint Glass: The other half of the Boston shaker. You may already have one but, if not, they’re just $4 or $5.
- Jigger: We’ll get to the free-pour vs. jigger debate later, but for now you can pick up this classy OXO number for $9 which sounds steep until you realize it’s the only jigger you’ll ever need, with measurements for 1/4oz, 1/3oz, 1/2oz, 3/4oz, 1oz, 1 1/2oz.
- Hawthorne Strainer: This springy little guy can strain drinks that you shake, those that you stir (in place of a Julep strainer) and its spring can even help emulsify egg whites. All that and it’s only $5.
Total Cost? $26.
“But where is the muddler?” you say, “and the Julep strainer and the bar spoon and the–“. Hold up. If you’re really hurting for cash, there are alternatives. Instead of a muddler, you can use a wooden spoon. You can use a Hawthorne strainer in place of a Julep strainer. And you can use any old spoon or even a chopstick in place of a barspoon. As with equipment in many fields, there are always alternatives — if you use your imagination.
But back to actually buying equipment. Here are a few useful additions:
- Barspoon: Supposing you don’t want to use a chopstick to stir your drinks, pick up one of these for $4.
- Muddler: Go wooden here with a flat base so you don’t eviscerate your ingredients and try for a muddler that’s preferably unvarnished and undyed unless you want that stuff getting in your drink. $4.
- Julep Strainer: These are handy for straining drinks from pint glasses and scooping ice. Cost is $5.
- Ice Cube Trays: Water is one of the most important parts of a cocktail and the more uniform your ice cubes, the more reliable your shaking/stirring will be in introducing the right amount of water into a cocktail. At $12 for 2, the Tovolo trays aren’t cheap but they do make a great cube.
- Citrus Squeezer: As with the muddler, get one without paint/enamel or else it’ll wind up in the drink. I like a hand-held squeezer here, but at $27 it’s pricey. Cheaper ones are available.
- Fine-Strainer: We’re getting into the “nice to haves” here, but a fine-strainer like this one really helps out when dealing with muddled ingredients like mint. $8.
Update total cost? $86.
“What about glassware?” you ask, sure that you’ve bested me. Well, smarty, the glassware you stock depends on how many people you’ll be serving and what you’ll be drinking. That could mean anything from one glass to a couple dozen. I find a coupe and a rocks glass cover some 90% of the drinks I make but your mileage may vary. Though, whatever you need, hit up restaurant supply stores (like Bowery Kitchen in NYC) for good deals on glassware.
Still have cash to burn? Consider getting some extra large Tovolo trays, an ice pick, a hand-held immersion blender, or even a carbonater for making carbonated cocktails. The sky really is the limit but remember what I said earlier: there are always alternatives, if you use your imagination.
Alright! In our next post, we’ll talk about Technique by showcasing many of the great resources already out there.