Outfitting a bar can be as simple and low cost as heading to Ikea and picking up a basic kit. Or it can be a quick way to fall into debt as you seek out and pay for the most high-end, gold-plated bar tools on the market. The right way to go about it, though, falls somewhere in the middle, splurging on a couple of key items and saving on the rest.
To find out which tools are worth shelling out for, we tapped Greg Boehm, founder of Cocktail Kingdom, every bartender’s go-to store for the best (and best looking) bar tools around. Here, he reveals the five must-have, high-quality tools every self-respecting home bartender needs, along with recommendations for his favorites to buy. His first tip: Opt for everything in stainless steel.
There are a few options when it comes to shaking vessels. You could get a cobbler shaker. You could get a Boston shaker. But for Boehm, the best option is a set of shaker tins—weighted tins, to be specific, for perfect balance. Boehm recommends the Leopold set ($21), which includes one small tin and one large tin. “These tins allow you to make 2-3 drinks at a time, the seal is perfect and the release is easy due to the shape,” he says.
A pint glass was fine for stirring drinks when you moved into your first tiny apartment, but now that you’re an adult it’s time to invest in a real, sold mixing glass. Not only will it look beautiful on your bar, but you’ll also be able to make more than one drink in the vessel. Boehm recommends the classic crosshatched Yarai ($33), which features an easy pouring spout and can hold 17 ounces. “[It’s] durable and allows for smooth stirred cocktails,” he says.
You might think any bar spoon will do, but you’d be wrong. It’s worth spending a little extra on a good quality bar spoon—one that’s just the right length, with a good, tight coil. It will help improve your stirring skills instantly—really. Boehm’s spoon of choice is the 33.5 cm Hoffman ($22). “This mid-size spoon is perfect for all drinks and has a comfortable coil,” he says. When it comes to stirring, it is all about balance and comfort.
Here’s a tool that most folks would never think to spend a cent on. But if you want to get the perfect drink, you need to be able to precisely measure out ingredients and confidently add them to the shaker tin or mixing glass. “This jigger measures perfectly,” Boehm says of the Leopold jigger ($19). It holds one ounce on one side and two ounces on the other—two of the most common measurements you’ll see in cocktail recipes. It’s also rounded so you can comfortably hold it between your fingers.
There are two standard types of strainers: julep and Hawthorne. While the julep can only be used for stirred drinks, the Hawthorne strainer can be used for both shaken and stirred drinks. You’ll be using it a lot, so it’s worth investing in a sturdy version like the Buswell 4-Prong Boehm ($14) recommends. “It’s the classic industry standard,” he says.