Just like making your own food at home like an adult is making your own drinks at home like an adult. Ever thought about it that way? Maybe that’s because it isn’t really quite equal. I don’t know. I’m just kind of making the comparison up, but it sounds right. Blame the difference on those constructs.
Regardless, if you’re into it – and want a useful, economically sound, cool kid party trick slash skill – I’d consider opening up a home bar. The beauty is that the alcohol shelf is now entirely up to you. Don’t like tequila? Don’t have to have it. Do you like every whiskey but only one gin? Buy that shit. Vodka only? You’re living a very, very sad life, girl, but it’s your home and your rules.
The second beauty is that you also know exactly what’s happening in those drinks. Especially for us controlling type of folk, you don’t have to sound like an asshole at the bar if you’re fairly specific about your alcohol and cocktails and flavors. (Of course, it’s always good to know what you want, but in busy bars have some legroom to float.) You don’t have to put up with any store-bought Sour Mix defaming or the bartender that insists on adding egg whites to everything for some misguided texture or flair action.
So, how to get started? There are a million and one bartending tools these days, all the way up to the centrifuge. But to have a fully-functional home bar situation, you only really need a few (entirely affordable) basics.
The core essentials: I’ve provided links to the ones that I personally own and are currently serving me well, hopefully to help make the process take minutes, versus several dozen hours like mine did. I have Amazon Prime (a lifesaver when you live in the middle of nowhere), hence the Amazon links.
- Jigger: this is the little cone-shaped thing that measures pours, like the “ounces” or the “parts”. There are several versions of these, but the more accurate ones also gaining more traction are in the Japanese style. They’re longer and skinnier, and are more aesthetically pleasing too, “imo”. I have this one.
- Shaker: keeping it simple, get a Boston shaker. That’s the one with the glass and the metal glass-shaped-tin that you see (and hear) bartenders smacking. You could get a French one or a double-tin one, but the Boston is again the new US standard.
You can get a cheaper one, but this one is quality. Literally all of our wine and champagne glasses at the resort are made by Schott Zwiesel, because he knows what he’s doing.
- Strainer: there are three standard strainers. You may want all three, as they do have separate applications.
a. Hawthorne Strainer: it’s the Frisbee of the flying disk world. AKA, it’s a brand, not actually the strainer. Anyway, it’s the most complicated but perhaps most readily used, the one with the spring coils that keeps large chunks of things from the shaking tin out of the serving glass.
b. Julep Strainer: originally a drinking tool, this was actually used whilst consuming a Mint Julep without consuming the muddled mint as well. This is now used primarily to strain stirred drinks, as they fit better on the mixing glass.
c. Fine Mesh Strainer: these are also tea strainers (which mine is heavily used for!) and are used when double-straining a cocktail, when you either don’t want tiny ice shards or the smaller fruit/ingredient pieces in the served cocktail, or both.
- Ice Molds/Ice Machine on or in Your Fridge/Any Which Way to Create Frozen Water Pieces: There are warm cocktails and room-temperature cocktails, certainly, but the majority of cocktails are cold. You will need ice, and a good bunch of it, especially if home-barring for guests as well. You can get fancy with 3X3 serving cubes, or simply use your fridge door ice for all ice needs. As long as you have ice.
- Bar Spoon: still not the biggest staple in bars, you’ll want this at home to properly stir (and chill) many of the classic without-the-and cocktails. The majority of these have either a weight(ed muddler) or cherry/olive spear on one end, and a small spoon on the other end, which is very far away, because the handle of the spoon is very long. It takes a bit of practice to get the twirly-technique down, but it’s pretty fun once you have it.
- Mixing Glass: you’re going to want a glass that has a uniform radius all the way through, or else you’ll get frustrated with that bar spoon, and you won’t get as nice of a uniform mix. They’re essentially beakers. The Yarai is a beautiful one.
- Muddler: basically a ginormous mortar. You need these for everything from an Old Fashioned to a mojito. Having this lets you get more herbs, fruits, and veggies into your cocktails. That’s an A+ for shopping seasonally.
Other Things That Will Certainly Help: if you’re looking to start up with a more Premium Package bar, already have the essentials, or know what you’re going to make most and want the tools to cater to that, here are a few more outside of the bare necessities:
- Glassware: what’re you going to drink your drinks out of? The shaking tin? Silly. If you live in a building with a kitchen you probably have some type of drinking vessel…just kidding. I mean, I know you have glasses, but what I’m getting at here is for a more *fanciful* drinking experience, where the glass fits the drink. Consider some Collins, coupe/martini, highball, and rocks glasses to round out your cocktail offerings. You don’t need the shot glass. Put it away.
- Hand-Held Citrus Press: these help you get away from bottled lime and lemon (and orange) juices when those are in season. They’re nicely weighted, making them way easier to use than it might sound.
- Pour Spouts: if you’re a drunk, you can get ones that automatically stop a pour for you as your brain stops working (but you put those shot glasses away, remember?). If you’re using an awkward sized-or shaped bottle for a cocktail, these will help you not spill everywhere. Most of the time, though, you should be okay pouring straight from your bottle (into the jigger!).
- Y Critus Peeler: way easier to use than a pairing or other small knife for those twist garnishes (necessary for many of the drinks you’ll be making).