The Home Bar Starter Kit

I realized, after much research (read: a lot of drinking at a lot of different bars), that most bars have a very similar basic setup when it comes to tools and mixing vessels. I’m not sure why this took me so long to realize, as most cocktails have lots of techniques and ingredients in common. Maybe it was the alcohol consumption during my studying that caused me the trouble. Then again, it worked in college. Maybe it didn’t…I think I may have just solved one of the great puzzles of my life…

Many brainwaves later, I realized that there is no reason an aspiring home bartender shouldn’t have a basic set of drink creation tools, either. Cocktails – along with things like music and sex – are far too important to be left to the professionals.

You most likely have some stuff from some Christmas (maybe Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or whatever else) gift from your great-aunt who figured early 20’s you probably liked Martinis because you now had your very first job and apartment. That set probably has a shaker, a strainer, maybe a weird-looking knife thing and a bottle opener, and probably has a stand for all of the stuff. In general, these things contain everything you’ll need to get started at a basic level. However, many of them are kind of ugly-looking and don’t make a very nice centerpiece for your home bar.

I’ve found a couple that look pretty nice.

#1: Stock Harbor 9 Piece Stainless Set with Bamboo Base

I have this particular set from a previous Christmas and I generally like it very much. The corkscrew doesn’t fit as well as it could, and I’ve never really used the cheese knife.
The spoon is excellent, the strainer and shaker is adequate, and the bamboo base is great. It really looks nice on the counter.
As for enhancements, the first thing I’d do is replace the jigger. This one feels light and cheap. Consider the OXO Steel Double Jigger which I’ve reviewed elsewhere on this site.

#2: TeiKis 10 Piece Boston Cocktail Shaker Bartending Set

This is a bit different type of set, as it doesn’t come with a stand, but instead comes with a bartending mat which is also very useful. They’re easy to clean and help to prevent sticky residue or other gunk on your bartending surface.
The jigger in this set is a bit better than in the Stock Harbor set, and it comes with a mixing glass which has a pretty useful drink recipe guide built in.
The shaker doesn’t have a steel top like the other set, but you can use any number of glasses or other things to plug the top of the shaker. Needless to say (I hope), you’re going to want to cover the top of the shaker before you try to shake anything. That or you can just stir your cocktails, but sometimes people have fairly strong feelings about their drink being “shaken, not stirred” (please don’t sue me).
Besides these two, there are a jillion other sets but I’ve found these two to be pretty solid all around. I have experience with each of them and would gladly give either as gifts.
Thanks for reading, and come back often!

OXO Steel Double Sided Jigger

When I first became interested in making drinks at home (beyond mixing some nasty whiskey with Coke, or throwing a bunch of stuff together in a pitcher and flavoring it with fruit, anyway) I realized after much trial and error that the only way to make consistently good drinks was to measure.

I’m not sure if it was because I’d watch bartenders at restaurants pour seemingly perfect drinks without measuring, or if I just never really knew what my favorite drink (The Manhattan, duh), was really supposed to taste like. I’ve since learned that there is debate around how to truly make one of those, and that the serious bartenders who mix drinks at places dedicated to making solid cocktails actually do measure nearly everything.

So, on to my point of this post: not all measuring devices are created equally. I’ve tried a few, and figured I’d give you my take on them. They are all available through Amazon because they can get it to you for cheaper and faster than I ever could.

My personal favorite: The OXO Steel Double Jigger

It’s durable, has a nice grip, the subdivisions are well marked and look like they should hold up well over time, even after many times of being run through the dishwasher. I’ve had one of these for a long time, and haven’t needed to replace it yet. I generally rinse it out right after I use it so it never really sees any soap, but I have no doubt this one would hold up even if you washed it with soap each time.