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.
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.
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!