Home Cocktail Bar Essentials

Last month I shared some cute things for the beer drinkin’ ladies and it dawned on me that I’ve never really shared much about the tools I use for cocktail making. Aside from my e-book, The Complete Guide to Building Your Home Bar (which you can get for free by signing up for my email newsletters right here) it’s only been recently that I’ve written about how to mix cocktails as much as I write about recipes for them.

While I have been known to improvise when I’m without one of these tools, it sure does save time when you have the right tools on hand. If you’re ready to take your home cocktail skills to the next level, I recommend stocking up on these or similar items. So, here it is, my list of home cocktail bar essentials and how I use them! // susannah

Cocktail Essentials Gift Guide // Feast + West

1. The jigger is a measuring cup for shots. One side is the standard 1.5 ounces, and the other is 1 ounce. You’ll need one of these to measure any alcohol for cocktails. // Michael Aram Rock Jigger ($25)

2. A cocktail shaker is key for mixing cocktail ingredients together with ice. You can certainly stir, but shaking is more aggressive. Plus, it has a built-in strainer so you can add flavors, like fruit, without the pulp or make a drink cold without serving it on ice. // Stainless-Steel Cocktail Shaker ($16)

3. I always use an old-fashioned juicer for citrus. I find that this kind does a better job of getting all the juice out than the squeeze kind. Be sure to pour it out over a strainer to avoid the pulp. // Le Creuset Stoneware Citrus Juicer ($29.95)

4. Every bar needs a dish towel (or three) to wipe up splashes and spills! (They happen to the best of us.) // Color Wheel Hand Towel by A Little Lark ($15)

5. A sharp paring knife is key in bartending. You’ll use it again and again to cut citrus for juicing or to prepare garnishes like fruit slices, orange peels and herbs. // Paring Knife ($19)

6. For the drinks that don’t require shaking, a long, skinny bar spoon does the trick. You can also use the bar spoon to float liquors over top layered drinks, such as in these Baby Guinness Shots. // Stainless Steel Cocktail Stirrer ($3.95)

7. A good hostess and bartender knows presentation is important, so cocktail napkins are an important detail. Keep some washable ones at your bar to serve with drinks. // Anthropologie Monogram Cocktail Napkin ($8)

8. A bottle opener is good to have on hand for the beer drinkers, but it might come in even handier for an old-fashioned soda with a bottle cap. Cheerwine Cocktail, anyone? // Aqua Bottle Opener ($29)

9. For drinks like the mojito, a muddler is helpful to mash fruits and herbs and enhance the flavor. If you don’t have one, you can substitute the handle of a wooden spoon. // Carter Muddler ($12.95)

10 and 11. Both the Julep strainer (#10) and the Hawthorne strainer (#11) are important at the bar. The Julep’s bowl-shape fits nicely into a glass at an angle, but the spring in the Hawthorne allows it to fit most any glass or cocktail shaker. Which one should you get? Either will do the trick, but it can’t hurt to get one of each. // Sur La Table Julep Strainer ($9.95) // Sur La Table Hawthorne Strainer ($9.95)

12. Just as it’s a good idea to have a few beers on hand for your beer-drinking friends, a wine opener is just as helpful for your wine-drinking ones. // Anthropologie Noctua Wing Corkscrew ($32)

13. Nice ice cubes take a cocktail to the next level if you ask me. I often use the machine-made stuff from my freezer, but nothing beats perfect cubes. (Psst… Want clear, not white, ice? There’s a trick for you in my cocktail guide! Download it here.) // Tovolo Perfect Cube Ice Tray Set ($14.95)

14. And of course, where there’s ice, there should be an ice bucket. If you’re mixing a lot of drinks for a gathering, it will come in handy to have the ice on hand, ready to go so you don’t have to make multiple trips to the freezer. // White and Gold Ice Bucket ($45)

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