Drink-mixing tools: the basics

You don’t need many tools to mix great drinks, but the right ones will make the process easier:

Jigger or tiny measuring cup: This is the most important tool, in my opinion. Cocktails demand precise ingredient measuring, so you need a tool to help you do just that. Oxo makes a good (and cute!) little measuring cup as well as a stylish jigger, and both are easy to use. You could also measuring spoons and some math (e.g., 1 fluid ounce = 2 tablespoons, 1/4 fluid ounce = 1 1/2 teaspoons), but this can get cumbersome, especially after the first drink.

Juicer: Freshly squeezed juices make a huge difference. I have the orange Chef’n juicer (big enough to squeeze oranges and small grapefruits as well as lemons and limes), but this reamer by Oxo is an effective, budget-friendly option.

Shaker: If your drink contains fruit juice or syrup, it should be shaken with ice to make sure everything mixes together. You have two options: a “cobbler” shaker (which has a mixing tin, a strainer lid, and a cap), or a “Boston” shaker (which is two tins or a tin and a pint glass). Both have their fans and detractors, so use whatever’s easiest for you. In a pinch, you can even use a Mason jar as a shaker.

Strainer: You won’t need this if you’re using a cobbler shaker. Since I use a Boston shaker, I have Oxo’s strainer because its short handle stays out of my way (note: I’m not sponsored by Oxo–I simply like their stuff). If you’re using a Mason jar, you can use the lid to hold back the ice when you pour, although this requires more hand coordination than I have.

Stirrer: Drinks that contain only liquor are usually stirred with ice to keep them beautifully clear. A long-handled bar spoon is the tool to get, but a chopstick or table knife works too.

That’s it! There are tons of other gadgets and accoutrements that you could get, but I prefer keeping things simple. Besides, more money spent on gadgets means less money available for booze and ingredients. It’s all about prioritizing. 😉

Intro to my home bar posts

Since I’ve got cocktails on the brain right now, I figured I’d do a series of posts about booze. A friend said it would be a fascinating topic (thank you, Sarah!) and it was the boost I needed to continue this blog past one post.

I’ve been interested in cocktails since college. I partially blame Tom Cruise—Cocktail is an objectively awful film, but it made drink mixing look like so much fun, and I wanted to move beyond fuzzy navels (I had an, um, incident involving peach schnapps and to this day I get a little queasy if I sniff a peach/booze combo) and vodka and lemonade (the drink of choice in my sorority).

So I bought a Mr. Boston bartending book and experimented making Long Island Iced Teas and Lynchburg Lemonades at parties, with mixed results. You can only get so far with cheap booze, sweet-and-sour mix, and limited funds. Plus, the 90s weren’t exactly a great time for quality cocktails.

Fast forward to today, and the craft cocktail movement has made once obscure, inaccessible ingredients like allspice dram and creme de violette available to home bartenders. There’s plenty of new information about cocktail theory and technique, not just recipes. The problem now, I think, is being overwhelmed with too many options and wanting to do it “right.” It doesn’t help that many articles have intimidating lists of “must have” bottles for the beginner home bar. I especially get irked at lists that leave out vodka because it’s supposedly not cool. I’m sorry, but leaving out something as versatile as vodka makes no sense to me.

I’ll be up front: I’m not a drinks expert and I don’t claim to be one. I don’t even consider myself a cocktail enthusiast per se, not in the way that dedicated cocktail bloggers and Instagramers are. And to be honest, most cocktail books and databases confuse me if I’m not looking for something specific. I just like a good, well-made drink and learning new things about booze.

But I’m also trained as an engineer and I used to write about food, so I’ve spent way too many brain cycles overthinking my home bar. How to stock it, what to keep, what not to rebuy, what to make, how to keep it streamlinef. I figured I might as well do a brain-dump here and hope it might help someone.

At the very least, I’ll have a blast writing, and that’s no small thing.