Tools of the Trade

You don’t need many tools to make great cocktails. Sure, you can go out and spend a fortune on some big cocktail kit, but there are only five tools you need.

  • A small measuring cup. Here is the Oxo Mini Stainless Steal Measuring Cup which you can buy for about $5 at any home or kitchen store. Oxo also has a plastic one that’s even cheaper, but is a bit more difficult to clean in my experience. I believe that you should measure everything when it comes to cocktails. Most bartenders at really good bars do. You’ll often see bartenders at food and drink chains do “timed pours.” A decent chain bartender using a spout on every bottle can actually count off how much alcohol is going into the cocktail. Too random for me. There is no shame in measuring, your drinks will be better and more consistent. 

You can, of course, use a jigger instead. A jigger generally has no markings and has one 1/2 oz cup and one 1 oz cup. I still like the precision and additional markings of a measuring cup.


  • A cocktail spoon. Don’t stir or try to get the olive out of the jar with your finger. Use a spoon. What am I, your mother? Costs a few bucks.

  • A Cobbler Shaker. Sure, you could use a Boston Shaker – the one with the separate stainless steel cup and glass that looks so cool when professional bartenders use it. But, it’s a pain in the ass. First, as the temperature changes, the glass and stainless steel virtually fuse together and are impossible to get apart without banging them against something and second, you always wonder if you have a seal between the two containers. Why bother? Get a three-piece cobbler shaker and forget about it. Works like a charm every time. $10-$20.
  • A Muddler. Muddlers are like pestles, used for physically combining ingredients that like to stay in their solid form. Think sugar cubes or herbs and spices. They are most often made of steel or wood. Wood is preferable because it’s inevitable that you’ll be muddling in a glass at some point and, at the very least, you’ll be worried about chipping the glass or serving your guests shards of it. $5.

  • Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray. The ice cubes made in this tray are about four times the volume of a normal ice cube. Large and less surface area than many cubes, they melt slower, but still cool the drink. Want more water in your drinks, add it separately, don’t rely on melting ice to do the heavy lifting. $7-$8.

Dave also suggests ice tongs. Again, to keep your filthy fingers out of your guest’s drinks. You can go that way – really cheap and easy to find. I just scoop the ice out of the bucket with the shaker. So, that’s it. For $20-$30 you can have every tool you need to make great drinks. 

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About Will Herman (102 Posts)

I don't know what it takes to become a professional mixologist, but I'm going to night school at my own home bar to achieve that status. For now, I'm an amateur cocktail creator who enjoys learning about new drinks and rediscovering the classics.

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