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The Home Bartender: How To Make A Cocktail At Home

The first act of any dinner party rightly belongs to the cocktail, and so does the first moment of repose after a long day. With more than two centuries of history behind the cocktail, there is an art to making a good drink. Here, we’ll show you how to equip your bar – and perhaps just as important – how to look like it's not your first time making a drink. Use the quick navigation links below to help reach a specific section of this post quicker:

busy bar


As with most things, having the right tools for your cocktail will make your experience much more pleasant. You can make almost any drink with just a few simple pieces of equipment (see the list below).

  1. A Boston shaker is used to mix drinks; its two interlocking pieces (typically a metal tin and a 16 oz. pint glass) allow you to shake cocktails in the glass without leaking or spilling.

  2. For stirred drinks, the addition of a bar spoon will help you skillfully blend your drink's ingredients with less agitation than shaking would. If stirred drinks are your favorite type you would also benefit from procuring a wide-mouthed, heavy-bottomed mixing glass.

  3. Once you've mixed your cocktail of choice, it's time to strain the juice away from the used ice. To do this you'll need a julep strainer for stirred drinks or a Hawthorne strainer for shaken drinks. If you'd rather invest in just one piece, a Hawthorne strainer will suffice when used with a mixing glass as well.

  4. A muddler is used to crush fruit, herbs, and sugar cubes for the likes of mojitos or caipirinhas. Simply apply your weight with the end of this wooden rod to release the fragrant oils from mint leaves, or bruise lime wedges by pressing them against.

  5. A good bar knife is a must for slicing and cutting garnishes. Keep your blade as sharp as possible and steady with a bar-style rubber grip.

  6. A few other helpful bar tools include a hand juicer (for citrus), a bottle opener (there's nothing like dead-arming it with a corkscrew), a citrus zester (for shaving off thin, fragrant curls of lemon or orange), and a jigger (measuring out your liquor will ensure you have the right ratio every time).

  7. Finally, how are you going to keep track of all those tools? As you acquire the tools, it will help to have a place to store them so they don't get misplaced. A wall-mounted organizer or bar cart will keep your bar tools at arm's reach and makes a nice display for your home bar.

Methodology: Shaking and Stirring