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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

What is the difference between shaking and stirring?

Shaking cools your cocktail with ice, dilutes it slightly, and agitates the drink's ingredients. Stirring brings out flavors without adding any water or ice to the mix (which usually muddles fruit juices like orange). The end result of both stirring and shaking is a cold, diluted beverage.

Shaking your cocktail with ice is how you get the temperature down. The best shaken drinks are less diluted than their stirred counterparts. Shaken drinks are also more aerated, so they feel silkier in your mouth. Many bartenders will shake a drink for longer to increase its bubbling. Be sure to have an excellent grip on your shaker and use a tight-fitting lid to avoid any escapees.


  1. Shaking is the preferred method for drinks that contain citrus, dairy or eggs (e.g., a margarita, mojito, or cosmo). Shaking helps emulsify ingredients like citrus for a smoother, velvety mouthfeel.

  2. To shake a cocktail, fill half of your shaker with ice. Add the ingredients for your cocktail, cover with the other half of the shaker and give the top a solid thump with the palm of your hand to tightly to seal it. Turn the shaker over so that the pint glass is facing you and shake with purpose for about thiry seconds, or until the tin side is ice cold.


  1. Stirring is used for drinks that are comprised solely of alchol (e.g., a martini, manhattan, negroni).

  2. To stir a cocktail, place ingredients in a mixing glass and add ice. Stir ingredients in a circular motion with a bar spoon held loosely between the first two forefingers. Build your drink in the glass and strain into your serving glass.

Putting It All Together: A Classic Cocktail To Prepare At Home

The Martini

A martini is a cocktail made from vodka or gin and dry vermouth, garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. There are many recipe variations for this classic cocktail and typically its the proportions of the ingredients that play the biggest factor.

martini on a bar top


  • Cylinder Vodka

  • Dry vermouth

  • Lemon twist

How to:

  1. Place a small amount of ice in the martini glass.

  2. Pour a small amount of dry vermouth into a martini glass and swirl to coat all sides. Pour the excess vermouth out for a dry martini.

  3. Add 3 ounces of Cylinder to your pint glass or shaker tin.

  4. Cover with the top half of your shaker and shake.

  5. Strain into your chilled cocktail glass and garnish with your lemon twist.

  6. Cheers, Your Martini is ready to drink.

Now that you're a professional home bartender, what will you be mixing up next? If you need to pick up some Cylinder for your home bar you can get buy a bottle online or use the Cylinder locator to find the nearest retailer near you.


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