Whether you prefer your cocktails shaken or stirred, perfecting the art of mixology at home has never been easier. The high street is awash with at-home cocktail equipment, allowing you to create top-notch concoctions every time. With just a handful of inexpensive items, you could be mixing mojitos, blending bellinis and concocting cuba libres like the experts.
We caught up with Rich Woods (aka The Cocktail Guy), head of spirit and cocktail development at Duck & Waffle, to discuss equipment. “Although it’s tempting to life-hack a sports shaker into a piece of cocktail kit, a decent shaker won’t set you back more than £20,” Rich says. “Department stores and household shops all now stock a decent array of bar equipment, including strainers, bar spoons and jiggers.” And although not an obvious piece of kit, Rich recommends keeping a little notebook close to hand so you might remember your creations the morning after.
Ideally, you should invest in three types of glassware: martini, old fashioned tumbler and highball. This should cover you for all eventualities.
Learning to make a handful of classic cocktails will provide a great base for you to get more creative as your confidence grows. To get you started, Rich Woods provided us with one of his tried and tested recipes – you can find it at the bottom of this article.
The team behind food and drink review site Crummbs took to the bar to shake, stir (and spill) a number of cocktails to put this list of essential bar equipment to the test.
1. Set of Two Koriko Weighted Shaking Tins: £14.98, Cocktail Kingdom
Although there are three main shaker styles to choose from (Boston, Cobbler and French), the Boston tends to be the professionals’ shaker of choice. Comprising two parts, the cocktail ingredients are popped into the large tin with the ice, before the smaller tin is jammed in at a slight angle to seal before shaking. This set secured easily, didn’t leak and was easy to separate too. If you fancy something a little fancier, this style also comes in a copper-plated design. Made from stainless steel, the set is large enough for two drink servings and is completely dishwasher safe too.
2. OXO SteeL Cocktail Strainer: £5.72, Amazon
If you are using a two-piece Boston-style shaker (as above) then you’ll also require a strainer. OXO is renowned for its award-winning tools, and this Hawthorn-style strainer is no exception. This gets our vote due to the tight coils which fit snuggly over the shaker, while keeping the smallest shards of ice out of our drink. The short handle with rubber grip makes it very easy to use, as well as preventing spillage.
3. John Lewis Cocktail Spoon: £4, John Lewis
The long, 28cm handle of this spoon makes it easy to stir tall cocktails, while the flat end can be used for mashing ingredients in a pinch. The twisted stem is intended for creating layered cocktails such as the tequila sunrise. Made from stainless steel, the spoon is also good for measuring liquid (3ml).
4. Ginza Jigger 25/50ml: £6.15, Amazon
Although free-pouring is undeniably one of the perks of making cocktails at home, a jigger or measure is vital for creating well-balanced beverages. This Japanese-style jigger is double-ended, featuring four useful measurements – a 25ml single or 50ml double shot, as well as a 15ml and 45ml line inside each cup. It will also come in handy if a cocktail calls for one part this, two parts that.
5. Wooden Muddler: £1.99, Drinkstuff
A muddler is a simple device used to bash up herbs, limes, sugars and syrups. We found the ergonomic design easy to use and suitably weighted for effective pressure. We prefer the smooth, rounded end over styles with “teeth” as it’s softer on delicate herbs and easier to clean. If you’re a fan of mojitos then this is a great value product to include in your cocktail kit.
6. CHEF'N FreshForce Chef’n Plastic and Stainless Steel Easy-Press Juicer: £28, Selfridges
If you’ve ever tried making margaritas for a crowd, you’ll know the arm ache that goes with juicing that many limes. Make your life easier and retain every last drop of juice, while retaining all the pips, with this powerful “Mexican Elbow” juicer. The cheerful hue will brighten up any kitchen and the geared hinge makes it a doddle to use. It’s not the cheapest juicer on the market, but we believe this will last the test of time.
7. Drinking Rocks Sphere Ice Mould: £9.99, Amazon
These clever silicon ice moulds create huge, seamless, spherical balls of ice without the hassle of ice picks. Ideal in an old fashioned or with a gin and tonic, this pack of two is really easy to use – simply fill it with water to the line a pop it in the freezer. The spherical surface area means the ice melts much slower than regular smaller cubes, keeping your drink nice and cool without diluting it. Use boiled, filtered water for crystal clear ice.
8. Spiegelau Perfect Serve Collection Large Mixing Glass: £29.95, Riedel
If a cocktail contains only alcohol, you’ll need to stir, not shake. That’s where this beautiful, crystal-cut mixing glass comes into play. Simply take your bar spoon and make slow, circular movements around the ice. Not only will this mix the drink but you’ll also bring the temperature right down to ice-cold. Using some of the most advanced glass-making technology in the world, this glass is durable enough for everyday use and is dishwasher-friendly too.
9. Mixed Metallic Set of Two Martini Glasses: £18 for two, Oliver Bonas
The hand-finished gold foil on these martini glasses make them ideal for special occasions. Although designed for martinis, we think the shape is versatile enough to cover a few different options including cosmopolitans, margaritas and manhattans. They would also make a great gift for the cocktail lover in your life.
10. 2 Pack Bellagio Tumblers: £19.50, Marks and Spencer
These elegant, art nouveau-style tumblers are ideal for an old fashioned, or another other whisky-based drink. With a diameter of 9.5cm, they can easily take large ice cubes, and the bulbous design makes them a pleasure to hold. Hand-painted with a platinum colour around the base, these are unsuitable for the dishwasher, but we think this detail makes them look far more expensive than they are.
11. Blue Lady Ceramic Cocktail Mug: £16.50, Bespoke Barware
Bespoke Barware makes a fantastic range of fun, conversational pieces, perfect for cocktail parties. We particularly like The Blue Lady cocktail mug which is handmade in Hackney, east London, and safe to put in your dishwasher. The sky-blue glaze will brighten up any drink but is particularly well suited to tiki-style, rum-based cocktails such as the mai tai. Holds approximately 520ml.
12. Berylune Patterned Paper Straws: £2, Not On The High Street
Now you’ve made your liquid masterpiece, it’s time for the finishing touch. An inexpensive pack of brightly coloured straws will decorate your drink and be appreciated by your guests. This pack contains 10 good quality straws in a range of colours and patterns. Straws are more than just decorative, however. They can be used to swirl and make long drinks easier to manage, particularly if there are herbs and ice in the cocktail.
The Verdict: Cocktail making kits
Although each piece of kit here does a very different job, the humble cocktail shaker has got to be at the centre of any budding bartender’s kit. Start with these shaking tins from Koriko and grow your collection as your cocktail repertoire expands.
Padron Pepper Caipirinha (as concocted by Rich Woods from Duck & Waffle)
- ½ lime
- 50ml sugar syrup
- 50ml cachaça
- 6 – 8 grilled padron peppers
- Grill peppers
- Cut lime into wedges
- Place in mixing glass with sugar syrup
- Muddle to break skin and release oils
- Add peppers
- Add cachaça
- Gently muddle again
- Half fill glass with crushed ice and churn
- Top with fresh ice
- Garnish with another lime wedge and pepper
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