The Cocktail Bar, Part I

Friday, May 27, 2011

Every week I post these cocktail recipes, each one of them featuring at least three ingredients, and increasingly difficult to find. Usually I have all these spirits and mixers on hand, but even this cocktail devotée can find stocking a home bar daunting. Lucky for me, John and I sat down one Saturday and made a list (one of our favorite things to do, apart or together) so I though I'd share our combined cocktail wisdom.

Over the next few Fridays, I'll be going over the in's and out's of building a top-notch home bar; in less than a month, you'll be able to whip up anything your thirsty friends might ask for! Today, let's start at the very beginning:


the tools of the trade.

Every bar needs equipment, and yours is no exception. Pull out what you have already-likely, this includes a collection of themed or printed cocktail shakers, an old electric juicer and maybe a jigger, that little silver thing with two ends. Hey, we all start somewhere!

Your printed cocktail shaker probably doesn't need to be replaced. Keep in mind that the larger the shaker, not only can you shake up more drinks in a single go, you can chill that solo cocktail faster. If you simply can't bear to look at that Pink Elephant plastic shaker (I have certainly never possessed such a hideous item!), try a classic Boston shaker. The two parts will either both be stainless steal or feature one bar glass and one stainless steel cup; the choice is purely a matter of aesthetics. That bar glass can also be used for spirituous cocktails, which should be stirred, so if you're looking to simplify, I'd pick a mismatched set.

Once you've got your shakers selected, consider strainers. Good bartenders keep three on hand: a julep strainer, a Hawthorne strainer and a tea strainer.

The julep strainer is the saucer shaped beauty with larger holes; use this one for straining spirituous cocktails without much gunk to worry about (unlike cocktails with muddled mint leaves, freshly squeezed juices, etc)

The Hawthorne strainer is that rounded strainer with the spring along the bottom; use it along with a fine tea strainer (just like you'd use to strain jams or jellies) to keep your drinks free of pulp and excess ice.

In addition to shakers and strainers, bartenders rely on jiggers for precise measurements. We have three different sizes: 2 oz/1 oz, 1oz/.5oz and .75oz/.5oz. Maybe you don't need them all right now, but at $1.25 a piece, you'll be glad you got a complete set.

Now pull out that juicer-if it works, don't worry about replacing it. If it doesn't, or you realize you don't have one, let me suggest a citrus juicer (or better yet, an overhand press if you have the money and counter space)! The reason most people buy margarita mix is because juicing enough limes for more than 2 cocktails can take quite a bit of time, but a good juicer will speed up the process.

Other things that you don't need to finish your bar but never hurt: a citrus reamer, a zester (which you might already have in your kitchen tools), a dedicated bar knife (which can just as easily be a paring knife) and long bar spoons for stirring martinis and other spirit-driven cocktails. You'll also want a muddler if you like mojitos; skip the silicone-bottomed tools and find a wooden muddler that looks like a small baseball bat. The smooth, wooden bottom will help extract oils from citrus or herbs, and will dissolve sugars more easily.

Keep in mind that those adorable sets you can find at Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel will work in a pinch, but you'll be missing some important pieces. Generally, these sets have a jigger with unusual volumes, so be sure to check both sides carefully before you pour!

Next week, expect advice on the liquor staples every home bar needs!

32 comments:

  1. Loved. I will use the post as a gift-guide!

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  2. Thanks for the tips! We've been trying to bone up on our cocktail knowledge for the summer, this will definitely help!

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  3. This is such a useful series idea! Someday, when I'm a real grownup, I'll have a bar with more than half-empty vodka bottles, whiskey, and bitters.

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  4. Where is the beautiful set in the image from? I love the unique/vintage look.

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  5. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!! Can't wait!! I see a book in the making.....

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  6. You are the undefeated heavyweight champ of cocktails if you ask me ;)
    Happy weekend!

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  7. What a great guide. We have a built in bar at home (I should post pictures) and could definitely use some nice cocktail-making tools.
    alexa
    www.theshortandthesweetofit.com

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  8. These are great tips, I can't wait to see what else you have in store for us!

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  9. I love this post! You are the expert my friend and the tips are awesome!

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  10. how did you know we were in the process of redoing our mini bar? Love this post to bits....my cocktail heroine!

    xo,
    sylvie
    http://www.silverylining.com

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  11. I love your bar tools and really wish that we were neighbors. Something tells me we would never be thirsty :)

    xo,
    C

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  12. I need everything! Crap, I guess I have to go shopping :)

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  13. Have fun on your date night tonight :)!!! Also, I neeeed your address again, your book is sitting on my desk. XOXO!

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  14. terrific post! I will copy and paste these postings! a kind of small cocktail encyclopaedia!!! Brilliant!

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  15. what a beautiful set. Looking forward to the recipes.

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  16. Well you are just a ball of information and it's reasons like this I wish you sort of kind of lived with me. Well I mean I'd want you to live with me so we could hang out and stuff but if you could play bartender here I would like that :)

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  17. I'm pretty excited for the liqour list ;)

    Have a lovely weekend!

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  18. We really need to get some good cocktail knowledge around here, we're still in the college drink phase and we're getting way too old for that!

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  19. There are many reasons to like you, Lena, and I could never recount them all in a single measly comment. But I will tell you that, at the top of the list, right around where hilarious, smart totally *with it* and *on point* are situation, has to be your baby J references. I laugh out loud when you start off a sentence with baby J and his mom.

    And omGOD lists are my favorite thing to do. Hell to the yeah. Following through on those list items? That's another story. I'll get to sharing it at some point; it's on my list.

    xoxo happy long wknd :)

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  20. ... 'are situated.' Not, 'are situation.' Situated. Yeah.

    I'm turning my brain off now.

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  21. Having a stocked bar really does make everything easier, in general- my parets have the greatest bar alive....i'm building mine up...

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  22. You are an expert, that's for sure!!Keep these post coming please!!

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  23. Ooh, this is such a great idea, Lena! Also something I would much rather learn from someone else doing it than figuring it out myself, so thanks! ; ) xoxo

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  24. What a brilliant post, I can't wait to read more! I've always wanted to have a properly stocked cocktail cabinet!

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  25. we try, very hard, to keep a full selection of alcohol in our cabinet- man do we try.

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  26. Great tips! Looking forward to liquour ideas this week. xo style, she wrote

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  27. One of the many, many reasons I adore you. We're working on building one, but I'm set on finding a pretty bar cart first ;)

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  28. Awesome tips Lena, I can't wait for the next post, I need to properly restock my liquor cabinet.

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  29. You are genius, Lena. While I was home, it seemed every Southern home I visited had the most amazing bar set up for the much needed cocktail at the end of the day. I have always struggled with the right bar set up! But low and behold, I come home to you. Thank you, my lovely friend! xo Samantha

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  30. You're a genius. Did I mention that DH and I collect vintage barware? Great minds...

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  31. This is why I stick to wine or straight tequila.:) This sounds like a lot of tools! I do love the idea of having a stocked bar though.

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  32. you are the expert ;) I need your help in becoming a grown-up drinker!

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A Crimson Kiss – Timeless Events and Classic Cocktails by Ana Degenaar : Blogger