When it comes to making cocktails it's easy to feel intimidated by the complicated-looking kit. While some of it is unnecessary or superfluous – ordinary kitchen items often do just as good a job – there are some key pieces that will make mixing up drinks at home a cinch. Here's our list of must-haves.
The most important bit of kit for your home bar, a good cocktail shaker will let you whip up cocktails with ease. There are two types to choose from. A cobbler shaker consists of a metal tin, a lid with a built-in strainer, and a cap. It's a great choice for beginners because cobbler shakers are widely available, easy to use and look great. They're also handy if you don't want to buy too many other accessories. The cap of the shaker usually equates to one measure of spirits so negates the need for a jigger (details below), and the built-in strainer means you don't have to buy separate ones. One thing to bear in mind is that cobbler shakers can sometimes leak, and the lid can freeze shut when the shaker is filled with ice, making it hard to remove.
A boston shaker is made up of two cups that fit together for a watertight seal. It's less likely to leak, quick to use and often comes in larger sizes, so great if you're planning to make cocktails for a crowd. The cons are that it can take practice to master sealing and unsealing the shaker, and you will need to buy separate strainers as well.
Fuss-free and sleekly good-looking, this is a great option for budding mixologists.
With stainless steel, robust thick glass and a reinforced base, this durable piece of kit is easy to use and on the larger size, so perfect for parties.
A good strainer is a must for cocktails, especially if you have a boston shaker, as it strains out solids such as ice, fruit and other items when pouring the finished cocktail into a glass.
There are three types to consider. A hawthorne strainer is a flat perforated metal plate fitted with a metal coil. The latter is what makes this the most versatile of strainers as it will easily adapt to snugly fit most shakers and mixing glasses, making it easy to use. It is, however, hard to clean and more prone to breakage. A julep strainer resembles a perforated spoon and is inserted into the glass at an angle as you pour. It's slightly trickier to use than a hawthorne strainer and will strain liquids more slowly, but it is more durable. Finally, a fine mesh strainer is used alongside another strainer to double strain a cocktail. This is done by fitting it over the glass while you pour from a shaker fitted with another strainer. It's good for cocktails that need extra clarity, or for an extra-smooth texture.
Perfect if you want an easy-to-use strainer that will happily fit a variety of glasses and shakers.
We love the pretty design of this classic julep strainer.
Another essential piece of kit, a jigger is a tool for measuring out ingredients such as spirits. It looks like a tiny cup and comes in either 25ml or 50ml measures, or both if you have a double-sided model. It's tempting to free pour cocktails but, when you're starting out, a jigger will give you precision when it comes to measures, essential for cocktails that rely on exact proportions, such as a manhattan or negroni. The one drawback to a traditional jigger is that you have to pour liquid right up to the rim, and it's easy to overshoot and spill. You could opt for a small angled measuring cup which has measurement markings inside – this is also useful for when recipes call for smaller quantities than 25ml or 50ml.
This nifty number is double sided so you can do both single and double measures for cocktails.
This nifty jigger comes with measurements inside so you can mix up cocktails with extra precision.
Bar spoons, muddlers, mixing glasses and speed pourers
These items are useful but by no means essential as they can be swapped out with everyday kitchen utensils. However, if you've mastered the basics of cocktail-making and want to invest in more kit then these pieces could streamline the process.
A bar spoon is a long-handled spoon for stirring together cocktails in tall mixing glasses and shakers. If you don't have one then a chopstick works just as well. A muddler is a tool similar to a pestle, and is used for gently crushing together ingredients such as fruit and herbs – essential for a cocktail like a mojito. You can also use a rolling pin for this, or the back of a tablespoon.
A mixing glass usually comes with a boston shaker but in general it's a vessel with a wide top and straight sides that you use for cocktails that need to be stirred. If you don't have one then any vessel that can hold at least 500-600ml worth of liquid will do.
Finally, a speed or bottle pourer is a stainless steel or plastic spout inserted into a bottle that lets you pour liquids with speed and precision. It's a common feature in bars but if you're making batches of drinks for a gathering or party then this would be a great way to speed everything up
This elegant spoon has a flat disc at the end – perfect for mashing or crushing ingredients in a glass.
A chic wooden muddler – use to crush fruit, herbs and spices to release the flavours in a cocktail.
We love the vintage stylings of this pretty mixing glass – a classy way to stir up evening martinis.
Attach to the bottles you use most frequently for extra efficiency at parties.
More cocktail accessories
An ice bucket is a surprisingly useful addition to your home bar, saving endless trips to the freezer at parties. This gorgeous lacquered piece will add a cheerful dash of colour to your next gathering.
These polished stainless steel stones can be popped in the freezer to chill and then added to your drink. It'll keep everything cold without diluting the drink – perfect for neat spirits or spirit-forward cocktails.