tips & tricks: bar essentials
it wouldn't surprise me a bit if you thought i was a complete lush. i mean, if you follow me on instagram (you can follow me HERE, hint hint), you see me drinking cocktails in the middle of the day. but the truth is, those are pretty much the only cocktails i drink. beer never passes my lips and i OCCASIONALLY have a nice glass of wine with a meal, but a buzz is rare for me and being drunk is now a once a quarter endeavor. i say endeavor because when you rarely drink and you finally go wild, the next day really SUCKS.
now, this is not to say that there wasn't a time in my life when i was a complete lush. basically eighteen to twenty-five was a blur, but then i was just pounding vodka sodas with my girlfriends and sucking back white wine when that wasn't available. so there wasn't a whole bunch of "bar tending" going on. but NOW, when i'm only having one cocktail, i want it to be GOOD. and to a delicious cocktail, you need to have some tools in your arsenal. here is a breakdown of some tools and of course some booze that you should keep on hand to really whip up a mean cocktail.
cobbler shaker: the all in one, classic shaker. includes a base to mix the cocktails, a lid with a built in strainer for easy pouring after use and a cap for the lid so you don't spill when shaking. the cobbler shaker is perfect for making cocktails for one or two. it can sometimes get stuck due to the metal on metal and can be messy to clean if you are making a bunch of drinks, so if you are making drinks for many people you should consider the bartender's favorite, the
boston shaker: perfect for making many cocktails fast. it is basically the bottom part of the cobbler shaker with a pint glass. the glass on metal allows you to have a better view of what you are making and is much easier to clean quickly to efficiently make more drinks. it can also be easier to separate. however, it does not have a built in strainer like the cobbler shaker so you will need a strainer if you have a drink with herbs or fruit.
strainer: necessary for pouring drinks that include fruit, herbs are any small bits you don't want floating in your drink after you used it for its flavor.
wine key: also known as the cork screw is, this is an essential tool for opening beers and wine bottles. it includes a knife to slice off the foil on a wine bottle. there are lots of fancy gadgets to open wine, but the wine key is a tried true favorite.
juicer: sure, sometimes you can just slice and squeeze your citrus. but when you are juicing a bunch of citrus and you don't want to worry about seeds and trying your hardest to squeeze every last milliliter of liquid out of your lemon, the juicer is perfect. slice your citrus in half, pop it in the base and crush that juice out!
peeler: if you want a peel for garnish, a proper peeler is key.
channel knife: if you are looking for adorable little skinny twists and curls, you need a channel knife on hand. you can see how to use it HERE.
jigger: a jigger is basically a two sided shot glass for measuring alcohol. one of the ends is one ounce and the other is a half ounce.
muddler: a muddler is a long, blunt ended tool used to smash up fruit, herbs and spices to release their juices and oils for infusing cocktails. muddler is in my top five most used tools.
bartender's knife: of course, you could always use a regular knife. but its nice to have a specific knife for cocktail use.
spirits, liqueurs and mixers: now that you have the tools you need to make a delicious drink, here are the actual ingredients to have on hand in your bar to mix a proper drink at the drop of a hat. as far as liquors, you will have your bases covered with vodka, tequila, whiskey, gin and rum. in my opinion, those are in order of importance. as far as liqueurs (sweeter, concentrated spirits with less alcohol content), you don't need too many. the most important in my mind are a citrus liquor like triple sec or grand marnier (go with whichever you prefer), st. germain for something floral and a coffee liquor is nice to have on hand. in the mixer department, you should keep club soda, tonic water and ginger ale on hand.
the extras: now that all of your bases are covered, there a couple ingredients you can easily keep on hand to REALLY step up your game. many fresh herbs are easy to grow in your window or pick up at the store and they can really go a long way in a cocktail. my favorites are mint, basil and lavender. simple syrup is perfect when you need a hint of sweetness and you can also make them with all kinds of flavors. i make fruit, herb and citrus simple syrup to keep on hand whenever i have some extra ingredients that need using. you can see how to make your own simple syrup HERE and let me tell you, it is EASY. finally, some fancy ice cubes are always a great touch. you can order spheres or cubes, and if you want to get wild, you can freeze edible flowers or your favorite herbs in the ice to make your drink extra appealing.
now drink up and enjoy!