It’s that celebratory time of year, and whether you’re the host with the most or the guest best-dressed, no celebration goes accordingly without the necessary tools on hand for the home mixologist. Take it from me, the General Manager at Old Westbury Golf and Country Club on Long Island.
We host events all the time. Even New Year’s Eve celebrations. We would be lost without the tools and tips I’ve listed below. Happy Holidays to all, wherever you’re ringing in the new year.
1. Cocktail shaker
Whether it is a Boston, Parisian, or Cobbler, you will need to shake a cocktail at some point. Most people opt for the Boston shaker as it has a large capacity and two mixing tins (one larger than the other) that when slapped together, create a tight seal and allow you to give a good shake, chilling and mixing your cocktail to perfection. (Also, the sound of a cocktail shaker pairs well with almost any genre of music.)
-Make sure the smaller tin or glass is on top. This way if the seal breaks, you don’t make a mess on your guests.
-Always shake for a count of 10.
-Exercise patience when separating the tins. And when in a rush, do not bang your tins against a hard surface. Try squeezing the bottom tin while rocking the top tin side to side.
Consider the act of making a cocktail akin to baking. You wouldn’t just throw ingredients together and hope that it comes out delicious, right? A jigger is your primary means of measuring. Most opt for the type with 1-ounce marker on one side and 2-ounce marker on the other.
-Try not to move around while measuring and keep your mixing glass close by to avoid spilling.
3. Bar spoon
The bar spoon is used for mixing rather than measuring, making it an extremely handy tool. From fetching olives from the bottom of the jar to stirring your martini, this spoon has a spot in the home mixologist kit for sure. Your bar spoon should be 12 inches long, with the spoon, bent inward just slightly. With proper technique — and there is proper technique — you could add some flair to the act.
-Try to practice stirring with ice water to get a feel for it. You’ll be stirring like a pro in no time.
4. Hawthorne strainer
Whether you are shaking or stirring your cocktail, you will need to strain out that awesome concoction and separate it from the “spent ice“ or other ingredients it was mixed with. Hence the strainer. The spring keeps it in place, and the face (gate) slides up and down to give you control of what passes through your shaker and into the glass.
-Do NOT to serve the cocktail with the ice it was prepared with. Get a strainer and use fresh ice in your glass.
5. Julep strainer
The julep strainer looks like a big spoon with holes drilled in it and is usually reserved for stirred cocktails when straining out liquid from large pieces of ice.
6. Mesh strainer
Used mainly when you shake a cocktail with herbs or something muddled with fruit. When you have little bits and pieces in your liquid and absolutely want them out, you’ll need to strain through a mesh strainer (aka the double strain). This keeps your cocktails smooth.
Usually rounded on one side, these are great for expressing oils out of herbs, fruit, etc., or simply just a good ol’ mashing. This tool is essential for making a Mojito.
8. Mixing glass
When stirring a cocktail the mixing glass is essential. Yes, you can do it in a mixing tin or in a pint glass. However, once you use a mixing glass, you’ll be hooked. Stay classy kids…
9. Lemon squeezer
Also known as a citrus press or, affectionately, a Mexican elbow, this helps you acquire the freshest juice for a cocktail. It is crucial for producing volume without employing electric juicers.
-Roll and press your citrus fruit before cutting. It breaks up the cells inside allowing the juice to run more freely. Also, use the strainer I mentioned earlier.
10. Paring knife
For when you need to cut fruit, herbs, etc. a good sharp, small knife will do.
-Invest in some rubber bar mats and maybe a small cutting board. It’s good just to keep aside for the special occasions. And remember, fresh ingredients result in fresh cocktails.
You can find Shaun Lewis on Instagram: @chefshaunchristopherlewis.