"Having the right bar tools isn't about being fancy-shmancy," says Elliott Clark, the mastermind behind Apartment Bartender. "It's about making your life a whole lot easier during the drink-building process."
Here are the five tools Elliott says you shouldn't be without if you plan on mixing up a cocktail or three at home.
1. Rocks Glasses
"It's really important to use the proper glassware for the right cocktail, but if I had to get rid of every glass except one, I would stick with a rocks glass," says Elliott. "You can serve a lot of different kinds of cocktails in a rocks glass, even drinks that should be served up in a coupe or martini glass." All in all, a rocks glass is pretty versatile for what you can serve in it.
3 Rocks Glasses We Love
2. An Ice Bucket
An ice bucket may seem unnecessary — that's what the freezer is for, right? — but not if you entertain a lot. "I usually keep an ice bucket out so people can load up with ice and get to mixing their own cocktail," says Elliott. "It's more convenient than people going back and forth to the freezer, and moving all of your freezer goods around to get the ice."
Are they absolutely necessary? No, but get one before your next party and you'll be glad you have it.
3 Ice Buckets We Love
3. A Jigger
"Most cocktails — like a Martini — only contain three or four ingredients, so going over or under on measurements can completely alter the drink," Elliott warns. You may be tempted to reach for a shot glass, but know that they don't all measure the same amount (they can hold 1, 1.5 or 2 ounces). "Plus measuring with a shot glass gets tough with cocktail recipes that call for 1/4 or 3/4 ounces." You could opt for a small liquid measuring cup, but if you have to buy one of those, you may as well just get a jigger instead.
3 Jiggers We Love
4. A Hawthorne Strainer
There are three types of strainers: the Hawthorne, a julep strainer, and a fine mesh strainer. "If you only own one strainer, I advise a Hawthorne strainer," Elliott says. "It's rimmed with a small gate, which helps to hold back ice and other solids (fruit, herbs, etc.!) from getting into your cocktail as you strain."
Buy one: Koriko Hawthorne Strainer, $15
Of course, if you're using a Mason jar as your cocktail shaker, you can also use the lid as a strainer.
Steal this trick: Don't Have a Cocktail Shaker? Use This Instead
5. A King Cube Ice Tray
"I always keep a king cube tray stocked in my freezer," Elliott says. Why? Because he's not a fan of whiskey stones, adding that they never seem to keep drinks all that cold and he's broken some glasses using them in the past. If you prefer your whiskey on the rocks, one large cube will do just fine. King cubes melt at a slower pace, so one can chill the booze without watering it down too much.
Go shopping: King Cube Ice Trays from Tovolo
6. A Wine Key
A home bar isn't just about the booze. What if you want wine? With a little practice, the wine key is the easiest tool to help with opening a bottle of Pinot. Get one with a built-in bottle opener (for beers) and you'll really be in business.
Get this one: This Is the Only Wine Opener You Need