If you're into entertaining and mixing up cocktails at home, it's easy to end up with a bar cart (or cabinet) full of random tools and gadgets you think you need. But the truth is, you don't need all that much to make the perfect Negroni or Manhattan. Yes, you need the booze and a drinking vessel, but a lot of the rest is bonus.
We spoke with Elliott Clark, the mastermind behind Apartment Bartender, to find out which tools people can really live without. Save the cash (and the storage space) for a nice bottle of whiskey instead!
1. Cocktail Shaker
Even if you make dozens of cocktails a week, you still don't really need a cocktail shaker. "When I'm looking to make drinks with no cocktail shaker around, the first thing I look for is a Mason jar," Elliott says.
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"A muddler is good to have, but you can use the end of a whisk, ladle, or wooden spoon," Elliott says. "A muddler is just used to press ingredients to release flavor or juice, so as long as you're using something that allows you to do that, then it works in my book."
3. Foil Cutter
Sure, a foil cutter will make a wine bottle look nice and neat once you've removed the cork, but you can actually remove the entire foil by hand. Just grip it loosely and twist — the foil will slide off the neck in one piece.
4. Cocktail Spoon
You know those long-handled spoons with the small, narrow head? No? It doesn't really matter because you don't need one! Bartenders use them to glide along the glass — around the ice — to mix up drinks. "What you don't want to do when stirring a cocktail is to stick something in the center of the drink and start sloshing around like a mad man," says Elliott. "That breaks up the ice, releasing shards into the cocktail, which end up melting at a faster pace." The melting can lead to a watered-down cocktail.
Chances are, you have a drawer full of leftover wooden chopsticks from all that sushi takeout you get, right? Break apart a set and use one along the inside rim of the glass. Skip a bigger spoon from your silverware drawer, as that can contribute to broken ice.
5. Whiskey Stones
"I'm not a fan of whiskey stones," Elliott admits. "They're clunky and I've actually broken a few glasses using them. I also don't feel like they cool your whiskey as advertised." Ditch the stones and drink (or serve) whiskey neat, with two or three drops of water, or on the rocks (with several cubes or one large one).
6. Salt Rimmer
This is what small salad plates are for — especially because you probably eat your salad out of a bowl, anyway. And you're probably not rimming so many glasses with salt (or what have you) that you need a gadget devoted to the job.
7. Bar Zester
Zesters are really only good for citrus. If you have a grater in your kitchen, you can get zest from lemons and limes, and you can grate nutmeg and cinnamon sticks. And a paring knife or a peeler can make those fancy curls you're used to getting at bars.
8. Cocktail Pitcher
You only need a cocktail pitcher if you're making batch cocktails for a crowd, and even then, you probably already have a pitcher on hand. You can totally use that, Elliot says. Just remember his note about stirring — go along the side of the pitcher.