Having an at-home bar takes more than a few bottles of your favorite alcohol, a handful of tumbler glasses, and some ice cubes. After all, a proper cocktail party requires a proper bar setup. Stocking up on the liquors and mixers of your favorite drinks is a great first step in laying the foundation for your at-home bar. If you are a fan of Santiago Cocktails, then it is natural for you to stock your bar with rum, grenadine, and lemon juice. Do you enjoy Tequila Sunrises? Then you’ll want tequila, orange juice, and grenadine ready and on hand. Having the correct ingredients is the most critical step in operating a successful at-home bar, but it’s merely the fundamentals. Once you’ve got your bar stocked with your preferred ingredients, the next step is purchasing the slew of accessories specifically designed for prepping and mixing cocktails with ease, whether it be a generic measuring jigger or a blunt muddler.
Here are our handpicked choices for the best at-home bar accessories, directly culled from our favorite drink experts — ourselves. So, dust off you best cocktail attire and let us help you put the finishing touches on the perfect at-home bar — with specific suggestions you can actually afford. Additionally, check out our picks for the best food and drink apps for iOS and Android, along with the eight best grilling gadgets for the upcoming BBQ season.
Generic Premium Cocktail Shaker ($9) or Bottles-Up Boston Shaker ($19)
Both the cocktail and Boston shaker are quintessential, at-home bar accessories that serve similar purposes despite varying slightly in design and function. The cocktail shaker is a tall metal cup possessing a tight-fitting lid covering a strainer. The traditional cocktail shaker is easier to use than the Boston shaker, and best suited for martini lover who prefer their cocktails shaken not stirred. However, shakers of the Boston variety are handy because of their dual-purpose nature. The first component of a Boston shaker’s two parts is a mixing glass, which you use as a standalone device to stir drinks over ice, while the second component is a larger metal tin used to cover the mixing glass when shaking cocktails. Though not outfitted with a strainer, advanced bartenders can still manage to strain a drink’s ingredients with practice and a steady hand, while amateurs typically opt for a loose strainer to perform the action on their behalf.
As clearly evident in the picture above, a barspoon isn’t your run-of-the-mill spoon. Substantially longer than a typical version of its namesake, a barspoon uses its extended shaft to reach the bottom of tall glasses. Most additionally feature a spiraled handle designed to make it easy to rotate in your hand while stirring your cocktails, and though it may not be the flashiest item on our list, it’s also one of the most convenient if you intend to craft layered shots, cocktails, and other alcoholic drinks. You can also use a barspoon to measure out small amounts of ingredients — a typical barspoon approximately equates to one teaspoon — or perform banal tasks such as fetching olives and cherries. Simply put, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to purchase the utensil once added to your repertoire.
Winco Hawthorne Strainer ($4) or Winco Julep Strainer ($4)
Even if you have a quality cocktail shaker in your bar inventory, having a standalone strainer on hand is always a great idea. A strainer of the Hawthorne variety features a perforated metal top and a wire coil that works flawlessly with the metal component of the Boston shaker, thus making it ideal for shaken cocktails. Used to not only separate ice from your cocktails, the Hawthorne strainer also works well when straining fruits, herbs, or any other solid ingredient into your mix. The Julep strainer on the other hand, is like the Hawthorne strainer with slight aesthetic variations rendering it less fine and more apt for stirred cocktails. Though both the Hawthorne and Julep strainers tout a perforated top, the latter’s top is shaped more like a spoon, allowing better control when used with a mixing glass. It also separates ice, fruit, herbs, and any solid ingredient from your cocktails. Still, we recommend the Hawthorne strainer the best type for all-around use.
There’s no finer device to add to your accessory quiver when it comes to making Old Fashions, Mint Juleps, and Mojitos than a muddler. The simple device is typically made of wood or metal, allowing you to easily mix sugars, mash bitters, and extract juices from fruits alongside essential oils from herbs. Although you can feel free to crush fruit herbs as forcefully as you’d like given your sole goal is extract pulp and juice, you should aim to merely bruise herbs as they often contain their flavor on the outside of the leaves while housing unwanted pigments such as chlorophyll within. The muddler’s build isn’t crucial — it’s designed to smash regardless of the material — but we do recommend going with an unvarnished muddler if you choose the classic option. Varnished wood will only degrade and wear away with time given the acidity of the fruit.
Bonny Bar Jigger ($5)
A jigger is essentially a shot glass with options. The accessory is made of two components, a 1½-ounce and a smaller cone typically measuring under an once, making it perfect for drinks that rely on precise measurements. It’s not a necessary accessory given most bartenders tend to just free pour drinks, but it is a crucial tool if you desire precise proportions and accurate liquor levels for your drinks.