The Basics of Barware

Contributed by Laura Johansen. 

For nearly as long as humans have walked the Earth, they have drank. While one does not need to have a professional bar set-up in order to produce a great drink, having the right staples at home will allow you to make anything your heart desires and make whipping up your favorite concoctions faster & easier. Having a well stocked home bar will not only save you money in the long term (going out gets expensive), but also provides a comfortable atmosphere for you to entertain friends and guests. Having all the right equipment and tools at hand will ensure you aren’t searching under couch cushions for a bottle opener, or serving cocktails out of coffee mugs. Here’s our suggestion for stocking the ideal home bar.

The Essentials:

  • Shaker
    • Most people at home have a 3-piece “Cobbler” type shaker aaaa-copper-and-stainless-steel-cocktail-shaker-4with the mixing tin, lid with grated opening, and a cap. This type of
      shaker is what comes in most home bar-tending gift sets. The advantage of it is the reduced necessity for extra strainers & ease of use, but the downfall is that the cap and lid often get stuck when the metal freezes up. This is why most professional bartenders prefer the “Boston” style 2-piece shaker with a 28 ounce mixing tin and 16 ounce mixing glass. The ingredients are always placed into the smaller mixing glass first before connecting with the mixing tin. This type requires a touch more practice, as ensuring a solid seal between the two parts is essential so the drink doesn’t fly out, but it makes pulling the pieces apart far simpler, and the glass can be used for making stirred cocktails.
  • Jigger/ponyJiggerpic
    • The traditional measurements are that a jigger is 1.5 ounces, while a pony is 1 ounce. There are many variations of jiggers on the market now (1 oz/2 oz is the most common) but I recommend one with the traditional proportions since most classic cocktails are based around those. A clear plastic 1 ounce measuring cup can also helpful for measuring smaller amounts of juice, amari, or the like.


  • Strainer
    • Like the shaker, there are 2 kinds out there, but you only need a strainer if going with the Boston shaker. The first, and most commonly included in home bar kits, is the Hawthorne strainer, which has the coiled edge and perforated top. This strainer is best for shaken cocktails since the coils strain out any shards of ice that might’ve been created when arduously shaking your drink. The second type is a julep strainer, which is more cup-like and has large holes. This strainer is typically used for stirred cocktails since there are no small ice chips to worry about. For a home bar, a Hawthorne strainer is all you need, since it will do for both shaken & stirred concoctions.


  • Bar spoon
    • Essential for stirred drinks like Manhattans and Negronis. It is also a perfect teaspoon, which gives a measuring tool for small scale, and allows you to scoop individual cherries/olives/etc. out of a jar. The twisted part of the bar spoon, called the key, enables the quick twirling stir rather than clanging the ice around in the mixing glass.


  • Peeler/channel knife
    • If you want garnishes for your drinks, you’ll need one of these. A y-peeler is best for the wide peels like an orange twist for an Old Fashioned, while a channel knife gives you thin strips that can be curled for a daintier garnish like a lemon twist for a Cosmopolitan.


  • Muddler
    • This is essential for creating drinks with smashed fruit; with mint or other aromatic herbs you should
      refrain from muddling since it releases the bitter chlorophyll from the leaves. The material or size of your muddler doesn’t matter – get what comfortably fits your grip. That said, if you choose a wood muddler make sure it is unvarnished to prevent the acid from your fruits eroding the varnish into your drinks.


  • Corkscrew
    • I prefer a waiter’s friend or lever/rabbit kind versus the traditional butterfly style. The waiter’s corkscrew also has a knife built in to help cut the plastic or wax off the top of a bottle, which is useful. There are automatic wine openers out there, but they’re pricey and don’t work well on the rubbery plasticine corks that are increasingly being used by wine producers.


  • Bottle opener
    • That cold one won’t open itself. While nearly everyone has the keychain style laying around somewhere (or the back of many corkscrews), opting for a dedicated bottle opener will add nicely to your existing bar.


Optional extras:

  • Double strainer (tea strainer)
    • For drinks using fresh juice with a lot of pulp or seeds, like a Bramble.
  • Yarai mixing glass
    • Of Japanese origin, the latest bar nerd “must-have” for stirred cocktails. This has a wider mouth & base for ease in stirring, is slightly larger (can hold more ice, making it faster to chill your drink), and has a convenient pour lip.
  • Ice ball mold
    • For whiskey drinkers who haven’t yet graduated to neat. The ice ball mold creates a big sphere of ice
      , which will chill the whiskey without diluting it too much like smaller ice cubes. This is simply due to the reduced surface area exposed to the liquid, relative to the solid volume of the sphere. 
  • Pour spouts
    • If you want to impress! These make measuring shots easy, as the rate of flow will be controlled. Typically, a 3-second pour is about a shot. Remove, cap your bottle, and wash after use however, because leaving pourers in your bottles overnight will allow all sorts of nastiness to get in, unless they are specially designed with ball bearings to prevent this.


Kitchen goods:

  • Blender
    • For creating blended frozen drinks, or for quickly crushing ice.

  • Cutting board 
    • Slicing limes, preparing solid ingredients.
  • Paring knife, ideally with serrated blade
  • Citrus juicer
    • These three are for the sole purpose of cutting and squeezing fresh fruit for juice. I might also be so presumptuous as to recommend small glass or plastic squeeze bottles as a method of storing large quantities of juice — this will make dispensing your needed ingredients much easier and keep you from having to squeeze a lemon or lime for each individual drink.

Basic Glassware:

I’d recommend having 1-2 of each type on hand; you can obviously grab more of a certain style if you often have company who enjoy a particular drink or if you just like the visual appeal of certain glassware sets.

  • Pint – multi-functional, typically for beer. My favorite pint glasses come from various breweries, and are printed with neat designs. In a pinch, you can always use them for mixed drinks as well.


  • Collins – use for cocktails like the Tom Collins or Tequila Sunrise. The Collins glass is tall and narrow, perfect for tropical drinks like the Dark n’ Stormy with a “float” of rum.

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  • Coupe – use for cocktails like the Daiquiri or Bramble. Similar to a standard martini glass, except with a curved bottom instead of conical.


  • Rocks – use for drinks done on the rocks, or for cocktails like the Sazerac. These are also good to have on hand for a pour of whiskey with ice. bowmore-886536_960_720


  • The Old Fashioned glass is the standard for whiskey neat.


  • The Highball – use for cocktails like the Mojito or Harvey Wallbanger. The highball glass is similar to the Collins, tall and narrow.


  • Martini/Cocktail – use for cocktails like the Vesper or Gimlet. A set of these is de rigueur for any home bar if you hope to serve martinis. 


  • Wine glass – can also be used for drinks like Sangria. Red wine glasses tend to be a bit wider  (to allow for aromas), while white wine glasses are a little slimmer. There are also specific glasses for 



  • (Champagne) Flute – can also be used for drinks like the Bellini or Mimosa





Optional extras:

  • Shot glasses
  • Margarita glasses (for the eponymous cocktail)
  • Copper mug (for Mules and Juleps)
  • Other beer glass styles (of which an entire guide is warranted)


With these tools on hand (and a well-stocked bar), you can create practically any beverage you can dream of. Cheers!


Laura Johansen
Laura Johansen
Laura is a New Jersey native and recent graduate of James Madison University. She currently works for a craft beer company in South Florida. She enjoys spending time with her dog, & trying anything with mixology.

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