Every great host has a few great bar items in their home that we like to call the basics. First we’ll go over the various tools that you might find in a home bar and what they do. Then at the end we’ll summarize what we feel are the basic essential items that any home bartender should not be without. You don’t need all of these items right off the bat, but it is wise to have many of these items on hand so you don’t look like the unprepared host when your guests arrive. This article will get you started in the right direction as to what everything does. If you’re in a rush to get started you can jump to the end to find out what we think are the most essential items for home entertaining.
Bar Tools and What They Do
- Allows you to shake various ingredients together to make cocktails.
- This filters or “strains” the liquid coming out of the cocktail shaker so you don’t get fruit pulp, ice, etc. in your drink. Most cocktail shakers has this built-in, however some bartenders prefer to use an external strainer.
Bottle Opener and Corkscrew
- Allows you to open non-twist off bottles (almost all imported beers) and they come two ways, one is wall mounted, the other way is a simple hand bottle opener. Corkscrews are for opening wine and are discussed in detail below.
Ice Bucket and Tongs
- Allow you to store your ice next to your bartending area, saving you multiple trips to the fridge for more ice while making cocktails.
- Normally double sided, it allow precise measure of ingredients in a cocktail.
- Allows you to make all of those frozen drinks that we all love during the summer time (and winter). Be sure to get one that has plenty of power and ice crushing capabilities, as it takes a lot of power and specially shaped blades to make a cocktail without ice lumps in it. The most high-end of these blenders have an ice shaver built in so the ice is actually shaved then blended to ensure the drinks are never lumpy.
- Similar to the basic cutting knife used to slice oranges, limes, etc, this type of knife has a curved tip that allows you to more easily peel the rind off you fruit for making fancy decor for your cocktails sometimes seen in cosmopolitans, tropical drinks, and fancy martinis.
- Allows you to cut fruit for drinks without ruining your bar top.
- Affix to the top of your liquor bottles allowing you to pour the liquor in a more measured way.
- Also called stir sticks, these allow your guests to keep there cocktails mixed. Otherwise, if they are not drinking mixed cocktails fairly quickly, the ingredients start to separate.
- Great for Margaritas and tropical drinks, these allow you to easily add salt or other various flavored sugars to the rim of your favorite cocktails and Mexican beers.
- A must for the martini lovers, these allow you to spear the olives so the martini drinker can easily grab them out of their glass to eat while drinking their martini.
- For opening wines. Available in many different styles, below is a breakdown of some of the most popular types.
- Waiter’s Corkscrew – Popular among the waiters because it folds up easily and can be carried in a pocket. It however is a little harder to use than some of the other types below
- Winged Corkscrew – The typical corkscrew seen in many home stores. You simply put the corkscrew on the top of the bottle and twist the corkscrew around and around into the cork. As you twist it around the arms “wings” on the side of the corkscrew raise up and then you squeeze the arms down to pull out the cork
- Pressurized corkscrews – Many such as the corkpop corkscrew work by injecting pressurized air into the bottle causing the cork to pop out and into the cork holder built into the corkscrew. By far the most showy way to open a bottle, it is almost like opening champagne — without the mess. However this type of corkscrew sometimes has trouble opening synthetic corks because the it uses a large needle to deliver the pressured gas into the bottle instead of a standard corkscrew “worm” like other openers so we advised you to have a backup corkscrew just in case.
- Lever action and “Rabbit” type corkscrews – These types of corkscrews use force to open a bottle. They are by far the quickest way to open a bottle, simply push the lever down into the cork and pull it out to extract it from the bottle. (The lever action type is my personal favorite). The only drawback to this is some people who have lesser arm strength may find it hard to open a bottle with this method. In this case we recommend getting a table mounted or stand mounted version so they do not have to hold both the bottle and the lever at once.
Miscellaneous Odds and Ends
- Drink straws, fruits (lemon, lime, and oranges), cherries, olives, etc. Can all add a festive flair to your drinks.
- Every bar should have a good selection of glassware for various cocktails, in our upcoming part 2 of this series we will discuss this in detail.
Top 5 Must Have Starter Bar Items
- Cocktail Shaker – Preferably one with a built-in strainer for simplicity. Most all have one these days, but it’s normally listed in the product page description if it does, so it’s easy to check.
- Corkscrew – How embarrassing is it if your guests show up and you can’t even open their wine? We recommend the Corkpop opener for the “wow” factor or a lever action / rabbit type corkscrew for consistent smooth opening everytime.
- Bottle Opener – If you’re over 23 the days of cheap canned beer are long over cowboy, upgrade to a more sophisticated beer and get yourself a bottle opener so your guests and open their import beers as well.
- Blender – This is a tough one, not everyone will use a fancy new blender much, but if your wife likes the frozen drinks we say a nice blender with real ice crushing power is a must have, especially during summer.
- Glassware – Make sure you have at least three basic types of glasses – red wine, white wine, and a rocks or also called double-old fashioned glasses for cocktails. Once you expand your tastes you’ll want to add margarita and martini glasses as well.