So you’ve decided to get serious about making cocktails at home. Whether you have a few existing tools – shaker, jigger, etc. – or are starting out from scratch, making sure you have the right equipment that is of high quality can make a big difference in the quality of your results and your enjoyment in creating them. I haven’t exhaustively tested every product on the market myself, but when you look at the major vendors and recommendations that are out there, it turns out there are only a few most recommended items, and I’ve owned most of them. So here is my recommendation for what to get and where, with a few different options to cover different price points and tastes.
Most people making drinks at home use what’s called a “Cobbler shaker”, which was a supposed improvement on the “Boston shaker”.
The Cobbler is typically a 3 piece item that fits together snugly with a main body for booze and ice, a top with an integrated strainer to filter out larger pieces of ice when you pour, and a small top to seal it all up. The advantage is it’s convenient and relatively easy to use, and you have an integrated strainer.
However I personally find the older Boston shaker – a set of 2 metal tins (or 1 tin and a pint glass), along with a metal strainer – to be more reliable and give a better seal (i.e. fewer leaks when shaking, especially with egg white cocktails). You can start with a Cobbler if you think that’s easier, or jump straight to Boston, but I’d recommend the latter if you’re wanting to make the best drinks you can at home and ready to spend a few minutes learning a new (simple) tool.
Here’s a solid Cobbler-style shaker which is also insulated and affordable:
https://amzn.to/3eIZTDANote however that although it includes an integrated jigger in the lid, it is not very accurate and I wouldn’t recommend relying on it.
If you want to jump straight to a Boston shaker set, I recommend Koriko, Pina Barware, or Barfly.You can get Koriko from Bitters & Bottles, two items bought together:
https://www.bittersandbottles.com/collections/bar-tools/products/koriko-small-weighted-shaking-tinhttps://www.bittersandbottles.com/collections/bar-tools/products/koriko-large-weighted-shaking-tin These are my personal favorites.
The Pina set is here:https://www.pinabarware.com/collections/all-pina-tools/products/stainless-steel-commercial-bar-boston-shaker-tin-set-28oz-amp-18oz-8tcn5 I also have a set of these, a little heavier than the Koriko, which I find unnecessary, but they’re well built.
And the Barfly set:
https://amzn.to/3cmHQS7These I haven’t tried.
If you get a Boston shaker set you’ll need a “Hawthorne strainer” which you use to keep most of the larger chunks of ice out when you strain your drink into a glass. You don’t need one of these with the Cobbler shaker. Depending on where you buy/what you buy, one of these:Cheap, effective, on Amazon (I have one of these): https://amzn.to/2XoIaM4Similar at Pina, this nicely includes two spring densities: https://www.pinabarware.com/collections/all-pina-tools/products/the-hawthornette-commercial-hawthorne-strainer-with-two-coilsA little more money and should be high quality, it’s from Koriko too: https://www.bittersandbottles.com/collections/bar-tools-measure-stir-strain/products/koriko-hawthorne-strainer-stainless-steel
Finally, you’ll need a jigger or measuring device. There are two main styles and I switch back and forth, no super strong preference really. But you want to make sure no matter which one you get that you at least have 1/4 oz, 1/2 oz, and 1 and 2 oz measurements, and ideally a 3/4 oz measure too.
There are sort of cooking-style mini measuring cups, which are all in one:https://amzn.to/36VRdqT
And then there are the actual Japanese-style “jiggers”:
My favorite: https://www.pinabarware.com/collections/all-pina-tools/products/brushed-slim-jigger-2oz-1oz
Haven’t tried this, but looks nice, and I think it has 3/4 oz, Cocktail Kingdom stuff is usually good: https://www.bittersandbottles.com/collections/bar-tools-measure-stir-strain/products/leopold-jigger-stainless-steel-1oz-x-2ozWith these you measure one set of volumes on one side (1/4 to 1 oz) and the larger volumes by flipping it over, so you do get a little dripping if you use both sides, which some people find annoying.
So basically to get a set you’ll probably pick one vendor, Bitters and Bottles (local, delivers), Amazon, or Pina, and buy all of your tools there. For spirit-forward cocktails you’ll use a glass and spoon to mix, but I’m not going to say you need to buy one unless you really want to. They’re not as much of a must as a cocktail shaker since a regular spoon (or better yet iced tea spoon with the long handle) and a pint glass or similar large glass can do in a pinch. Whereas a cocktail shaker is all but indispensable.
If you do want a mixing glass and spoon, Pina or Bitters and Bottles have good ones at relatively decent prices. I haven’t used the Pina one but it looks nice for the price and if you go there for the rest, you might as well include it if you want one. Though I do have their mixing spoon and don’t love it (it’s not bad, I just find the customization feature a gimmick and it makes it slightly less nice feeling in the hand). The Cocktail Kingdom one at B&B is slightly cheaper and I also have and prefer that one: https://www.bittersandbottles.com/products/ck-teardrop-barspoon-stainless-steel?_pos=2&_sid=642630e78&_ss=r
The quality, size, and shape of your ice might be something you’ve never considered before. But if you want the best cocktail results at home you really should. Fortunately it doesn’t have to be fussy or expensive, despite what many products on the market claim (I’m looking at you ice sphere presses).
Special Ice? Why?
Clear ice. Melting rate. Better egg white texture.
The one I use most makes 10 x 2″ cubes in less than 24hrs and, aside from being a little fiddly to avoid spilling, is pretty foolproof. It’s not the fanciest looking option out there, but it makes the highest volume with pretty consistently clear results, and is affordable.
Aside from serving drinks over, these size of cubes are actually perfect for getting the right texture with egg white drinks, which we may cover at some point (let me know if you’re especially curious). Even if we don’t end up doing one, the basic idea is just to use a single one of these 2″ cubes to shake with, rather than regular fridge ice, and it improves the end result texture remarkably in my experience. Which is one reason it’s good to be able to make a lot of them quickly. You can just make them and store them in a zip-loc (although I imagine freezer space might be at a premium for you).