Do you get intimidated by the thought of making a cocktail? Mixed drinks or cocktails intimidated us for a long time. We left it up to the mixologists and bartenders at restaurants to make special drinks. But now we’re making cocktails like a pro. Having the correct accessories and ingredients on hand will help you feel like a pro too. There are a ton of items you can include in a home bar. However, I’m going to share 10 must-haves for making cocktails like a pro. These are essentials and will get you started. You will leave this post with a list and hopefully a lot of confidence.
Just like there are white wine and red wine glasses, there are margarita glasses and shooter glasses. Each glass has characteristics that aid in making/serving the perfect cocktail. The shape of a glass can alter the taste and the look of a drink. You can create gradients and other fun effects but only if using the correct glassware. So keep a variety of styles and shapes on hand to make the perfect cocktail. Check out this popular glassware: copper Moscow Mule mugs, Copper highball glasses, stemless wine glass.
2. Paper or Decorative straws
I truly feel like everything on this list is necessary – and straws are necessary. Here’s why. Paper straws can be found for very cheap and add decoration to your drink. But here’s the thing – they don’t have to be paper. If you’re eco-conscious, glass straws, bamboo straws or even stainless steel straws will work well too. Paper straws are one-time use so that’s why I also gave the other recommendations. Just look in the picture below and note how the striped straws add a decorative detail to a mixed drink. Pickup those Target Dollar Spot paper straws when you see them guys!
3. Cocktail napkins
If you’re not using coasters, paper napkins are great for preserving your furniture. Cocktails can be very messy especially when they have ice in them. That’s not a good thing for your beautiful furniture. Water stains are almost always unfixable so be mindful of leaving out coasters or giving a napkin to your guests. Did I mention they can be pretty too?! Have fun with your coasters and cocktail napkins designs…make them a conversation starter.
Tip #1: Buy these items gradually and work up to having all the items. Look for items like cocktail napkins and paper straws.
4. Garnish pick, decorative Food picks, or toothpicks
A toothpick is a simple way to pull your garnish together for your cocktail. If it’s truly edible, garnish like fruit or olives can easily be eaten if it’s on a decorative food pick. I love olives so if I have a Martini, I actually enjoy eating the olive at some point. Provide that option to your guests by using some kind of food pick, decorative or not, for fruit and other edible foods. The great thing is they can be used for snacks too.
5. Cocktail accessories (jig, cocktail shaker, bottle opener, etc.)
Just like cooking, making a cocktail can sometimes involve using a special tool. A jig, bottle opener, and cocktail shaker are essentials for a bar. A cocktail shaker mixes the ingredients perfectly, a jig gives you perfect measurements with minimal effort, and a bottle opener will save your hands some effort. A strainer can be useful as well. If you’re ready to get started with a simple set, look for a bar tool set like this one.
6. Fresh fruit (limes, pineapple, oranges, even cherries) or herbs (thyme, mint, etc)
Fresh fruit and herbs garnish a great tasting drink. Garnish can literally be “the cherry on top” that makes your family and friends say “WOW!” Small slices of lime, lemon, or fresh mint can add the perfect touch to a cocktail. I’ll bet you likely have some of these foods to use as garnish already. When you get into the routine of making cocktails often, you’ll be more mindful of keeping your favorites on hand.
7. Flavored salt or sugar
What’s a good margarita without salt or sugar (you pick) on the rim? Well, it’s not bad but it’s so much better when you can lick the rim of your glass. It just brings the flavors together. Not every great cocktail or drink needs salt or sugar however, if you’re building a bar then don’t skip this necessity. Check out these Sweet and Spicy Beer Shooters which might require a spicy salt too. Yep, from time to time, a spicy salt can come in handy too.
8. Staple Alcohol
Of course, no bar would be complete without staple alcohol. The five alcohol staples, I’d recommend you keep on hand would be vodka, rum, tequila, red wine, and white wine. The wine can be served by itself for those who don’t want a mixed drink. Personally, I love red wine no matter where I go – Cabernet to be exact. It’s my go-to favorite. That’s the thing – everyone is different. So having a variety of alcohol on hand to whip a guests favorite is very hospitable. Again, I only recommended the basics for making a cocktail, not everything you could ever have in your bar. When you want to explore with new cocktail recipes, you’ll have the right staple to experiment with.
Mixers are just that – non-alcoholic ingredients, made for mixing with cocktails. Mixers like grenadine and ginger beer add flavor to the drinks. Other mixers like fruit juices can also dilute the alcohol. Think lime juice, lemon juice, and pineapple juice. Another mixer staple is simple syrup which is just water and sugar but you can always buy a quality version too. With the proper mixers, you can create awesome cocktails like Moscow mules and Summer Sizzles.
Tip#2: Most cocktails can be mocktails.
The last thing you need to create cocktails like a pro is a willing spirit. You have to try and mess up a few times to get better. Making cocktails is just like cooking. You experiment with different recipes, try new flavors, and learn to make signature food. The same is true with drinks. In order to get it right, you have to experiment until you understand the art of the flavors you’re working with. Once you found the right combinations you’ll get better and better. Eventually, you’ll be able to whip up your own signature cocktail recipes, on the whim, no recipes needed. If you can cook food, you can make a great cocktail.
Let me know in the comments what other cocktail staples you can’t live without in your home bar…