The 10 Best Bartender Kits
Style You Can Use: The Bartender Kit
A home bar serves as a focal point of many interiors. In a home with a dining room, the bar can set the tone for the rest of the dining space. In an apartment or a house with a larger, open floor plan, the bar can define a portion of the living area, serving both as a useful station for mixing drinks and as an aesthetically pleasing fixture to be admired by resident and visitor alike.
Having a few bottles of liquor and some mixers lined up is a fine first step toward stocking your home bar, but that sideboard or shelf is really nothing more than a storage spot for bottles until you have a superlative bartender kit perched there as well. Bartender kits are designed to be functional, but are often enough chosen more based on aesthetics than on mechanics. If you want a set of mixing tools adorning your home bar even though you don't foresee them being used often, you need only spend around fifteen dollars for a fine-looking kit. If you want to actually use your set to make great drinks, then consider more than mere looks.
Simply put, a bartender kit consists of the tools needed to conveniently prepare cocktails that involve more than one ingredient. At the most basic end of the equation, a bartender's set will include a cocktail shaker, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, and a usually a long-handled spoon. The shaker serves to rapidly mix and chill drinks and is the most important piece of equipment in the set.
Many cocktail shakers feature three pieces, a large reservoir that holds up to twenty ounces of fluid, an upper portion featuring a built-in strainer, and a top that covers the strainer during shaking and which can also be used to measure an ounce or two of liquid. If you are relatively new to mixing drinks, look for a kit with just such a shaker and consider choosing a set based around this component. All the rest of accessories, while often useful and enjoyable to use, are secondary. Look, though, for a muddler, a jigger for measuring one or two ounces, and a set of tongs.
While this might at first seem counterintuitive, in fact the more experienced a person is at mixing drinks, the more basic a bartender kit can be while still adequately meeting his or her mixology needs. That's so because the seasoned bartender has an innate sense of beverage measurements and proportions and can easily muddle, shake, stir, or pour a great drink with minimal hardware required. (You will usually see a skilled bartender pour a beverage out of a shaker using a slim gap between shaker and mixing glass, not using a strainer, for example.) While a relative amateur on the cocktail scene will benefit from a fuller range of tools and from clearly indicated measurement markers (if not an outright guide to making certain drinks), a seasoned barman or barmaid needs only a few simple implements to create dazzling drinks. Keep that notion in mind when considering a bartender kit as a gift or for your own possession, especially if you plan to master the art of mixology. The more experience you gain, the fewer tools you may use.
Finally, consider whether or not you may bring your bartender kit on the road, whether to help you serve drinks at an event or simply when you and your friends rent a ski lodge for a weekend. A bar tool set designed for travel that comes with its own organizational and protective case means an extra initial cost, but great convenience when you're away from home.
The Other Accessories Your Home Bar Needs
Your home bar is complete once you have a great bartender kit and a few fine bottles of liquor and mixers. But to make your home bar replete, add a few more accessories.
As most cocktails call for preparation using and/or serving over ice, it's a good idea to get an ice bucket that will complement your mixing tools. Some ice buckets are designed to chill bottles, others are purely for storing ice, while a few can do both. Make sure to select the type of ice vessel that meets your needs best.
If you often serve wine alongside those cocktails, then a good wine decanter can not only make the presentation more striking but can also help aerate red wines, enhancing their flavor. And for the true connoisseur of beverages, consider investing in a wine fridge. These functional and often elegant units can keep your prized bottles of wine preserved at just the right temperature and can even serve as the platform on which you set up your home bar.
Three Crucial Cocktails
Anyone who truly appreciates a great cocktail will appreciate a fine martini. To make the perfect traditional martini, start with a fine gin. Mix one part dry vermouth with six parts gin in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake things up for a minute and then strain the liquid into a glass (ideal a chilled martini glass). Garnish with an olive or a twist of lemon peel and enjoy the classic.
Arguably the first real cocktail is the drink known fittingly enough today as an Old Fashioned. To prepare an Old Fashioned, first add a few dashes of Angostura bitters to a glass with a sugar cube (or a small scoop of sugar if need be). Then add a spoonful of water and mix the sugar and bitters around until dissolved and mixed. Now pour in about two ounces of bourbon or rye and a few large ice cubes. Stir well, add a large slice of orange or lemon (or both), stir again, and serve.
The Cosmopolitan is a deceptively easy cocktail to make, and one that is enjoyed by people all over the globe, likely because of how deceptively strong it is. A basic preparation of a Cosmopolitan calls for four parts vodka, two parts cranberry juice, two parts triple sec, and a hearty dash of fresh lime juice. Mix all the liquids together in a shaker filled with plenty of ice, shake well, and serve neat and cold over a slice (or wedge) of lime. Ideally you will serve this tasty libation in a martini glass, though a wine glass serves if need be.