Clear your diaries folks, unplug the phones and cancel all your plans because World Cocktail day is upon us. It might be unlucky for some, but Friday 13th May is a cause for celebration in the Neat and Shaken office. Whether you like a classic drink, something blended or prefer it on the rocks, this day is for you. Mocktail, virgin, or the real thing, celebrate the glory that is cocktails by raising a glass and saying cheers on this auspicious day.
Contrary to popular belief, great cocktails don’t have to be made in a bar. Cocktails at home have been on the rise since lockdown (hands up if you developed a taste for mixing and shaking like Don Draper in 2020). And we are not going to let our Friday night tradition slide now that we can mingle with the masses at All Bar One.
Along with how to make a great pasta sauce and how to sew on a button throwing a great cocktail party should be on the list of life’s essentials. Apart from the obvious - and here we mean excellent spirits - beautifully crafted cocktails only need a little TLC and a bit of basic equipment. Yes, cocktail recipes can be a bit fussy, yes, you need a bit of trial and error but oh my goodness, an easy cocktail stirred together after a long week can go a long way to making you feel a lot more civilised.
Bartending has come a long way since the days of pirates and sailors; the level of precision and skill involved has increased dramatically, not to mention the taste. But if you don’t have a few basic bits on your bar cart, you’re not going to get the ooh la la factor that cocktails demand.
Thankfully, your friends at Neat and Shaken have put together a list of essential bar tools your home bar needs so that you strike that Gatsby chord time after time.
Bar Spoon: This long-handled metal spoon can be used for both layering and mixing cocktails at home. Its length allows you to mix directly in the glass. A bar spoon holds about 5 ml of liquid, so it’s great for adding little extras.
Boston Shaker: This is the pros’ choice. It consists of a shaking tin and glass but doesn’t have a built-in strainer. It is bigger than a Cobbler shaker, which means it can make two cocktails at once and create cocktails which require air (like those which have egg white foam for example).
Cobbler Shaker: A Cobbler Shaker is what most people would consider a cocktail shaker. It’s a multi-tasker of three parts: a metal shaker tin, cap, and built-in strainer. The cap is 1 oz, which means you don’t need a jigger.
Cocktail Book: Any bartender worth their salt will have a well-thumbed cocktail book. Even if you know full well the difference between a Negroni and an Old-Fashioned, chances are you’ll need to brush up on your knowledge from time to time. Keep at least one on your boozy bookshelf at all times.
Collins Glass: Named after Tom Collins, this is what you would serve most long drinks in. It is tall and thin and has straight edges and is not to be confused with a highball glass, which tapers slightly inward. The perfect Collins glass holds around 12 oz (about 350 ml), which is more than enough for a cocktail plus a generous serving of ice.
Coupe Glass: Rumour has it that the coupe glass was designed in homage to Marie Antoinette’s bosom. Whether that’s true or not we don’t know, but this very stylish glass deserves to grace your drinks cabinet. And, despite those stylish cocktail parties of the 20s, these are actually not the best glasses for Champagne - the wide rim lets the bubbles out too fast.
Hawthorn Strainer: Named after The Hawthorne bar in Boston, this type of strainer has a coil attached to a flat disc. The spring traps the ice and other solid ingredients, such as muddled fruit or fresh herb leaves, making sure that the only thing to reach your glass is the lovely boozy juice inside.
Ice Cubes: Need we say more? Essential for cooling the drink as its being made, as well as for serving.
Japanese Style Jigger: This is by far the jigger of choice for amateur and professional bartenders everywhere. It is made from two conical shapes, one which holds one ounce (about 30 ml) and one which holds two ounces (60 ml). The straightforward Japanese-style jigger is a combination of aesthetically pleasing design, durability, and affordability, which is everything any novice home bartender could ask for.
Julep Strainer: This type of strainer fits better into the glass (vs. the Hawthorne strainer which fits better into the shaker). Traditionally, you would use a julep strainer when mixing in a mixing glass, and the Hawthorne when straining from a shaker. If that sounds like too much hassle for you, pick your favourite and just use that one.
Martini Glasses: No matter how you like your Martini, the only way to serve is in a Martini glass. Traditionally this is the V-shaped long-stemmed glass that James Bond favours (olive optional), but designers are coming up with more and more variations on the theme. Choose your favourite, shake, don’t stir, and serve.
Mixing Glass: Does what it says on the box. A good mixing glass should have a stable base, a narrow spout, and a wide mouth that makes stirring and pouring cocktails easier.
Nick and Nora Glass: Along with the Martini glass and the coupe, a Nick and Nora is a bar essential. A hybrid of the first two, this is a long-stemmed glass with a smaller circumference and higher, rounded sides. It is steadier and less prone to being knocked over for when you get a bit clumsy.
One final word. While having all the gear is great, it’s pointless if you have no idea. Great cocktails are hard to get right the first time. Take a basic bartending course (go with your squad, it’ll be a bonding moment), or just gen up on a few basics from online videos. Yes, we know shaking a cocktail shaker looks easy, but there is actually a knack to it if you want the drink to actually taste somewhere half decent. Take it from someone who knows. And above all, enjoy. Making cocktails at home is one of life’s greatest simple pleasures. Get creative, get crafty and get cocktailing.