Essential tools for the traditional home bar

Published on

There is a lot of garbage out there which tells you what you need to start your home bar. This article will add to that garbage pile.

Also, by “traditional” I mean pre-prohibition era. So, no vodka and no tequila.


You need everything in this list.

  • This bar spoon. It doubles as a spoon and muddler.
  • This jigger.
  • Boston Shaker. It’s just a pint glass and a tin. You can buy one or make one yourself.
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • Gin. If you don’t like gin, it’s probably because you took shots of it in high school or college. Learn to appreciate it. Get Beefeater.
  • Rye whiskey. Before bourbon there was rye. Get Old Overholt
  • Rum. Because rum was mass produced in Colonial New England, it is the main ingredient in many old time cocktails (punches, actually). Get “gold rum”. That is, unflavored, unspiced, barrel-aged rum.
  • Angostura bitters.
  • Vermouth, dry and sweet.
    • Dry. This doesn’t appear in many cocktails and a lot of folks don’t like it. Get the smallest bottle you can find.
    • Sweet. Alone it can be a drink. Get a regular sized bottle
  • This ice cube tray. The most important ingredient in a cocktail is the ice. You need large cubes to keep the drink cooler for longer without quickly diluting the drink
  • Demerara sugar.
  • Lemons, limes and oranges. Don’t use powdered sour mix. Ever.
  • A peeler. You want the citrus peel, not the pith, which is bitter. The easiest way to do this is with a peeler.
  • Old fashioned glasses. Also known as low ball glasses and whiskey glasses.

Friendly advice

  • Only shake when mixing with citrus juice. Stir the cocktail otherwise.
  • Aim for a volume of 3 ounces. This will provide enough to really taste the drink without getting you cocked.
  • If the drink is too strong, then dilute it with water. For example, do not pour more sweet vermouth into a strong Manhattan, it will actually make it stronger and throw off the taste.
  • Make simple syrup as you need it. This stuff will grow mold if you make it ahead of time and don’t use it within a week. Simple syrup is simple to make. Make it to order.
  • Store vermouth in the refrigerator and use it within 3 months. An open bottle of wine has a shelf life, and although vermouth is a fortified wine, it is foremost still a wine.
  • Serve all of your cocktails in old fashioned glasses. Cocktail glasses, also known as martini glasses are awkward to hold and easy to spill.


Edited excerpt and copy