Cocktail Masterclass: The Cocktail Kit

So you’d like to start making cocktails? Fantastic, welcome aboard, it’s a fun experience, a great skill to bring out at parties and to be perfectly honest, pretty damn simple. Before we even get to recipes though, I think you should know a bit more about just what you’re going to be making your drinks with. If you want to look like Tom Cruise in the enthralling film ‘Cocktail’, well… to be quite frank, you won’t want to. His technique is relatively basic and, personally, makes me cringe a little.

Let’s start off with the basic kit:

First off there are two main different kinds of shaking kit that you would typically use to chill the drink. The one you see being used by a distressingly large number of bartenders in films is the ‘Manhattan’ shaker, comprised of an aluminium tin and a metal cap with a built-in strainer, usually one that screws on. These are typically not preferred by most bartenders as they have the tendency to break and not be anywhere near as reliable in the long-term.

The most commonly used shaker set is the Boston shaker, comprised of the same metal tin as before but with a mixing glass instead of a cap. The glass has usually been heat-treated to ensure that during shaking the ice does not chip away at the glass.

In addition to the shaker set, you’re going to need a strainer. This takes the form of a flat piece of metal that has been modified so the concoction you’ve just shaken can be poured out without the large ice cubes coming out with them. In order to aid the hand positioning, a coil has been worked around the rim of the strainer too.

The strainer is for just about any drink that should be served in a martini glass (except those where you need excessive amounts of froth) it would also be preferable to use a tea strainer as a ‘double’ strainer. This ensures the shards of ice that were broken off during shaking do not enter the drink, otherwise ruining its aesthetic. Naturally it’s not needed for drinks that go in long glasses or tumblers.

Measuring jiggers/equipment is needed for self-evident reasons, but another item of kit that’s also needed (mainly when dealing with fruit) is a muddler. Essentially it mashes whatever you have in the bottom of the mixing glass, bringing out the flavour.

Also, a bar spoon can come in handy with measuring sugar and layering drinks (a topic I shall cover in the near future). Additionally, it is generally given that one bar-spoon of liquid is more or less 15 ml.

That pretty much covers the basic mixology/cocktail kit you would need to be able to make cocktails to a decent degree, honestly anything additional is superfluous. The only bar equipment you’d need if you were getting serious about it is a free pourer, which essentially aides pouring drinks quicker and reduces spillages.

If you’re looking at acquiring all of these items and thinking at what cost this will come at then fear not; you’ll find that most of these items are usually sold as a bundle pack, typically from between £15-£30, or on Ebay where they can be found for far less.

Be sure to look around when considering to purchase, for you can usually get a pack that has all this and potentially include parts that I haven’t included here.  I can’t emphasise enough however, that when used properly, the basic kit proposed will last you long into your  future and as such is a very good investment.

So there you have it, the basic kit for making your favourite drinks. Next time I’ll discuss the essential mixing, shaking and pouring technique used with varying cocktails.

Alex Knight


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