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Cocktails 101 Getting Started

You don't need fancy equipment to start mixing drinks. This photo shows the beginner some common kitchen utensils they can repurpose for making cocktails. (© collage/123RF photo)

Beginners can repurpose everyday kitchen items for making cocktails.

To start making cocktails, there’s no need fancy or elaborate equipment. You probably already have the basic tools. Here’s how to take everyday kitchen items and repurpose them for mixing drinks. 

To start making cocktails, you’ll need some sort of the following tools; shaker, strainer, jigger, juicer, paring knife, cutting board, ice, and glasses to drink from. (All of which are explained in detail in the Bartending Tools section.)

A good first shaker would be a small stainless steel cobbler. You can get the big Boston shaker later, when you’re ready for parties. In the mean time, a small cobbler is great for trying out recipes. You can use the bottom portion as the mixing glass and it has a built in strainer.

If you’re on a really tight budget, pass on the shaker. You could use a plastic sports bottle with a wide mouth, or a thermos with a stainless steel interior for the job. Just be sure it can stand up to the ice smashing around while you give it a vigorous shake.

If you don’t have a proper jigger, use a small glass measure that you can find at any kitchen store. The better ones have lines for ounces, millilitres, teaspoons and tablespoons. You can also try using measuring spoons. They’re a little small for the job, with a tablespoon being 1/2 an ounce and teaspoon 1/6 an ounce, but they do give accurate measurements.

Measuring spoons are also useful for trying out mini versions of recipes. If the ingredients are given in proportions, like they are on CocktailBuff.com, it’s easy to try out a half size cocktail. That way you can experiment and have fun with lots of different recipes, without getting inebriated in the process.

The juicer can be an inexpensive plastic or glass reamer with a cup underneath. If you’re making cocktails for two, that’s all you need. Later on you can upgrade to an electric, or lever type citrus juicer for entertaining small crowds.

For glassware, start with a Collins glass and a small martini glass, because you can always add on to the set later. As for the rest of the tools, like the paring knife, cutting board, stirring spoon and ice cube trays, you probably already have them at home.

Everything listed above can be found at your local kitchen supply store, or favorite online retailer. Most specialty retailers selling cookware will also have them. The entire kit, with shaker, jigger, reamer, paring knife, cutting board, ice cube trays and glassware will cost less than $75.

If you’re looking for professional tools, there are suggestions for each piece of gear in the Bartending Tools section. If you’re already happy with your tool set and ready for home entertaining, cocktail parties, or setting up the man cave, head to the Bartending Tools & Equipment section for suggestions on what to get.


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