Tooling around with cocktail prep | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Tooling around with cocktail prep 

What you do and don't need in your personal bar cart


As a bartender, I'm frequently asked about the various tools I use. Most often, people want to know what specific items they need at home in order to make decent drinks for themselves and friends. There are too many drink-making goodies to discuss in one go, but to start, I’ve listed three commonly-used bar tools below.

Mixing Glass

What is it? Pretty much just a glass you make stirred drinks in. There are ornate, high-end ones made of heavy glass or crystal, and simple ones that are essentially a pint glass.

Do I Need It? If you're going to make a lot of Manhattans, Negronis, Old-Fashioneds, etc., get one. The heavier, straight-sided ones are a bit more stable, and usually feature a spout, which makes pouring easier.

Basic or Fancy? Depends. If you want to feel like a sexy mixologist, grab a nice one. Otherwise, use that pint glass you stole from the local brewery.


What is it? Depending on the style, it's a two- or three-piece set of metal tins used for mixing shaken drinks. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Do I need it? Yes ... unless you're completely sure you'll never make a drink that contains dairy, eggs, juices, or heavy syrups. But that doesn't sound like much fun.

Basic or Fancy? Basic. Shakers are one of the workhorses of the bar, so they need to be well-made and easy to use. Again, like lots of barware, there are pricier options available, but you should look for a solid, utility model. Whatever type you choose, it should feel comfortable in your hands and allow you to shake vigorously without feeling like it will slip or come apart.

Hawthorne Strainer

What is it? A perforated metal disk with a spring attached that fits on the top of your shaker or mixing glass (depending on the design). When pouring your cocktail, it keeps ice, fruit, and other debris from sliding into the glass.

Do I need it? Maybe. If your shaker has a built-in strainer, then no. Otherwise, yes. Also, you'll need it for your mixing glass, unless you like to use a julep strainer (that's a discussion for another time).

Basic or Fancy? Fancy. You don't need a deluxe model, but you definitely don't want the ones you see being used in 90 percent of bars and restaurants. Cheap Hawthorne strainers have weak springs, use thin metal, and are generally flimsy as hell. The good ones fit snugly into your glass or tin and can take repeated use without getting rickety.

Follow featured contributing writer Craig Mrusek on Twitter @DoctorBamboo




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