Bex's Starter Tool Kit.
Well, let's start from the very beginning.
"What's should I get as a 'starter kit' for myself and/or someone wanting to get into craft cocktails?" This is a question that I've been asked many times before by friends or people curious about making drinks at home.
Ah, one question to rule them all. Though it seem pretty simple and straightforward, there's a dash more thought to it. When you're building your own bar, think about taking it a little bit at a time. Be patient. Don't jump the gun and try to do it all at once. All at once is a lot of money. And then you have dusty gadgets and old booze feeling neglected and planning your murder. No one wants to go out that way.
It is a larger task , for sure. And when browsing through bartending equipment online or in stores, there seems to be a lot of options and doohickeys that...are necessary? Yeah, I feel ya. Some are ones that are essential, and some aren't absolutely needed, but nice. So, shall we get our base established? Why sure. This post we're just going to focus on what you need. And let me start by saying, a little bit goes a long way.
DOWN TO THE DROP.
First and foremost, you gotta be measuring out your pours. For this, a jigger is going to be your best friend. It can be the slightest variations that can change the entire outcome of a cocktail.
This style jigger is my personal favorite, and great for beginners as well, because you can really get precise. More commonly you'll see jiggers with 2 sides. Measurements of them can vary, but generally they break down to 1.5-2 oz pour on one side and a 0.5-1 oz pour on the other. (Google jigger if I've lost you.)
SHAKE IT, BABY.
Shakers come in all different shapes and sizes now a day. But why they're necessary is because you need something that'll mix and chill your ingredients quickly and efficiently.
My favorite is a Boston Shaker (a version of that is seen here), that consists of two stainless steel tins or a pint glass and a stainless steel tin. But I'll let you be decide on what what you consider to be the trendiest style that fits your persona.
KEEP WHAT YOU WANT.
A Hawthorne Strainer is needed for straining all that you've mixed up in your shaker or mixing glass into it's final destination.
A sister strainer, that's for when instructions ask for "double straining" is a Fine Mesh Strainer. This one is used in addition to a Hawthorne strainer, to get what it can't (like those bits of fine fruit fragments, ice, or other things along that line).
RELEASE THE FLAVOR.
If anything, this is just a hell of a lot of fun. A muddler is a very handy tool used for muddling (or mashing) different fruits and herbs in your shaker or mixing glass to release their flavor. (And if you don't have a hand juicer, this is a good substitute.)
And, yet again, muddlers also have many styles. The important thing to look out for when you're browsing, is the different types of heads. They can range between, flat, grinder, to masher (aka: smooth to more spiky). Typically in a bar setting, you'll want one more on a flat/grinder side--a masher can be a little too intense...
STIRRING UP EMOTIONS.
A bar spoon is a long stem spoon that's another tool used for mixing drinks, in the stirring form. Typically cocktails that call for stirring instead of shaking are ones that are mainly spirit based with little to no mixers involved. (So think of cocktails that don't have a lot of ingredients consisting of fruits, creams, etc.) For example, an Old Fashioned.
It might not look that necessary, but I'd argue that every bar should have one (and then you'll see that it can be a helpful tool outside of just stirring). Mastering technique is a little trickier than it looks, but once it's down it's quite a rewarding experience.
ICE, ICE BABY.
I don't think I can stress enough how important ice is for making cocktails. You might have some plastic ice trays in your freezer and think you're all good to go (which is 'doable and passible'), but I'd recommend getting a silicone ice tray designed for great drinking. (Especially the one here.) Having sturdy ice cubes makes your mixing and your final concoction all the better. Trust me.
AND...NOW HOW DO I DO IT?
If you're serious about learning about making cocktails, then I'd high recommend getting a book on building your skill set. This one here is great one, that teachings you everything from proper ice, shaking and stirring techniques, homemade infusions, and more. Fuel your brain. Oh, and it's fun.
Another highly recommended books in this category: The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique