My list of must-have bar tools

must-have bar toolsCocktails are a big part of at home entertaining. Before you can aspire to become a mixologist, you need to start with the tools of the trade.

I bought my first barware essentials while I was attending University. My husband is the official bartender in our friend groups. Often, he must bring his gears because many people are poorly equipped for making cocktails at home. To help you set up your bar, I compiled the must-have bar tools.


I prefer the 3-piece shaker to the Boston shaker (half stainless steel, half glass). The 3-piece shaker is definitely more stylish. I do have both styles at home. Since I suggest that you own two shakers for efficiency reason, you can one of each if you are not sure which one you prefer.

A strainer is usually integrated on the cup of the 3-piece strainer. So if you afford one good item, this is the bar tool to get first.

Like everything in life, better quality shakers perform best. Try to get a double insulated shaker; it is cleaner to operate because it does not produce condensation.


The advantage of the 3-piece shaker is that you get one measuring cup. I suggest you also get the modern double jigger as you need more than one measuring cup. The double jigger is quite practical because both measures (1 ounce and 2 ounces) are in your hands.

Strainer, bar spoon, bar knife and ice tongs

These are the basic tools with the jigger that is cheaper to buy in set. The stand is useless in my opinion as you can store the cocktail tools in the Boston shaker, the ice bucket or a stainless steel bowl for condiments.

I am showing you the Janssen Bar Set on sale right now at Crate and Barrel for $39.99 (reg. $59.99). It even has a basic ice bucket. This is a utilitarian cocktail hour kit.

Ice bucket

You cannot make cocktails without ice cubes. You will also need a sink or a waterproof bowl nearby to throw away the ice cubes. That is a basic technique of making martinis.

I prefer ice bucket with a cover. Again, I recommend a double insulated ice bucket to avoid condensation leak.

Fruit tools: Lemon squeezer / reamer, a juicer and a zester

Pure juices and real fruits make the best drinks. If you do not own a zester, a bar knife will do the job if you are skillful.

Fruit Muddler / Caipirinha Pestle

Muddler is required to prepare modern martinis, mojitos and caipirinhas. Check out my blog later because I will post the recipe of the best raspberry martini in the universe. You need a muddler to do it.

I bought the Fruit Muddler / Caipirinha Pestle from Rosle at and I like it a lot. Rosle produces quality kitchen utensils. I prefer to buy better quality kitchen tools. It is money well spent because they will perform well for a very long time.

Tea strainer

Since you use pure juices and real fruits, you cannot make the best looking cocktail drinks without a tea strainer. That is an essential tool for the chic hostess.

If you get these bar tools you can prepare many drinks that will impress your guests.

Buy online: Janssen Bar Set at Crate and Barrel
Buy online: Rosle Cocktail tools at

  • Jenn
    July 26, 2007 at 12:44

    wow your husband’s pretty hardcore when it comes to mixing drinks!

    i used to bartend back in the days and i just helped out at a friends jack and jill by bartending for them but i’ve never purchased the tools for myself. i was at the LCBO the other night and i really wanted to pick up some liqs. for mixing some good cocktails. now you’ve pushed me into wanting the tools as well! hehehe… my husband is not going to be happy. =P


  • Dave :)
    July 26, 2007 at 13:41

    Good article! For jiggers I like to use two sizes; one that is 1oz & 2oz but also one that is a 1/2 and 3/4 ounce. With this combo I find that all guesswork is elimnated. For muddlers there was an ad last month in Imbibe Magazine to send $3 to get a wooden mudder in the mail which I recommend. The offer was also online here and the company really doesn’t care if you subscribe to imbibe magazine or not.

  • Sarah Dennis
    July 26, 2007 at 15:21

    Hey Kim, we’re on the same page today. I just did a post on “Butler’s Trays”. Don’t you agree that they make great drinking trays! Set up a cocktail station on a butler’s tray and it telegraps old-fashioned graciousness, let’s you entertain at a moment’s notice and gives early dinner guests an easy way to break the ice.

    Check it out:

  • At Home with kim vallee
    July 26, 2007 at 17:31

    Jenn, my husband takes it seriously. I just published the recipe of his masterpiece so far, the surubaotini.

    Dave, you are right about the 1/2 and 3/4 ounce. They make glass measuring cups so you only need one. Thanks for the tip on an inexpensive way to get a muddler.

    Another source: at, you get a similar wooden bar Cocktail Muddler for $3.95 USD ($4.27 CAD) plus shipping, it was featured in Bon Appetit magazine

    Sarah, it is true that you can create a beautiful bar station on a butler’s tray. They are practical indoors and outdoors. For small spaces, they are a space saver.

  • kurt
    November 16, 2007 at 21:14

    You suggested getting a 3 piece shaker as the first/cheapest. Don’t. The tops are a pain to remove and you will eventually pop a martini all over yourself.

    Find a bar/kitchen supply store and buy a boston shaker, julep strainer, mudler.. and everything else for FAR cheaper than you’d get at a normal retail store and you will be far happier. If their unbranded equipment is good enough for the local bartenders, it should work for you.

  • Entertaining Ideas for My Thursday’s Quick Links 2009.02.26 | At Home with Kim Vallee
    July 31, 2009 at 09:45

    […] Simple. I will write a more detailed guide on that subject next week. In the meantime, check my must-have bar tools to make sure you have everything on […]