by MARSHALL BONE
If you are always thinking about hosting the next big dinner party with plenty of fun drinks, you probably already have some barware basics in your home. But if you want to truly transform your drink experience to become a host extraordinaire, it’s time to consider some barware essentials that will elevate your drink mixing technique and churn out better cocktails than you’ve ever made before.
Wondering what’s at the top of the must-have list? Check out this selection of seven essential barware you need at home.
1. Bottle Chiller
Perfect for a romantic date night at home, a bottle chiller is definitely a must-have for holding champagne for two. It’s also a great choice for small gatherings when a charcuterie board needs a bottle of white as a complement to all that brie and gruyere. Keep your wine chilled to the right temperature in a metal container that keeps everything cold for longer.
Bottle chillers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you might find some that can hold more than one bottle of wine — and maybe even a couple of beers! Explore a few versatile options that cater to the types of events you host.
2. Ice Bucket
So this isn’t the BBQ party ice bucket or cooler that holds unplumbed depths of sodas, beers, and other canned beverages. Instead, this type of ice bucket is designed to keep your ice cold away from the freezer so you can mix up cocktails without running back and forth from the bar to the kitchen. A quality ice bucket will be made of double-walled metal to better insulate the ice from room temperature.
A good starter-size bucket should measure about 7” x 7” to ensure it can hold an adequate amount of ice for a small gathering. You can explore larger sizes — just make sure they still fit on your bar top so you can easily scoop ice while mixing cocktails.
3. Ice Scooper
This should be an obvious essential because what else will you use to get the ice out of the bucket? While some buckets come with ice scoopers, luxury barware is usually sold separately, so you can customize each piece of your collection.
If you’re wondering which materials are best for ice scoopers, consider stainless steel for an affordable workhorse piece that will last for decades with proper care.
As an alternative to the ice scooper, you can always shop stainless steel tongs for cocktails that require a single large ice cube. If you’re making martinis and iced cocktails, stick with the scooper, but highballs and straight whiskey just need a single cube instead of a large scoop. Tongs are the tool that makes placing the right amount of ice in a glass simple and easy.
4. Cocktail Shaker
Have you been using a mason jar or stacking two water glasses together to make a cocktail shaker? Well, struggle with makeshift tools no more! It’s time to elevate your cocktail experience with a piece designed specifically for making the best cocktails you’ve ever tasted.
A quality cocktail shaker is about more than just an appropriate container for shaking drinks. Everything from its volume to its shape is designed to make holding, shaking, and pouring easier. Shop cocktail shakers that can hold enough liquid for one or two cocktails, as well as a style that’s easy for you to grip. Stainless steel is a go-to material for the body, but many brands get creative with the lid, using glass or wood.
5. Bar Tool Set
Muddle, strain, stir, and pour. Of course, you can do it all with a spoon, but having an actual bar tool set will elevate your cocktails to the next level. You’ll effortlessly release more aroma and body into each drink from herbs and garnishes without having to MacGuyver your way to amazing flavor.
Most bar tool sets have four pieces and a holder. Look for a set with a bottle opener, jigger, stirring spoon, and strainer. All these pieces are designed to match your cocktail shaker, so you have the appropriate length and size items for a complete kit.
6. Garnish Ramekins
Speaking of garnishes and herbs for your cocktails, where are you going to put them all? Many people overlook this piece of essential barware because they never consider the powerful effect mint has on a mojito or how an orange peel enhances an Old Fashioned. When you’re hosting, you probably have two or three go-to cocktails. Keep your fresh fruit, herbs, and other garnishes in purpose-made ramekins for simple setup and access.
Some of the best garnish ramekins are actually interlocking sets, so all your bowls stay together in one place within easy reach. The most popular pieces have three or four bowls, so you can stock olives, cherries, and citrus fruits to cover all your bases.
With drinks made and people imbibing, you’d think your job is done. But there’s still one more piece to the essential barware set! Unless people plan on standing and holding their drinks all party long, they’re going to need to put them on a coaster.
Don’t let your coffee table, side tables, and countertops accumulate unsightly rings from the condensation on the glasses! Keep your space spotless throughout your next party with a couple of coaster sets to accommodate your guests.
The most important thing about buying barware is to shop for items that are FDA-approved for food safety. These pieces are made with higher-quality materials and have special coatings to help ensure they stay clean. You should also shop for pieces that fulfill your specific needs. If you’re strictly a wine drinker, then you probably won’t need the bar tools or ice scooper. However, a shaker and strainer are must-haves if you’re an amateur mixologist.
So, what is the most essential barware on your list? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.
Marshall Bone is a writer, copy strategist and all-around stylish guy who has been following trends in GQ for more than two decades. Voted best-dressed both his junior and senior year, Bone has continued this legacy and can be found covering various topics from men’s fashion to self care and grooming. He enjoys reading and is based in the greater Los Angeles area.