Monday, 10 December 2012

Upgrade Your Bar

Making great drinks doesn't just take top-shelf booze—you need the right equipment, too. GQ's resident cocktail expert rounds up 10 tools every home bartender should have in their kitchen, from shakers to glasses.
Most proper drinks require stirring or shaking—sorry, we don't recognize Red Bull and vodka as a proper drink. It's all about mixing the flavors of the different ingredients properly and giving the drink the appropriate amount of coolness and dilution. (When it comes to cocktails, dilution is a good thing.) This Parisian-style shaker is both elegant and durable. Use both parts to shake drinks with citrus, like Margaritas, and use the bottom to stir spirit-only drinks, like Manhattans and Martinis, where you want the drink to be bright and clear.
Hawthorne Strainer
After shaking or stirring a drink, you want to make sure to remove all of the ice and/or fruit pulp. There are a variety of strainers out there, but the easiest one to use is the Hawthorne strainer—just make sure to get one with a tightly wound coil.

Some see the use of jiggers in bars as a a sign of stinginess. Do these people complain about bakers using measuring cups, too? Accuracy in cocktail making counts—at least if you want a good drink. There are more traditional measurers like this, but if you don't want to have a bunch of them cluttering your counter, this OXO number is the way to go.
Cocktail Stirrer
Please, don't use just any old spoon to stir your drink. Are you making a Manhattan, or Metamusil? A long, thin bar spoon like this one will help you stir quickly without creating a lot of disruption that may make the drink cloudy—stirred drinks like Martinis should be bright and clear.
Citrus Juicer
If a recipe calls for citrus juice, always use the fresh stuff. Always. It takes a little more effort, but produces infinitely better drinks. Toss away the sour mix and start squeezing—your margarita will thank you for it.
Yarai Mixing Glass
My favorite cocktail? The one I make practically every evening after work? The Manhattan. Sure, I could use the bottom half of a shaker or a pint glass to make the drink, but this stout glass is easier to handle, has a spout, and is much more elegant. Not a necessity—even though it's the standard mixing glass in fancy cocktail bars from Tokyo to Brooklyn—but totally worth the extra space in your cupboard if you find yourself making more stirred drinks than shaken ones.
Pug! Muddler
You can't make a mojito without a muddler. This one is on the large side, so it feels like a baseball bat in your hand, and gives you nice control over what you're mashing at the bottom of a glass. Remember: Be firm but gentle. You want to bring out the essential oils of mint, not bruise it into a limp green mess.
Ice Cube Trays
Those perfect cubes you see in better cocktail joints usually come from something called a Kold Draft machine. You could install one in your home—it'll put you back a couple of thousand—or you could get the next best thing, these silicone ice cube trays. They stack neatly in tall drinks like a gin rickey, and the larger two-inch square cubes work well for whiskey on the rocks. You'll never go back to using your freezer's oddly shaped ice again.
Channel Knife
If a recipe calls for a twist of citrus peel, this is the tool you'll need to make it. Other than being pretty, twists often add crucial aromatics to the cocktail. Sure, you could ignore the garnish and your drink will be fine, but chances are the twist will make the drink better. And you want a better drink, don't you?

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