Cocktail Making – The Tools of the Trade

Cocktail Making – The Tools of the Trade
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Whether it be preparing a fruity Daiquiri or rustling up a Tiki-style Pina Colada, there are some basic tools that every cocktail novice will need when cocktail makingCocktail mixing tools are the essential starting point for any mixology session and in most cases you will probably already have some of these in your kitchen. However, items like a Boston Cocktail Shaker and a Hawthorne Strainer will probably require a little shopping.

The quintessential item in any cocktail tool-kit to begin cocktail making is the cocktail shaker, which is used to mix beverages by shaking. Ice is normally put in with the beverages to cool the drink before shaking, making for a much greater taste experience for the drinker. Cocktail shaking usually takes about 10 seconds, but this will depend on the mixability of the ingredients involved.


Cocktail Shaker

Here are a few basic points to cocktail shaking:

  • Place ice cubes in the shaker first. This will chill the shaker and cool the liquids as you add them
  • Use approximately 6-7 ice cubes for one drink
  • When making two drinks in the one shaker you should use less ice to make room in the shaker
  • Make sure not to over-fill the shaker, so that the ingredients have plenty of room to breathe
  • Most drinks should be shaken vigorously to a slow count of ten
  • Drinks that have ingredients such as cream or eggs such be shaken for longer, sometimes up to thirty seconds
  • Try to shake to a rhythm
  • Make sure to shake frozen drinks like daiquiris with crushed ice


There are two main types of cocktail shaker;  the Boston Cocktail Shaker and the Cobbler Shaker.

The Boston Cocktail Shaker consists of a metal bottom and a mixing glass. The mixing container and bottom are inserted into each other for shaking but are also used separately for muddling or stirring. If crushed ice is used in the preparation of a particular cocktail then a separate strainer, such as a Hawthorne Strainer will be required. In the absence of such a strainer, cocktail bartenders may instead strain by narrowly separating the two pieces after shaking and pouring the drink through the resulting gap.

The Cobbler Shaker is a three piece cocktail shaker that has tapers at the top and ends with a built-in strainer and includes a cap. The cap can often be used as a measure for spirits or other liquids.

Cocktail shakers came into prominence during the 1920s in the United States during the prohibition era. Cocktail shakers, examples of which are still preserved to this day, began to take on many different shapes and colours and the shaker skills of the speakeasy bartenders began to be a focus of entertainment for the drinking punters. After the prohibition era, cocktail shakers became symbols of glamour and fashion due to their appearance in Hollywood movies. A huge variety of cocktail shaker styles were made in silver for the rich or glass for the less well-off, and designer cocktail shakers from the period are still sought-after by collectors. Today, the Boston Cocktail Shaker still remains the shaker of choice for most bartenders.


Hawthorne Strainer

Hawthorne Strainer is the most commonly used type of strainer in cocktail making and is a flat-topped, perforated metal device with a continuous coil of wire wrapped around its perimeter, which is used to keep the strainer fixed in place.  The Hawthorne Strainer is not only used to separate a drink from ice but also from any fruit, herbs or other solid ingredients from the liquid. This device is often used in tandem with the Boston Cocktail Shaker.



Jigger is a metal measuring device that usually has two cones, one on either end. The larger cone typically holds 50 ml while the smaller cone holds 25ml. The jigger is an essential element in any cocktail kit that ensures precise measuring of liquids, resulting in consistent cocktails.


Bar Spoon

Different from the average spoon, a bar spoon typically has a long handle for reaching the bottom of tall glasses. This type of spoon is an essential item in any good cocktail kit and is needed for layering and stirring drinks and even tasks such as fishing out cherries from the bottom of a jar.



A muddler is a thick stick, made of either wood or stainless steel which is used to mash ingredients in the bottom of a glass. Muddlers are often used to mix bitters and sugar and also to extract juices and oils from fruit, mint and other herbs and spices. A muddler is a must for cocktail making and is required in the preparation of the Mojito cocktail, Caipirinha and the Watermelon Martini.


A Juicers or Fruit Press

A juicer or fruit press will produce similar results and are a critical factor in making great cocktails, as fresh fruit should always be used where possible to help create the perfect concoction.


An Electronic Mixer /Blender

An electronic blender is required for preparing frozen cocktails such as the Blue Bayou, Bushwacker, and the Don Pedro and they are also used to crush ice and puree fruit. While most people use large blenders in the kitchen, smaller models are available for the home bar where space can be tight.


A Siphon with CO2 cartridge 

When it comes to adding soda water to your  mixed drinks you have two options; bottled sodas which can go flat if not used right away or a soda siphon. The siphons transform regular water into an effervescent, carbonated beverage by using CO2 cartridges inserted into the handle. With a quick squirt into your John Collins or Gin Fizz your drink is topped off nicely with a perfect amount of freshly carbonated water.



There are several different styles of corkscrews, with the most popular being the Winged and Waiters corkscrews. Corkscrew may come in handy when you want to  make wine cocktails


Fruit Knife and Cutting Board

Use a cutting board for preparing garnishes which are important in cocktail making and make sure to keep a set of pairing knives sharp in your bar for cutting twists, slices and other types of garnish.

Cocktail Garnishes





Additional Tools

A straw holder

A nutmeg grater

Small plates ~ for rimming the glasses with salt or sugar

A sugar sprinkler

A bottle cap for opened wine of champagne bottles

A can opener

An ice bucket and ice tong for the ice, one of the key ingredients in cocktail preparation.


Written by Guest Author

Posted: September 16, 2012