8 Tools You Need to Make Better Cocktails at Home

Now more than ever, the art of mixing a quality cocktail can seem like a daunting task. Today’s hippest bars are concocting drinks made with everything from foie gras to liquid nitrogen—and serving up hefty price tags to match. All the more reason why you should start building your home bar today.

You can forgo an extensive mixology arsenal in favor a few high-quality tools, according to cocktail writer Sarah Probst. “I personally don’t think you need a lot of fancy stuff,” she told mental_floss. Probst has experience bartending at acclaimed bars in NYC and she’s written about spirits and cocktails for Refinery29, Brooklyn Magazine and Bloomberg Businessweek. Here are the tools and gadgets she recommends to anyone looking to make bar-quality cocktails at home.


Even if you don’t know the first thing about mixology, shaking around a cocktail tin is the first step to feeling like a professional. Probst touts Koriko as her favorite brand of cocktail tins (otherwise known as shakers), claiming it has a tighter seal than most other brands. Spilling sugary booze all over the place because your shaker didn’t seal properly is a quick way to end a party. Buy it at Amazon.


You can memorize the recipes for dozens of classic cocktails, but that knowledge is useless without a way to portion out your components. Jiggers are small, two-ended cups specifically designed for measuring drinks, and when it comes to quality cocktails, precision is key. “Some of the fancier ones, while they look prettier, aren’t the most accurate,” said Probst. She prefers the jigger from OXO that measures up to one ounce on one side and one and a half ounces on the other. The high level of precision guarantees a well-balanced cocktail. Buy at Amazon. 


Bitters are the liquid extractions of seeds, roots, flowers, herbs, leaves, and bark used to bring a greater depth of flavor to cocktails. The extracts are highly concentrated and therefore should only be introduced in small, controlled doses. In order to do this, you first need to find the right bitters bottle. A bottle specially made for bitters will disburse the perfect amount each time, compared to generic bottles which can be less reliable. Probst recommends the Japanese brand Yarai for a product that’s sleek and functional. Buy at Chubo Knives


For serious entertainers, an at-home carbonator can be a lifesaver. SodaStreams are typically used to make soft drinks, but Probst says they can also be handy when making cocktails in large batches. You can use them to carbonate punch, or make your own tonic water for gin and tonics. Buy at Amazon


Not only does using a clunky spoon to stir your cocktails look unprofessional, it can also feel awkward. Having a few long and slim bar spoons on hand makes it easy to stir drinks no matter what type of glass you're using. Probst recommends bar spoons that have a tiny cocktail fork on the opposite end. The tool will look nice, and can also be used to fish out any olives chilling at the bottom of your drink. Buy at Amazon


“Freshly squeezed juices are super important when you want to make a really delicious cocktail,” said Probst. She’s had experience using a Hamiltion Beach stand juicer as a bartender, and recommends them for anyone looking to splurge on a quality juicer for their home. Buy at Amazon


For a cheaper alternative, a basic hand juicer is what Probst uses in her own home. In addition to being essential to making fresh cocktails, they’re also useful to have in the kitchen when cooking meals at home. Buy at Amazon


So you have all the right gear, your bar is fully stocked and you’ve finally mastered the art of mixing the perfect drink. The finishing detail you need to raise your cocktails to the professional league is some seriously classy ice cubes. Probst says Tovolo ice molds are often regarded as the best in the industry. Their molds come in the form of rigid cubes, elegant rectangles, or if you really want to get fancy, spheres. Once you have the power to make ice that looks like that at home, you may never want to go out. Buy at Amazon

Keystone/Getty Images
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.

A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.

Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.

American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.

Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.

Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

Courtesy New District
Say ‘Cheers’ to the Holidays With This 24-Bottle Wine Advent Calendar
Courtesy New District
Courtesy New District

This year, eschew your one-tiny-chocolate-a-day Advent calendar and count down to Christmas the boozy way. An article on the Georgia Straight tipped us off to New District’s annual wine Advent calendars, featuring 24 full-size bottles.

Each bottle of red, white, or sparkling wine is hand-picked by the company’s wine director, with selections from nine different countries. Should you be super picky, you can even order yourself a custom calendar, though that will likely add to the already-high price point. The basic 24-bottle order costs $999 (in Canadian dollars), and if you want to upgrade from cardboard boxes to pine, that will run you $100 more.

If you can’t quite handle 24 bottles (or $999), the company is introducing a 12-bottle version this year, too. For $500, you get 12 reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines from various unnamed “elite wine regions.”

With both products, each bottle is numbered, so you know exactly what you should be drinking every day if you really want to be a stickler for the Advent schedule. Whether you opt for 12 or 24 bottles, the price works out to about $42 per bottle, which is somewhere in between the “I buy all my wines based on what’s on sale at Trader Joe’s” level and “I am a master sommelier” status.

If you want to drink yourself through the holiday season, act now. To make sure you receive your shipment before December 1, you’ll need to order by November 20. Get it here.

[h/t the Georgia Straight]


More from mental floss studios