The bartender’s kit at The Bar Shoppe. Photo by Eva Frazier

Must-Haves for the Home Bartender in Your Life

Give the gift of better-made drinks.

Four solid 12-ounce rocks glasses One of the most fundamental questions a home bartender has to ask is: What am I gonna serve drinks in? While some would consider their bar incomplete without a sizable collection of glassware, four sturdy rocks glasses will do the trick for almost any libation you’d care to serve. Anything over ice will work well, and even strained drinks or spirits served neat can be enjoyed from such a vessel. They’re also much less breakable than martini glasses and vastly more versatile.

Amaro, by Brad Thomas Parsons The defining concept of the vast majority of modern cocktails is the judicious application of some bittering agent, and the broad category of amari has been central to this endeavor. Parsons’ book thoroughly and diligently covers the wide range of styles available on the market today, and, even better, discusses how they can and should be applied to a host of drinks.

A glass citrus reamer. Look, citrus is a pain in the ass in a home bar. You’re not likely to need enough to buy a full-on juicer, but fresh juice makes a huge difference in the quality of a drink. That’s why I tend to split the difference, not splurging on expensive machinery but ensuring that when it’s margarita season, I’m mixing mine with fresh lime juice.

A cocktail tray. OK, this might seem like a dated approach, but there’s something about serving a few cocktails on a tray that just feels stylish. Unless you’re a restaurant professional, carrying more than two glasses at a time is awkward at best and dangerous at worst, so the right tray can work wonders in larger groups. I like a rectangular shape with handles, maybe made out of a darker wood. Plus, if your guests want something to eat, I guess you could put it on there. Though, really, just give them another drink instead.

A hand-held fine strainer. The home bartender in your life should already have a classic Boston strainer; if they don’t, stop reading and make fun of them. A fine strainer isn’t really necessary for many simple drinks, but it makes a world of difference when texture is truly important. It will keep pulp out of all those drinks you make with your fresh citrus; it’ll make your egg-white cocktails feel silkier; and it’ll strain ice chips out of your thoroughly shaken summer drinks. Plus, you feel like a pro when you double-strain. Trust me.

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