If on New Year’s Eve you found yourself fumbling to open a bottle of something and drink it, perhaps one of your resolutions this year should be that you finally look good doing it.
Looking good doesn’t mean you have to convert your basement into a swinging 1960s-style lounge or sports-bar knockoff. Still, at a certain point in life, it’s time to give up on (or at least add to) that freebie bottle opener you’ve been carrying around on your key chain since college or the corkscrew on your Swiss Army knife. While a full bar complement is often excessive for the at-home mixologist, it never hurts to have the right tools to make party guests feel special and make yourself look a little more civilized.
The first step to beverage civilization: proper glassware.
Stemware is the fancy name for what those of us not in the tabletop fashion business think of as wine glasses. The PB Classic stemware from Pottery Barn ($24 per set of six in either white or red wine, champagne flute or martini glass, is a great set with a classic design and clean lines that can go from every day use to special occasions with ease.
Highball and double “old fashioned” (also called tumbler) glasses, meanwhile, will pull double duty for the liquor drinkers in your crowd while filling in on ordinary days as water/iced tea glasses and juice glasses, respectively. Most proper mixed drinks call for highball glasses (and in fact base their recipes upon their dimensions), while old fashioned glasses are perfect for sippin’ liquors like whiskey or bourbon. Unless your social interaction is limited to a few people at a time, invest in at least six of each type of glass to start.
With the vessels covered, the next step is tools.
Invest in a clamp-style wine bottle opener like the Metrokane Rabbit Deluxe Professional wine opener ($62.50 from Corkscrew.com) to preserve the integrity of cork and avoid having to hold the bottle between your legs as you pull. These use the same lever action as the tiny device you’ve seen restaurant sommeliers use, but eliminate the requisite skill.
Mixed drinks require a little more hardware, but don’t overdo it. A basic bar set should include the following: a cocktail shaker, strainer, jigger (for measuring), ice tongs, stirrer, bottle opener, small knife for cutting lemon or lime twists and wedges and a place to keep it all together. That way, you’re not rooting around for tools before your party and guests have everything within easy reach.
Some other things to consider if they aren’t already in your cabinets are a large pitcher for stirring martinis and a small cutting board. If your guests have jumped on the mojito bandwagon (a mighty tasty bandwagon to be on), also consider a muddler, a long wooden or plastic tool used to mash ingredients like mint to release essential oils before adding other ingredients. If your refrigerator doesn’t have a crushed ice feature, placing a blender nearby doesn’t hurt, either, as crushed ice is required for many drinks.
Lastly, for some extra flair and convenience, chill white wines and champagne in an ice bucket or tub or terra cotta wine sleeves, while saving your counter or buffet from red wine stains by using a wine coaster. Then open the door, pour the cheer and raise a drink-appropriate glass.
Home Bar Musts
- Glassware: At least six each of red and white wine glasses, champagne flutes, martini glasses, double old fashioned and highballs
- Tools: Cocktail shaker, strainer, jigger, ice tongs, stirrer, bottle opener, small knife, muddler, wine opener
- Appliances: Blender or refrigerator’s built-in crushed ice maker
- Etc.: Cutting board, ice bucket or tub