To make the cocktails in my classes, you will need some equipment. My recommendation are below, along with subsitution suggestions if you don’t have time or money to shop.
Links below mostly go to Webstaurant Store, because they have a variety of items at a variety of price points. But feel free to shop elsewhere, these are just products I personally use and recommend, I don’t get a kickback from the company or anything.
1) Some way to measure ingredients. An accurate measuring device is key to making great cocktails that taste the same every time you make them. Bartending jiggers require skill and regular practice to use, and aren’t necesssarily the best choice for a home bartender. My preferred measuring device is a 2 oz OXO measuring cup, available in plastic or stainless. You’ll find it incredibly useful for cooking too.
Substitutions: In a pinch a tablespoon measuring spoon is 1/2 an ounce, and 2 ounces is 1/4 cup. If you are using a bartending jigger or novelty shot glass, use a measuring spoon to confirm the measurements before using. And if using a jigger note that it should be filled all the way to the top.
2) Something to shake or stir a cocktail in AND strain it with. I strongly recommend an all-metal Boston shaker. This style of shaker has two separate metal tins that fit together to make a tight seal, but won’t leak or stick like a traditional cobbler shaker. Look for one with 18 oz & 28 oz tins (not tin + glass), such as these. For stirring a cocktail, just use either side – specialized mixing glasses for stirring are nice, but completely non-essential. Because there’s no built-in strainer, you’ll also need a separate Hawthorne strainer (the kind with the spring). And if you want to avoid ice chips or like drinks that have muddled fresh ingredients, you’ll also want a cone strainer.
Substitutions: A standard cobbler shaker is perfectly fine to use, and some of them are great. I just like Boston shakers better. Don’t have a cocktail shaker at all? Use a mason jar or a water bottle. You’ll have to get creative for straining.
3) Something to stir a cocktail with. Bartenders use barspoons, but (shhh, don’t tell anyone) a chopstick works just as well or even better. One advantage of a barspoon is that some recipes use it as a measuring device, calling for a “bsp” of an ingredient. That’s about a teaspoon, but using your barspoon means you don’t have to dirty another utensil. The standard red-ball barspoon is perfectly fine, but there are also lots of fancier versions.
Substitutions: Chopstick or butter knife – anything long and thin.
4) A way to squeeze citrus. Fresh juice is the most important thing you can do to improve the quality of your cocktails. For most people a hand-powered citrus squeezer is ideal and will produce tastier and less pulpy juice than an old fashioned reamer. (Just remember that you put the cut side down! The linked one will handle lemons and limes, and you can hack it for oranges and sometimes grapefruit by cutting them in quarters.) And if you throw a lot of parties, a small electric citrus juicer can speed prep up. If you’re juicing ahead of time, strain your juice for better flavor and texture, and be sure to use up your juice within 48 hours.
Substitutions: Cut in wedges and squeeze by hand!
5) Something to mash with (optional). Lots of cocktails require muddling fresh ingredients like herbs or fruit or cucumbers. A muddler makes this job easy. I recommend a flat head muddler rather than one with pointy bits, as overmuddling some herbs makes them bitter. And I prefer hard plastic to wood, which can stain, mold, or chip bits of shellac into your drink. Which adds up to the Bad Ass Muddler (yes, that is its real name). Other muddlers will work fine too, you’ll just need to be careful about overmuddling or taking care of wood.
Substitutions: Missing a muddler? The spoon end of a wooden spoon (not the handle, too little surface area) makes a serviceable but really not ideal substitute.