Not only did we sample and sip galore while in Aspen for the Food & Wine Classic, but we also sat in on countless seminars. One of my favorite talks of the weekend was led by Jim Meehan, mixologist and owner of PDT, as well as author of The PDT Cocktail Book.
As Meehan explained, people are spending more time and money than ever before outfitting their kitchens; "the day where people start upping their game with cocktails is coming, if it's not already here." With that in mind, he showed the importance of investing in the right bartending tools by demoing how to make a variety of cocktails. Keep reading to learn what bar equipment Meehan suggests stocking at home and our top picks for each type of tool.
- A sturdy cocktail shaker: For newbies, Meehan suggests a cobbler shaker ($40), as it's the easiest to use (one caveat: they're prone to getting stuck when cold). For those up for a little challenge, make like professional bartenders by employing a Boston shaker. While a pint glass and larger metal tin are standard, he prefers a set of two metal tins ($17). Not only is glass heavier than tin, which can lead to fatigue from shaking multiple cocktails, but metal and glass also contract at different rates, potentially causing sticking.
- Jiggers: Meehan stressed the importance of measuring ingredients to keep results consistent, even when it comes to quantities as small as 1/4 teaspoon or 1/4 ounce. For teaspoon measures, use a set of measuring spoons ($15); for ounce measures, a pair of dual-sided jiggers in small ($7) and large ($9) sizes proves indispensable.
- Strainers: If working with a Boston shaker (vs. a cobbler), a hawthorne strainer ($10) is a must buy; he also swears by double-straining through a fine-mesh strainer ($22) for smooth cocktails.
- A citrus juicer: For home use, Meehan suggests stocking both a citrus press ($38) for eking out every last drop of lime and lemon juice and a citrus reamer ($13) for use with larger citrus fruits.
- Pub muddler: When it comes to muddlers ($11), Meehan emphasized that a "good muddler should fit perfectly in your hand."
- Garnish tools: For a last flourish, the startender demonstrated three ways to make citrus twists, an essential component in cocktails like negronis and French 75s. Meehan generally prefers to carve out swaths of citrus zest with a paring knife ($8), as the thicker strips are sturdier and won't wilt in a glass. For thinner strips, try a Y-peeler ($4); a channel knife ($13) is his go-to tool for making long, skinny twists, which, while "out of fashion," are "very cool."
- Ice scoop: Last but not least, stock a slotted draining ice scoop ($5) for scooping ice without adding an excess of water to drinks. Meehan joked that he "could do a really boring but important seminar just on ice," so consider this a must-buy tool — he takes his ice very seriously, and so should you.