The Top 10 Items Any Self-Respecting Home Bartender Should Own and Use Well

We're living in the golden age of craft cocktails, and highly rated bars are opening monthly in Houston. In addition, we also have the world's largest liquor store, which proves that plenty of Houstonians like to kick back with a classic cocktail at home, or entertain there with friends. Here are ten things, in no particular order, to make mixing drinks at home a thing of leisure, not work.

10. Mezzetta Maraschino Cherries

If you want realistic maraschino cherries, locate some fresh Montmorency cherries and marinate them in Luxardo Maraschino liqueur for several days. They're expensive and almost authentic. For my money ($3.99), I prefer the classic fake American cherries, and nobody fakes them tastier than Mezzeta. Find them at Kroger.

9. Mayonnaise Jar

Never mind about boiling sugar and water together to make simple syrup. Just put equal parts white sugar and water together in a jar, shake it vigorously, wait five minutes and shake it again. The 1:1 simple syrup is room temperature and ready to mix, and one-fourth ounce of it is the same as one teaspoon of sugar.

Make sure you use filtered or bottled water. Houston tap water can be a bad mixer.

8. Double Jigger Shot

This OXO design is excellent, and better yet, it's available everywhere, from grocery stores to liquor stores. Its biggest advantage is that along with the usual shot (1 ounce) and jigger (1½ ounce), it has the smaller increments of ¼ and ½ and ¾ ounces, for today's more precise cocktails. It's available at Target for $9.49.

7. Citrus Tools

A true genius can make delicious margaritas with sour mix, but I've met only one of those saints. My general rule is: If at least half of your margarita's lime juice isn't fresh, you shouldn't be in charge of margaritas.

If you want to be an artiste de cocquetel, then by all means get a channel knife and use it for cutting edgy citrus garnishes. Otherwise, I've found the Kuhn-Rikon peeler to be reliable for flavorful twists. Available for $4 at Sur la Table.

6. Small Bar Cutting Board

Not essential, but you do not want to cut an orange slice for a Negroni and have it absorb garlic flavor from last night's marinara preparation. I know they're both Italian, but no.

5. Muddler

I prefer the wooden muddler I got free with a bottle of Flor de Caña rum -- I like the feel of it -- but dishwasher-safe metal ones are available. The most amusing muddlers are the tiny wooden souvenir baseball bats. Required for mojitos, Southsides, mint juleps and when using a sugar cube in Sazeracs and Old-Fashioneds.

4. Barspoon

The spoon end is a 1-teaspoon measure, and the handle is usually twisty. Professional bartenders often order an expensive Japanese model. A fancy barspoon won't make you a better bartender, but a more stylish one? Sure. To be honest, I've never bought a barspoon, as I use a 1-teaspoon measuring spoon, and I stir everything with a pair of unfancy Japanese chopsticks.

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John Kiely
Contact: John Kiely