There’s a reason craft cocktails have become a thing. Not everyone knows how to make a fancy cocktail (like a Vieux Carré), or even a good basic one like a Cape Codder (that’s vodka-cranberry for the rest of you 49 staters). Some folks don’t have the means or space for a well-stocked bar, while others might not have the right set of tools.
But whether you’re tricking out your first apartment, filling out your wedding registry, or upgrading your current home-bar situation, a bartending kit makes it easy. Whether they’re upscale or practical, they should give you the option of fixing mixed drinks any way you like. Here are a few of our top picks to get your started.
- Best Overall: Cocktail Kingdom Essential 5-piece Cocktail Set
- Best Value: Duerer 11-piece Bartender Kit with Bamboo Stand
- Best for Beginners: Modern Mixology 7-piece Cocktail Shaker Set with Stand
- Best for Travel: Jillmo 14-piece Bartending Kit with Travel Bag
- Best for Style Points: Mixology & Craft 10-Piece Bar Set with Mahogany Stand
How We Picked the Products
As someone with a well-stocked liquor cabinet (and who knows the specific uses of those bottles of Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and Curaçao), you could say I have a vested interest in my cocktails. In addition to reviewing dozens of similar-looking sets, I’ve read a lot of articles on what bartenders all over the place like to use and why certain tools are better than others. In addition to the above considerations, we looked into the basic components of a good bartending kit: shakers, strainers, jiggers, and extra accessories. We evaluated shakers based on their durability and ability to stay tightly sealed. When looking at strainers, we looked into whether they were versatile enough to be used for multiple types of drinks. Finally, we looked at the sizes of each set’s jiggers to ensure minimal mess.
The Best Bartending Kits: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Cocktail Kingdom Essential 5-piece Cocktail Set
Why It Made The Cut: This 5-piece set includes all the essentials for making a perfect elevated shaken or stirred cocktail with several high-end flourishes.
- 18-8 stainless steel Boston-style shaker tins
- 2-ounce/1-ounce Japanese-style jigger
- 500 mL seamless mixing glass
- Koriko weighted shaking tins
- Jigger has ½-, ¾-, and 1 ½-ounce markings on the inside
- Dishwasher safe
- Does not come with a stand
Several articles and interviews with bartenders reveal Cocktail Kingdom to be a preferred brand among the pros, and it’s not hard to see why. The stainless steel Koriko weighted shaking tins can be used for anything from margaritas to cosmos. They seal well, release easily, and don’t topple over. The sleek and chic Japanese-style jigger has interior markings for more precise measures. Its design enables “bartender flair,” as it can be twirled around the fingers (with practice!).
The elegant seamless mixing glass, which has a pour spout, not only looks better than a commercially crafted glass (which will have a seam), but is also stronger. Other tools to perfectly craft drinks—from Old Fashioneds to Sazeracs—include a tight-coil Hawthorne strainer and weighted stainless steel mixing spoon.
This 5-piece set might not be for the budget conscious, particularly since it lacks a stand and “extra” accessories. But cocktail aficionados know that a set like this is meant to be used, not just displayed. (But if you like it pretty, this set also comes in copper.)
Best Value: Duerer 11-piece Bartender Kit with Bamboo Stand
Why It Made The Cut: A lot of sets come with these basic tools, for about the same price, but they skip the bar book or the stand. This set doesn’t leave you wanting for anything.
- 25-ounce cobbler shaker
- Stainless steel tools
- Bamboo stand
- Comes with everything you need to get your bar started, including a stand
- Dishwasher safe
- Holes in the stand not always cut to the right size
- 1-ounce/½-ounce jigger is too small
In addition to the cobbler shaker, Hawthorne strainer, double-sided jigger, and barspoon with muddling tip, Duerer includes a muddler for your mint julep, a wine key for that person who brings a bottle of wine to your cocktail party, and two bottle pourers to help keep your bar spiffy and clean. The stainless steel tools are dishwasher safe, and reviewers report that these are well-made, high-quality pieces. They make for a sturdy starter set that’s both elegant and practical. And you can’t beat the price, so get one for yourself and gift one for a housewarming.
The smaller size of the jigger will require more pours to get the amount you need, with a lot of flipping over (leading to more drips and mess). And the recipe book, while a nice inclusion for a beginner, stops at 12 recipes.
Best for Beginners: Modern Mixology 7-piece Cocktail Shaker Set with Stand
Why It Made The Cut: For the cost of a decent bottle of booze, you get a premium seven-piece cocktail set, with the nice additions of bottle opener, ice tongs, and recipe card deck.
- 18-8 stainless steel
- 18-ounce cobbler shaker
- Wooden stand
- 3-year warranty available
- Dishwasher safe
- Great customer service
- Uncoated cards could get wet
- 1-ounce/½-ounce jigger too small
This set is a hit with anyone looking to get their bar started right. In addition to the 18-ounce cobbler-style shaker, Hawthorne strainer, double-sided jigger, and barspoon, this set comes with a bottle opener, ice tongs, and stand to keep things organized.
The set also includes a fun set of 20 cocktail recipe cards, which can help any beginner make popular drinks like margaritas and mojitos. While the tools are dishwasher safe, which makes for fast party cleanup, some users would prefer the recipe cards to have been coated to keep them dry and stain free.
Modern Mixology offers a three-year warranty that’s easy to sign up for, and users report their customer service experience is next level. Some people felt the plastic tip of the American-style barspoon didn’t stand up properly in the stand, and it doesn’t allow for muddling. It’s also pretty short to fit into the shaker bottom for proper stirring. The double-sided jigger is small and requires a lot of flipping over to get the right measures, which makes it a little messier to use.
Best for Travel: Jillmo 14-piece Bartending Kit with Travel Bag
Why It Made The Cut: Not only is this bartending set amazingly complete, but the water-resistant satchel has padded compartments with room for three 750-mL liquor or wine bottles, plus a mixing glass (not included).
- Water-resistant grey polyester bag
- 304 stainless steel tools
- 17 inches x 13 inches x 5 inches
- Lifetime warranty
- Padded luggage with laptop compartment
- Room for extra tools
- Great set of good quality tools with a bonus bag
- Buckle closures
Save money while traveling and mix your own drinks. No matter where you’re off to, this complete set from Jillmo has all you need, and more. It contains all the basics, including a cobbler shaker, Hawthorne strainer, 2-ounce/1-ounce Japanese-style jigger, and 12-inch twisted barspoon, plus your pro equipment like a muddler, lemon zester/peeler, citrus press, two bottle pourers, wine key, bottle opener, a julep strainer, and a fine-mesh strainer.
The case itself is made of water-resistant polyester and has 10 pockets for smaller bar tools (with plenty of room for extras not included). It also features two large foldaway pockets, a mesh zipper pocket, a laptop pocket that could house a cutting board, and three padded compartments with room for 750-milliliter liquor bottles (or four rocks glasses). With a 57-inch shoulder strap plus handle for carry preference, it also boasts a water-repellent zipper.
While the stylish belt buckle closures look nice, some users may want an easier way to access their bag, such as quick release snaps. The price might be a deterrent for some people, and though Jillmo does offer just the bag for about $30 less, the bar tools alone are an incredible value and worth the total price—and you don’t often get a lifetime warranty.
Best for Style Points: Mixology & Craft 10-Piece Bar Set with Mahogany Stand
Mixology & Craft
Why It Made The Cut: Not only is this a handsome showpiece but it’s also a functional bar kit with all the essential tools, including enticing extras like wine key, bottle pourers, muddler, and ice tongs.
- 20-ounce cobbler shaker
- 304 stainless steel tools
- Mahogany stand
- Beautiful statement piece
- Takes up little space, leaving you room for all your bottles
- Three-year warranty
- Must handwash to avoid scratching the coating
- Opening for items on stand might not fit tools
- 1-oz/½-oz jigger is too small
Form meets function in this beautiful set from Mixology & Craft. Muddle mint for a mojito in the 20-ounce martini shaker, add ice with the tongs, accurately pour rum into the double-sided jigger with the aid of a bottle pourer, and strain it all through the Hawthorne strainer—and look stylish as heck while doing it.
The gorgeous mahogany stand is unique. While its curved design makes it stand out from the boxier wooden stands or the round lady susan types, some reviewers reported that the openings for the tools weren’t always big enough (but the warranty and excellent customer service easily remedy that). The size of the jigger, as reported elsewhere, is not ideal: that basic mojito would require 2 pours of white rum on the 1-ounce side, 1 pour of simple syrup on the ½-ounce side, and some guesswork for the ¾ ounces of lime juice.
Many users reported that the finish of the colored-coated tools might start to come off with continued use, which is why handwashing is recommended. Those who plan on regular use might instead consider the silver stainless version with bamboo stand for less money. But whichever color you choose, it will look amazing on your shelf.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Bartending Kit
While there’s nothing wrong with the cobbler shaker that comes with many sets (it’s the one with the strainer cap), most pros prefer the more sophisticated Boston-style shaker of two metal cups that fit together, forming a seal. Weighted shaking tins have a thicker, heavier bottom so they don’t topple over as easily as lighter ones. Note that the 2-piece Boston shaker or the 3-piece cobbler shaker are counted as one piece in a set.
The seeming gold standard here is the Hawthorne strainer. It fits over a large or standard mixing glass or shaker, though some feel it fits better on a shaker tin rather than a mixing glass. The tight coil keeps seeds, herbs, and ice out of your drink, and the design allows you to double pour two drinks simultaneously. Some sets include additional strainers: a fine-mesh strainer, which not only helps create an extra-clear martini, but it also can add lift to foam in an egg white cocktail, like a gin fizz or amaretto sour; and a julep strainer, which tends to fit better on mixing glasses over the shaker tins. While not often necessary to have all three strainers, they are a nice bonus.
Your two basic jigger types are single basin, with measure markers on the inside, and double-sided jiggers that you have to flip over to use the two different measures. The Japanese-style double-sided jigger has a sleek and slender look; some bartenders like it because it requires a bit of skill to use it. Double-sided jiggers can be messier than single-basin jiggers, and they risk what pros call the meniscus: Think back to science class and surface tension. Meniscus would be the bubble shape of liquid that’s popped up over the edge of the jigger when you fill it to the brim. When you move to pour the spirit into your shaker, you invariably spill it—and no one likes a sticky bar tool (or wasted booze). A smaller-size jigger (e.g., ½ ounce and 1 ounce) can pose the same problems with meniscus and mess.
Not every set comes with one of these, because of course you could mix a drink in your shaker. However, the glass is classier, you can see what you’re doing (and how much the ice is diluting your drink), and it makes a seriously better cocktail. The base is sturdier than a shaker with its tapered bottom; the straight sides enable you to do an even stir (versus the tornado shape inside a shaker), which means an even dilution; and the thick glass protects the delicate cold drink from the heat of your hand.
Barspoon, plus other tools
Most sets come with a twisted barspoon for stirring. Various styles have a plastic cap at the tip (called American style), a teardrop weight for balance, or a flat muddling/crushing end (sometimes referred to as European style). Sets that come with extras that you will use are nice, whether that’s a muddler, a zester, or a wine pourer.
While not necessary if you have a bar cart or you plan on storing your tools in a cabinet with your spirits, a stand is a good, space-saving accessory for keeping all your tools in one place.
Q: What is the most vital tool in bartending?
If you’ve been to enough high-end establishments with craft cocktail bars, you know they can invest in smokers and atomizers, homemade bitters, and crystal clear giant ice cubes. But for our purposes, you might consider a quartet of tools that includes the jigger for accurate measures, the shaker for mixing or stirring, the barspoon for gentle stirring, and the strainer—and if you’re only springing for one strainer, you’ll get the most mileage out of the fine-mesh variety.
Q: What shakers do professional bartenders use?
The Boston-style shaker is the choice of pros because it requires a little more skill to finagle holding a Hawthorne strainer on top while pouring. And some people find they have trouble separating the shakers once they get cold and the metal contracts, but pros know just the right “thwack” or twist to get the job done.
Q: What are the top mixed drinks a bartender should know?
Everywhere you look and every book you page through will have their own essential lists. While you have your classics (like the martini, Bloody Mary, Old Fashioned, gin and tonic, Tom Collins, Manhattan, margarita, daiquiri etc.), there are truly some fashionable drinks with which, if you have a grasp on them, you’ll be sure to wow your guests: Negronis, mules (change the spirit, change the nationality!), sours, Sazeracs, French 75s, sidecars, and cosmos. You can also discover something you like and make that your signature drink. My household doles out Dark and Stormiers all summer long and Bailey’s martinis all winter.
At first glance, a bartending kit might seem like a one-size-fits-all collection of tools that you may or may not ever use. But when making a selection, aesthetics come into play, as does the kind of space you have to display your tools (or not). You also need to consider the drinks you think you will be mixing. Are you making Manhattans and Negronis on the regular, where a mixing glass will come in handy, or are you more a maker of margaritas and mules, where a shaker will suit your needs? Do you entertain a lot, or a little, where you’ll need bottle openers and wine keys at hand? If you’re not entirely sure where to start, we suggest the Modern Mixology 7-piece Cocktail Shaker Set with Stand for beginners, and the Cocktail Kingdom Essential 5-piece Cocktail Set for those looking for the best overall kit.