If you want to make the very best drinks, you need the right tools for the job, and those tools can be found in a cocktail set. Whether you are looking to upgrade some bar tools to be more professional, getting ready to host some guests, or just want to refresh your current set, you have come to the right place.
There are many cocktail sets out there, and they widely vary in quality and the tools they include. After lots of research and years of bar tool testing, here are the very best cocktail sets that will have you making your favorite bevvies in no time (links to check price on Amazon):
- Best Essential Cocktail Set: A Bar Above Premium Bar Set
- Best Travel Cocktail Set: Travel Bartender Kit with Bag
- Most Complete Cocktail Set: Cocktail Kingdom The Ultimate Kit
- Best Cocktail Set to Display: Mixology Bartender Kit:10-Piece Bar Set
While I am not a professional bartender, I have learned a lot over the years about making quality beverages with the right tools and quality ingredients. I have taken classes from some top notch bartenders and made many cocktails over the years, and most recently mocktails, which are no different in terms of mixology.
First of all, you could definitely build your own tool kit from various tools – I have done that myself over time, through trial and error. But this guide will focus on what tools are necessary and which ready-made cocktail sets are the best for your needs.
The Essential Bar Tools
Before purchasing a cocktail set, you should be able to identify the essential tools needed to make excellent beverages like a professional. Most sets come with the basics. But the basics and the essentials are two different things. The best bar tool sets contain the essentials to level up your home bartending.
Shaker – Shakers are used to mix ingredients and to shake with ice for chilling. There are different styles of shakers, which are explained further below.
Strainer – Strainers allow you to separate the mixed drink from the ice and solid ingredients you don’t want in the final beverage. A lot of shakers come with a built-in strainer. While this is considered basic, it is not the best option, for reasons I’ll explain later. There are a few types of strainers, and each is essential for its specific task.
Jigger – You want to consistently make delicious beverages, so you should be measuring your ingredients precisely with a jigger.
Bar spoon – Bar spoons have several uses, the most common for stirring drinks. While professionals prefer to use a mixing glass for stirring, you can use your shaker tin as a substitute.
Muddler – A blunt ended wooden or rubber tipped stick used to press and mash ingredients to release aromatics and flavor.
Each of the recommended cocktail sets include these essential bar tools, plus more. However, there are different styles to choose from for each of these tools, depending on the drinks you make. These are detailed in the complete buying guide below, with helpful tips on how best to use the tools in your set.
BEST COCKTAIL SETS
Now that you know which tools are most important and how they are used, here are the top picks for best cocktail set to upgrade your home bar.
BEST OVERALL: THE ESSENTIALS AND MORE
- Boston Shaker
- Hawthorne Strainer
- Julep Strainer
- Fine Mesh Strainer
- Japanese style jigger
- Bar spoon
- 6 Cocktail picks
This cocktail set from A Bar Above has everything you really need to mix all different types of drinks. The tools are stainless steel so they are easy to clean in the dishwasher. Unique feature: The jigger even has markings on the interior for easy measuring of different amounts.
To complete this set, I highly recommend adding a quality mixing glass for stirred drinks.
BEST TRAVEL COCKTAIL SET & BAR TOOL BAG
- Boston shaker tins
- Wooden muddler
- Bar spoon
- Hawthorne strainer
- Julep strainer
- Fine strainer
- 2 Liquor Pourers
- Lemon squeezer
- Lemon zester
- Ice tongs
- Bottle opener
- Lewis ice bag
- Canvas carrying bag
This travel bartender kit will help you have quality drinks wherever you go, whether you are making mocktails or cocktails. While this set does include a zester, it will only make thin zests, rather than peels, so you will still need a peeler if you want that style garnish.
However, it has a cool ice bag and muddler that doubles as an ice mallet.
This is a really interesting product for non-alcoholic mixologists. Let’s be honest, good mocktails are hard to find when traveling, so why not take your own supplies?
This set even includes some extras, such as a wine opener and bottle opener.
Also, if you aren’t interested in displaying your set at home, this bag is a great way to keep things tidy so they don’t clutter your kitchen drawer.
THE PROFESSIONAL: MOST COMPLETE COCKTAIL SET
- Set of 2 Koriko® Weighted Shaking Tins
- Koriko® Hawthorne Strainer
- CoCo™ Strainer
- Premium Julep Strainer
- Queen Beehive™ Juicer
- Natural Wood Muddler
- Japanese Style Jigger 1oz / 2oz
- Sokata™ Mixing Glass – 500ml (17oz)
- Teardrop™ Barspoon – 30cm
- Cocktail Picks – Pack of 12
- Channel Knife – Black Walnut
- Citrus Peeler
This cocktail set by Cocktail Kingdom has it all. Every tool you will need for juicing, muddling, mixing, stirring, and garnishing. All tools are of exceptional quality and design.
This is a perfectly complete set to showcase all of your bartending skills artfully.
BEST COCKTAIL SET TO DISPLAY
- Parisian stainless steel cocktail shaker
- Bar spoon
- Hawthorne strainer
- 2 Liquor Pourers
- Ice tongs
- Mahogany wood stand
This cocktail set has the essential items needed for mixing drinks, and looks great on display with its mahogany stand. The set comes in multiple finishes – copper, gold, gunmetal black, and silver.
The Parisian style shaker does not come with an integrated strainer. After all, they are mostly useless. Reviewers suggest the gunmetal black is not black, but closer to a darker shiny silver.
Unique features: Aside from the stand, this set comes with a corkscrew, ice tongs, pour spouts, and a stainless muddler.
You may still need to purchase some items to make this set more complete, but if you already have some of those tools in your kitchen drawer, this will be an excellent upgrade to display on your home bar.
Cocktail Set Buying Guide
Cocktail sets vary widely in what tools they include, and there are several factors to consider when choosing the right set for you. For instance, you might consider what types of drinks you typically make or most likely, you want the best comprehensive cocktail set to be prepared for any possible bartending scenario.
In either case, let’s dive deeper into the various styles of tools offered, how to use them, what additional items you will need for prep, and how to choose the best cocktail set.
Comparing Cocktail Shakers
There are three common styles of cocktail shakers found in sets. Here are the pros and cons of each, and how to choose:
Cobbler Shaker: This is the most common in decorative sets because it looks great on display and has a built in strainer. It can be found in many styles to display on your bar, but the strainer cap and tin lid can be really hard to take off after shaking. The strainer is not ideal for all types of drinks, as it can get clogged easily.
Parisian Shaker: Similar to the cobbler, the Parisian shaker has a lid, but the form of the shaker is slightly more curved where the lid meets the tin. However, it does not come with an integrated strainer. While this might seem like a negative, you will actually want a better strainer (or three) anyway. An example of this can be found in the Best Cocktail Set to Display below.
Boston Shaker: This shaker is actually a set with a small and large tin and are used by many professionals. In a Boston shaker, there is more space for the drink to pass through ice when shaking. it’s easier to separate tins than remove the lids on the other shaker styles and it’s seamless to use with multiple strainers. The Boston shaker may not be as decorative, but can be used as a container for other tools. This type is found in most of the sets on the list below.
Ditch the Built-in Strainer for These
As mentioned before, even if you are going to choose a cocktail set with a cobbler shaker for more decorative purposes, you should still purchase a set that has a separate strainer included. That’s because the built-in strainers can get clogged up if you’re shaking a drink with herbs or pineapple chunks – really anything that is solid and can block the holes.
Here are the three strainers you need and how they are used:
Hawthorne strainer – a versatile strainer used to remove ice from a shaken cocktail that flexes to fit most shaker tins and mixing glasses. This is the strainer you want to replace your Cobbler lid with.
Julep strainer – Julep strainers were originally used to hold the ice in the cup while sipping a mint julep, but today they can be used for straining stirred drinks from a mixing glass or tin
Fine mesh strainer (sieve) – these are used when a cocktail needs to be “double-strained” to remove smaller solids that might squeeze through the spaces in the other strainers. To do this, you would hold the fine mesh strainer over your serving glass, and pour the cocktail out through the hawthorne strainer on the tin, then through the fine mesh strainer and into the glass.
What Doesn’t Come in a Cocktail Set
Cocktail sets have tools specific to making drinks, but they don’t include everything you will need to craft and serve every type of cocktail from start to finish. There are other vital tools you will need to make quality cocktails that you may or may not already have in the kitchen.
For Prep: First, you will need a sharp knife and cutting board. You probably already have these at home, but a small cutting board is nice to keep around for bartending, especially if you will be making drinks somewhere other than the kitchen counter.
For Juicing: Another very important item you will need for mixing beverages is a citrus press, aka the lemon squeezer. Link is to a stainless steel version on Amazon that’s dishwasher safe.
For Garnish: One tool that makes creating peels for garnish easy is a citrus peeler. This citrus peeler has a bonus zester on one side. It’s basically a smaller version of a potato peeler, but a potato peeler will work fine as well, as long as it is sharp. Note: This is one of those kitchen tools we forget to replace and it gets dull over time.
For Stirring: Mixing glasses don’t often come in cocktail sets, unless they are sets specifically made for stirred cocktails. These are often missing other essential tools.
While you can use a large glass or shaker tin to stir beverages, mixing glasses are, in my opinion, vital to proper bartending. This MOFADO mixing glass works well and will look great on your home bar!
MOFADO Crystal Cocktail Mixing Glass
Serving: Glasses are all a part of the presentation and sensory experience of your beverage. These will not be included in cocktail sets, as sets only have the tools used to make the drinks, not serve them. Obviously, you will also need to pick up some glassware in which to serve your drinks. There are myriad styles of glassware with specific serving purposes.
In addition, specialty versions of common tools (like my favorite jigger) are not usually included in cocktail sets, because they are made to match as a set.
Cocktail Set Materials and Design
Stainless steel is the most common material, especially 304 stainless steel, which is used in professional kitchen products. It’s easy to clean, looks nice, and will last a long time.
One common tool included in some sets is a muddler, which is traditionally wood. One reason for this is that wood has some give and will not damage the materials you are pushing against. However, it can also be purchased in other materials like stainless steel with a rubber end.
You may also choose a cocktail set based on how, or if, you want to display it on your home bar. The most popular shakers for displaying are the Cobbler and Parisian shaker, because they have a lid, keeping the inside of the shaker clean from dust.
However, you can also use the tins of a Boston shaker to store your other tools, which looks very professional.
Some cocktail sets will use a decorative coating on top of stainless to produce different finishes like copper, gold, or black. Cocktail Kingdom does an excellent job of providing finish options for their products, which are functional, professional quality and beautiful design.
Keep in mind that different finishes require different cleaning methods, some being more high maintenance than others.
How to Care for Your Bar Tools
Keeping your tools clean will help them last a long time, which means many more years of tasty beverages. Of all the materials used in cocktail making tools, stainless steel is the easiest. It’s dishwasher safe and comes out looking great every time. Here is a list of how to clean different materials used in cocktail sets:
Materials to Hand Wash:
- Tools with coated finishes
- Wooden muddlers
- Crystal mixing glasses and drinking glasses
- Plastic tools (repetitive dishwashing might cause it to look cloudy over time)
- Stainless steel tools
It is especially important to rinse tools shortly after making your drinks because the acidity in certain ingredients might degrade the finish over time if not properly cleaned. Always use a gentle scent-free dishwashing liquid, as you don’t want the scent to end up in the drinks you mix.
The best cocktail set for your home bar, in my opinion, is the most functional set that is easy to use and easy to clean.
Tips to Loosen the Lid and Cap of Your Cocktail Shaker
If you choose to purchase a set with a Cobbler or Parisian shaker, you will likely experience the frozen lid dilemma. When this happens, try this: squeeze the tin so it flexes while holding it firmly. This will hopefully create some space for you to twist the lid and separate it from the tin.
When the strainer cap is tight, try twisting while pulling. If that doesn’t work, a last resort would be running some warm water over the cap to loosen. This is obviously not ideal, since the shaker is intended for chilling a drink.
How to Use Cocktail Strainers
This video clearly explains how to use all three cocktail strainers:
TOP NON-ALCOHOLIC SPIRITS FOR MAKING MOCKTAILS
As mentioned before, having the right tools for the job will make crafting excellent beverages easier. Any of the cocktail sets featured will be perfect for the task at hand.A Bar Above’s Premium Bar Set has all the essentials, a great set to upgrade your home bar experience.