Making cocktails at home doesn’t have to be complicated, but we can all aspire to more than dumping margarita mix in a blender. If you’ve caught the craft cocktail bug and want to make elegant drinks for yourselves and friends (because friends will start knocking on your door), it’s time to consider your tools. Over the past two years, we’ve spent 70 hours researching bar tools, speaking with some of the top bartenders in the country, and testing five dozen models to find the absolute best items for home mixology.
Home bartenders often buy all-inclusive sets, but these tend to be cheap or made more for looks than function. You’ll get better value and quality for your money buying individual tools, as no manufacturer makes the best in every category. So if you’ve been using a shaker as a mixing glass, a chopstick as a bar spoon, and a wooden spoon as a muddler, that’s okay. But you’ll take your cocktail game to the next level by upgrading to better barware, both for the quality of your cocktails and the picture you present to your guests.
For this year’s update, we reevaluated our original picks from 2013, considered additional tools, and put everything to the test. We think there’s something here for anyone who wants to outfit a stylish and functional bar at home.
Emily Han is an experienced cocktail recipe developer, educator, and consultant. She is the author of the forthcoming cookbook Wild Drinks & Cocktails: Handcrafted Squashes, Shrubs, Switchels, Tonics, and Infusions to Mix at Home and teaches workshops to home bar enthusiasts and professional bartenders; designs cocktails for events, businesses, and her website; and formerly interned with LA’s acclaimed cocktail chef Matthew Biancaniello. Nick Guy has written about cocktails and drinking culture for Serious Eats (and his home bar isn’t too shabby, either).
In addition to our own research, we solicited expert opinions from 11 well-regarded professionals, including: Brian Van Flandern, the founder of Creative Cocktail Consultants and author of Vintage Cocktails and Craft Cocktails; James Menite, bartender at Crown Restaurant in New York City; Alex Day and David Kaplan, co-founders of hospitality consultancy Proprietors LLC and co-authors of Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails; Michael Dietsch, cocktail contributor at Serious Eats and author of Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times; Robert Hess, author of The Essential Bartender’s Guide, founder of DrinkBoy.com, co-founder of Museum of the American Cocktail, and co-founder of The Chanticleer Society; Jeffrey Morgenthaler, author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique and JeffreyMorgenthaler.com and bar manager at Clyde Common and Pépé le Moko in Portland, Oregon; Chris Tunstall, mixologist and founder of ABarAbove.com; John deBary, bar director for the Momofuku restaurant group; and John Karel, bar manager at The Revelry in Rochester, New York.
You don’t need a lot of equipment to make great drinks at home. If you’re just getting into cocktails, you might start with a shaker, a jigger, and a strainer. More advanced mixologists should consider investing in a good mixing glass, spoon, muddler, and citrus press. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll need, depending on the types of drinks you like.
Shaker: Perhaps the most basic bar tool, this is used to shake cocktails that include mixers (such as juice, dairy, or egg) to blend flavors from the various spirits and ingredients and to chill, aerate, and dilute the drink. Although shakers can be subdivided further, the Boston and cobbler styles are the two main setups you’ll see. Most professionals use Boston shakers, which are comprised of large and small cups that fit together. Both cups are usually metal, but sometimes bartenders use a pint glass for the smaller one. A Boston shaker requires a little more finesse to connect and shake, and needs a separate strainer. Cobbler-style shakers, on the other hand, are more popular with home bartenders. Generally, they separate into three pieces: a canister, a lid with a strainer, and a cap to cover up the holes. These have a tendency to leak, but they don’t require a separate strainer.
Jigger: This is simply a small liquid measuring cup used to measure ingredients for both shaken and stirred cocktails. Because cocktail recipes call for quantities of two ounces or less, a full-size measuring cup won’t do (and a shot glass isn’t accurate enough). Jiggers are sometimes sold individually but can also come in sets.
Strainer: Although some mixing vessels call for julep or tea (fine) strainers, a basic Hawthorne strainer, which has coils that help it snuggly fit a Boston-style shaker, is the most versatile and best for keeping shards of ice and herbs out of the glass. A good Hawthorne strainer will also fit a mixing glass.
Mixing glass: Cocktails made entirely of alcohol (or perhaps very light mixers), such as a martini or Manhattan, should be stirred. Although you can stir in something like a pint glass, a mixing glass with straight sides, a heavy base, and a pour spout works far better (and looks nicer). Mixing glasses are traditionally made of glass rather than metal; glass is a better insulator and allows the guest to watch the cocktail being made.
Bar spoon: Used for preparing stirred cocktails, a bar spoon has a long handle for reaching the bottom of a mixing glass. A good spoon can also scoop up garnishes.
Muddler: This tool smashes herbs, fruit, or sugar cubes for making cocktails like a mojito. All manner of muddlers exist, from heavy plastic cylinders to artisan-made wooden objets d’art to the disk-shaped end of a bar spoon.
Citrus press: Most of the bartenders we spoke with recommended a hand press for citrus-based cocktails. Hand-held citrus reamers tend to be difficult to use; electric and manual presses produce more juice than the average home bartender needs. A hand press, which has a cup for the cut half of citrus and levered handles, will more easily produce the right amount of juice for a couple of drinks.
We considered more than two dozen shakers and tested eight this year to find that the Koriko Weighted Shaking Tins are the best choice if you want to look pro. This Boston-style shaker has good weight and balance, it’s easy to break the seal, and the tins fit a Hawthorne strainer snugly.
The small tin of the Koriko shaker sits higher in the large tin when compared to the shaker sets we tested from Barproducts.com and The Boston Shaker. As a result, the Koriko feels more balanced and easier to hold while shaking, and the seal is easiest to break because of the position of the cups.
No Boston-style shakers leaked in our testing. (When straining, the OXO Hawthorne strainer fit the 28-ounce Koriko tin more snugly than the 28-ounce tins from Barproducts.com and The Boston Shaker.) Most of the experts we spoke with also recommended a 28-ounce shaker, as it’s just the right size for making two drinks.
Our experts cautioned against buying expensive shakers at fancy kitchen stores (they are designed more for looks than functionality), as well as cheaply-made shakers often sold at liquor stores.
How to use a shaker
Pour ingredients into the main canister, add ice, assemble the shaker, then shake.
If working with a Boston shaker, place one hand on either side of the shaker, with the top of the shaker facing you. Use a slight rocking motion, tipping the joined tins from end-to-end. Start slow, then work up to shaking more rigorously. Shake for 10 to 15 seconds depending on the size and quality of your ice.
*Look here for the two best methods for unsealing Boston shaker tins.
Oggi’s Marilyn Tall and Slim Cocktail Shaker was our top pick in the 2013 guide. This shaker has a contoured shape that makes it easy to hold and a brushed finish that aids with grip. But some readers reported that they experienced leaks with this shaker. In this year’s tests, we found that the shaker did not seal tightly and leaked while shaking. Like most cobbler-style shakers, its built-in strainer holes did not filter out shards of ice or pieces of muddled ingredients as well as a Hawthorne strainer.
At just a couple dollars apiece, the 18-ounce weighted & 28-ounce weighted Cocktail Shaker Tins from Barproducts.com are an inexpensive alternative to the Koriko tins. They have a good weight and balance while shaking, and they did not leak during our test. Compared to the Koriko tins, the smaller tin sits lower in the large tin, making it a bit harder to break the seal. The large tin is flimsier than its Koriko counterpart, and a Hawthorne strainer (we used OXO’s Steel Cocktail Strainer) does not fit as snugly. Still, they are a good budget choice. Alex Day and David Kaplan note, “You can spend an absolute fortune on any bar tool, but by and large, it’s not necessary … we often buy inexpensive utility shaker sets–their simple construction means there’s very little to break. And, when they inevitably need to be retired after a couple years, it’s only a couple bucks to replace them.”
Barproducts.com’s 18-ounce non-weighted and 28-ounce weighted tins are very similar to the weighted Cocktail Shaker Tins from Barproducts.com. But they felt just slightly less balanced while shaking. Chris Tunstall says, “If you use two non-weighted tins, they have a tendency to flex when you seal them and it can be difficult to break the seal after shaking. If you use two weighted tins, they have a tendency to create a very rigid tin that has a tendency to open up while shaking. This pair is sold separately, but I think they work very nicely together.”
The combination of The Boston Shaker’s 16-ounce weighted and 28-ounce weighted tins did not leak in our testing, but we did find it harder to break the seal because the small tin sits so low in the large tin. The Hawthorne strainer was also loose, creating spills while straining.
We also tested a Boston-style shaker using Anchor Hocking’s Pint Mixing Glass and the 28-ounce weighted tins from Koriko, Barproducts.com, and The Boston Shaker. Michael Dietsch said he prefers this style of setup (though he also likes the two-tin style), and Robert Hess mentioned it as well. Yet shaking with glass can be dangerous, particularly if your hands are wet and slippery or if it drops/flies while shaking. In our testing we achieved the best seals with the Barproducts.com and The Boston Shaker tins, in which the glass sat lower. With the Koriko tin, the glass sat higher and felt more precarious.
Though expressly designed for high volume bar use (e.g., pouring a line of 12 shots) rather than craft cocktail making at home, the Quick Strain Tins Combo ‘Original’ Quick Strain Tin intrigued us, so we gave it a test. The tins have a good weight to them, feel balanced, did not leak, and the seal was easy to break. But they were unwieldy to hold at just the right angle to pour, and the two tins were more prone to splitting while straining. While the holes strained out ice, they were too large to strain out fine ingredients like herbs.
Although your favorite bartender may free pour liquor right from the bottle into the shaker tin or mixing glass, measuring into a jigger offers much more accuracy (especially if you’re new to making cocktails). After retesting our original pick along with seven additional models this year, we continue to stand by our original recommendation of the OXO Good Grips ¼-cup Mini Angled Measuring Cup.
This cup wasn’t originally designed to be used as a jigger, but it turns out to be an awesome tool for the job. At $5, it costs less than most jiggers and it’s easier to use. The clear plastic and bright red markings gives this cup superior top-down and side visibility (including in low light). It measures ¼ ounce, ½ ounce, 1 ounce, 1½ ounces, and 2 ounces. To get that same range of measures, you’d need at least three double two-sided jiggers, which commonly come in 1-and-2-ounce and ½-and-¾-ounce measures.
The OXO also helps prevent spilling and messes—a common problem with traditional two-sided jiggers—because it features a useful pour spout and has extra space in the cup above the highest measurement.
Brian Van Flandern says, “while I am not normally a fan of plastic, this one is dishwasher safe and allows the user to accurately measure in both ounces, tablespoons, milliliters, and even cups. It is easy to see the measurements even in low light as the inside is marked with clear red lines…the high quality of the plastic does not emit any odors that can alter the flavor of your drink.”
Those tablespoon lines also mean you can use this cup for recipes that don’t use ounces. Michael Dietsch explains, “Some recipe writers don’t even use the traditional ounce measures in cocktail recipes.”
Some commenters on the original guide mentioned that the measurements on the OXO cup faded over time; we tried to simulate this with vigorous scrubbing but did not encounter any problems. The one big drawback to this cup is that it lacks the common ¾-ounce measure. It also does not offer anything in the realm of aesthetics, but as Chris Tunstall says, “While classic -styled jiggers look better, they do tend to drip a bit. I actually really like to use this OXO top-down style because it drips less.”
The OXO cup is also recommended by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Chris Tunstall, and Michael Dietsch. Alex Day, David Kaplan, and Robert Hess recommended this measuring cup for home use specifically. Said Hess, “I do not recommend these for professional bartenders since they take a little longer to use because you are constantly needing to carefully look at the liquid line, but for home bartenders they are handy and easy to use.”
Those who want a classic double-sided jigger should consider the OXO Steel Double Jigger. We found it messier to use than the OXO cup, but we think it has better visibility and measurements than any other double-sided jigger we tried.
With ¼-, ½-, and 1- ounce measures on one side and ⅓-, ¾-, 1½- ounce measures on the other side, this jigger gives you all the measures you need. Volume markings and measurement lines are etched inside the cups, making it fairly easy to see if you are looking down into the cup (it’s harder in low light). Fortunately, the lines are clear and help with accurate pouring.
How to use a jigger
Hold the jigger in your non-dominant hand between your thumb and index finger. Slowly and steadily pour the liquid into the jigger. The meniscus—or surface of the liquid—should be flat or slightly rounded, not overly convex or concave. Then tip the jigger to pour the liquid into the mixing glass or shaker.
If looks are an important factor in your choice of barware, you might also consider the OXO Steel Angled Jigger. It has the same measurement as the clear version that’s easy to see in decently-lit locales. And like the plastic version, we like the pour spout and that the jigger is taller than its largest measure, so you don’t have to fill it all the way to the top and risk spilling. Unfortunately, like the plastic model, it lacks the common ¾-ounce measure.
Cocktail Kingdom Japanese Style Jigger is taller and more narrow than standard jiggers, which can help prevent spills while pouring but also risks getting knocked over more easily. Like the other traditional double-sided jiggers, we found it messier to use than the OXO cup. Although it has ½-, ¾-, and 1-ounce measures on one side and 2 ounces on the other side, there is no ¼-ounce measure, which is not essential to most cocktails but is helpful to have. Both the volume numbers and the lines are pretty faint, making them hard to see even in good lighting. This jigger was by far the most elegant looking of those we tested, and it also receives plenty of praise from the pros. It’s recommended by Alex Day, David Kaplan, Robert Hess, and Chris Tunstall.
Dozenegg’s Double Cocktail Jiggers is a set of three double-sided jiggers measuring a handy ½ and 1 ounce, ¾ and 1½ ounces, and 1 and 2 ounces. As Chris Tunstall says, “These are simple, effective and get the job done. The set will probably be all you’ll ever need.” We found the etched markings difficult to see in low light. Compared to the Cocktail Kingdom Japanese Style Jigger, the wider surface area of each cup makes splashing more likely when pouring liquid into or out of it. Each jigger is made of two halves stuck together, creating a small groove that can trap moisture and debris.
Uber Bar Tools’s Projig US Multi Measure Jigger has a unique design that features four separate compartments in one double-sided jigger. On one side are ¼-, ½-, and ¾- ounce measures, while the other side is 1¼ ounces, which seems an odd choice as most cocktail recipes would benefit more from a 1- or 2-ounce measure. (You can fill the ¾ and ¼ cups to make one ounce, but this is inefficient.) The jigger is easy to hold, feels well balanced and unlikely to tip over, is conducive to pouring without dripping, and is made of durable plastic. But the odd measures ultimately knocked this out of the running.
Although you’ll find julep and tea (or “fine”) strainers, the only type that will snugly fit a Boston shaker is the Hawthorne style, and we think you should pick up OXO’s steel cocktail strainer. This was our original pick, and after looking at four other strainers this year, we found it’s still the best.
For our original guide, Brian Van Flandern tried the OXO and Swissmar’s Stainless Steel Cocktail Strainer. He resoundingly prefered the OXO. Because it has barely any handle, it was much easier to push the coils against the shaker, keeping shards of ice from escaping. The Swissmar’s short, unbalanced handle butted up against the lip of the tin, preventing the coils from properly straining. Like Van Flandern, we were impressed by just how tight and solid the coils of the OXO feel, especially compared to others that felt more like cheap, thin metal.
Van Flandern also likes that the upper lip of the OXO is ergonomically rounded so that if the strainer is pushed forward too far, liquids will not spill around the sides. With the Swissmar, he found that “The head of the strainer is much smaller than the average shaker tin and therefore has greater leakage on the side. The unskilled barperson will get more liquid on their bar than in the glass.” He also likes that the OXO “has a rubber slide grip built into the metal frame for comfort and accurate precise pouring. A very clever design that looks and works great.”
Also important: at $7, the Steel Cocktail Strainer costs about the same or less than many of the strainers on the market. At Cocktail Kingdom, for example, Hawthorne strainers start at $15.
How to use a strainer
To use a Hawthorne strainer, place the strainer inside the lip of the shaker tin or mixing glass. Use your index finger to push the strainer against the edge of the tin or glass and pour the liquid into your cocktail glass.
For our original review, we tested Swissmar’s Stainless Steel Cocktail Strainer, but we found it had a less comfortable handle than the OXO’s and that it caused leaking.
We considered testing the Koriko Hawthorne Strainer, but it didn’t receive the same high praise as the OXO strainer from our experts, so we opted not to test.
Umami Mart’s Stainless Steel Long Hawthorne Strainer seems promising, but at $22 we didn’t think it looked significantly better than the $7 OXO strainer.
The Umami Mart’s Seamless Plain Mixing Glass might look basic (especially for $50), but of the 13 mixing glasses we considered and the five we tested, it outshone the competition in stirring, straining, and pouring. The Umami Mart is expensive, but its overall balance and ease of use make it worth the extra dollars. We also think a nice mixing glass truly adds to the art of mixing cocktails at home.
All of the glasses we tried were comparable in size and durability, but the Umami Mart’s wide, heavy base gives it more stability; it does not tip or move around, making it one of the easiest glasses we tried for stirring liquid and ice with a bar spoon. Cocktail Kingdom’s Seamless Yarai Mixing Glass, by comparison, didn’t sit flat on the counter and wobbled with stirring, as did the lightweight French press carafes we tried.
The Umami Mart’s straight sides also provide it with more room for stirring than something like a pint glass or cocktail shaker. “You can use the metal mixing tin of either the cobbler or Boston shaker, or typically bartenders will use the pint mixing glass of the Boston shaker,” says Robert Hess. “However, a drawback of any of these is that the base of them is relatively small, and it makes it more difficult to work the ice well as you stir. For this you want to use a true mixing glass.”
An OXO Hawthorne strainer snugly fit the mouths of most of the mixing glasses we tested. But the spout on the Umami Mart glass is smaller and more precise than those on Cocktail Kingdom’s Yarai Mixing Glass and the W&P Mixing Glass, making straining the drink into a cocktail glass a more foolproof affair. Cocktail Kingdom’s Seamless Yarai Mixing Glass has a similar pour spout and is few dollars cheaper, but its tendency to wobble knocked it out of the running.
Though it looks delicate, the Umami Mart is made of weighty glass that’s less likely to break than something like a French press beaker. Durability is important “because you’re definitely going to break your mixing glass at some point,” says Jeffrey Morgenthaler. “It’s just a matter of when, and a heavier glass is going to live longer than a lighter one.”
At 550 mL (or 18.59 ounces), enough for two drinks, we think the Umami Mart is just right for most home cocktail making. Mixing glasses generally range from 16 ounces (480 mL) to 32 ounces (one L), but we only tested those of comparable size to the Umami Mart glass. Morgenthaler notes that “a good mixing glass has to be large enough to hold the drink, and a good amount of ice. Smaller is definitely not better here.”
Because this glass is smooth with no etched pattern, it is a little less grippable than the Yarai glasses from Cocktail Kingdom. But we also think its simple, clean lines will complement a variety of home bar styles better than etched glass versions. Alex Day also recommends this glass saying, “Some people love a lot of flourish, but I usually go with something simple: THIS is my current favorite.”
A tempered pint glass such as the Anchor Hocking Pint Mixing Glass does not meet the recommendations for a wide base and straight sides. However, it is inexpensive, thick, heavy, durable, fits a Hawthorne strainer snugly, and is multipurpose if you also use it as a shaker and/or drinking glass.
The angle of the glass makes it more difficult to get a smooth and fast stir, and pouring can be less precise than a true mixing glass with a good spout. But the glass does the job and it even makes a good vessel for muddling herbs or citrus.
How to use a mixing glass and bar spoon
To use a mixing glass, first chill the glass. Measure the ingredients into the glass and fill the glass ¾ with ice. Insert the bar spoon. As Jeffrey Morgenthaler says in The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique: “Lightly grasp the spoon in the middle, using your thumb and forefinger. The concave bowl of the spoon should be facing the interior of the glass, and the convex back of the spoon should be nestled in between the ice and the wall of the glass interior. Using your pinch on the spoon as a pivot only, begin to push and pull the spoon away from and toward your body, using your ring and middle fingers.” Stir for 30 to 45 seconds.
Strain the cocktail into a serving glass. (Although julep strainers are traditional here, most of our experts agree that a Hawthorne strainer is fine for home use.)
Mixing glass competition
Cocktail Kingdom’s cut-glass, Yarai-style mixing glasses are recommended by many experts and we tested the Cocktail Kingdom Yarai Mixing Glass, which is also well-rated on Amazon. The glass is sturdy and solid with a wide base, but its weight makes it a little less comfortable for lifting, straining, and pouring. Its wider spout also allows ice and other ingredients to slip through when straining.
Cocktail Kingdom’s Seamless Yarai Mixing Glass is slightly bigger than the aforementioned mixing glass (550 mL versus 500 mL). It, too, has a wide base, but here the glass is lighter and it does not sit completely flat, making it wobble slightly while mixing. A Hawthorne strainer fits more snugly than the other glass, and the spout is smaller and more precise for pouring.
A couple of our experts recommended Williams-Sonoma’s version of the Yarai glass, but it is no longer available. Instead, we tested the W&P Mixing Glass now available at Williams-Sonoma (and elsewhere). Although it is sturdy, durable, and fits a Hawthorne strainer snugly, the taller height of the glass makes stirring and pouring feel a bit awkward. The glass also has a wide spout that makes pouring less precise than glasses with narrower spouts.
We considered French press carafes, such as the BonJour French Press Replacement Glass Carafe and the Bodum Spare Glass Carafe, but realized these would not work as they typically come in sizes that are too small (12 ounces) or too large (34 ounces) for a Hawthorne strainer. Furthermore, these inexpensive carafes are made of thin, light glass that moves and wobbles while stirring.
While functional and potentially attractive to some, we omitted scientific beakers from our review because we believe the prominent measurement marks on these glasses detract from the art of using a mixing glass to make cocktails.
After looking at 12 bar spoons and testing seven this year, we prefer the 30-cm stainless steel Teardrop Barspoon from Cocktail Kingdom for stirring drinks. It has a good bowl size, it’s better balanced than others we tried, the tightly twisted shaft makes it easier to grip and control, and its one-piece construction looks more elegant than those made from two pieces of metal.
The bowl of the spoon is on the smaller size of the bar spoons we tested, but it is sufficient for stirring ice. Its slightly curved shape and modest size also make it handy for scooping garnishes. Other spoons we tested with good bowl sizes have other problems, such as being top-heavy. Meanwhile, the Vktech and RSVP Endurance spoons are too small and the Winco spoon is a bit too large for smooth stirring.
The Cocktail Kingdom spoon feels well balanced and easy to control. In contrast, the Vktech, Swissmar, and Uber ProStirrer spoons feel top-heavy, while the RSVP Endurance spoon is very lightweight and harder to control. Spoons with coiled shafts take a little practice to get used to, but ultimately they are easier to grip and handle than spoons with smooth, skinny shafts like the RSVP Endurance and Vktech. On the Cocktail Kingdom spoon, the coil is tight (in contrast to the loose coil of the Winco and Uber ProTeardrop) and the twisted part of the shaft reaches almost to the top, making it easy to grip at any point.
This spoon is made from one piece of metal, a feature that Alex Day and David Kaplan look for: “If a barspoon is not one continuous piece of metal, it’ll eventually fall apart. There’s a reason why the best ones are expensive and it has a lot to do with durability.” Three of our spoons were made from two pieces—the Swissmar and both Uber models—but we didn’t encounter any durability issues in testing. The Cocktail Kingdom spoon can be bent with moderate pressure, but it is durable with normal use.
Cocktail Kingdom also sells 40-cm and 50-cm Teardrop Barspoons, which may be helpful for people using very tall mixing glasses or reaching down to mix drinks on a low surface (most likely in a bar setting). For most home use, the 30-cm spoon will suffice. Silver-, copper-, and gold-plated models are also available.
This spoon is highly-rated on Amazon and well-regarded by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. And according to Alex Day and David Kaplan, “any of the bar spoons from Cocktail Kingdom are excellent.”
*At the time of publishing, the price was $10.
If you’d like a spoon that can also work as a muddler, the Swissmar Stainless Steel Cocktail Spoon with Hammer has a good, medium bowl size. It’s easy to grip, durable, and highly-rated on Amazon. It feels a bit top-heavy due to the hammer on the end. We prefer using a designated wood muddler for herbs and citrus, but this spoon makes a decent option if you want a multitasking tool.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler says this is his favorite bar spoon both at his bars and at home: “I like the way the coil feels in my hand, and it’s got a blunt end which is used for muddling herbs. Multipurpose, and inexpensive.”
For a tutorial on how to use a bar spoon, see our How to use a mixing glass and bar spoon section.
Bar spoon competition
The RSVP Endurance Stainless Steel Long Handle Drink Spoon has a straight shaft, which some beginner cocktail makers might prefer if they find it difficult to control a twisted-shaft spoon. But we found this particular spoon’s skinny shaft, small and narrow bowl, and light weight harder to control, slippery, and not conducive to chilling drinks quickly. The spoon also bends easily with light to moderate pressure.
The Uber ProStirrer has a good, medium bowl size. It’s durable and well-rated on Amazon. The twisted shaft helps with grip, but the disc on the end, which can be used as a muddler, makes the spoon feel very top-heavy and harder to control. After using the spoon a couple of times, we also noticed some discoloration in the area where the bowl joins the handle.
Although it didn’t stand out in our research, the Uber ProTeardrop was sent to us alongside the Uber ProStirrer, so we tested it. The spoon is durable, but feels imbalanced and difficult to control while mixing, as if the bowl is fighting with the shaft. The looser coil makes it harder to get a good grip. We also noted discoloration where the bowl joins the handle.
The Vktech 12-inch Bar Spoon is well rated on Amazon and it’s durable, but the smallish, tapered bowl makes it less useful for moving ice around. The spoon feels slightly too long, and the shaft is too skinny and smooth to get a good grip.
Our experts unanimously shun the sorts of cheap, flimsy bar spoons with the red knob on the end, but these types of spoons are a popular item on Amazon, so we tested the Winco 11-inch Bar Spoon Steel with Red Knob. We found it surprisingly functional, with a good length and decent, though somewhat too big, bowl size. Overall, though, it was uncomfortable in prolonged use and the handle bent easily.
Every expert we interviewed recommended a different muddler, and there are countless versions on Amazon with positive reviews. After considering 14 and testing 11 for this update by mixing up mint, limes, and simple syrup, as well as evaluating the muddlers for length and durability, we found that muddler preferences can be quite personal. We found the 11-inch Fletcher’s Mill Muddler to be the most ergonomically-shaped and the easiest overall to use.
The 11-inch Fletcher’s Mill muddler is just the right length to muddle ingredients in a 16- or 28-ounce glass or shaker. Fletcher’s Mill also makes a cheaper seven-inch muddler, but we would definitely choose the longer one. In our research we found 11 to 12 inches is generally a good length. Chris Tunstall says, “Nearly all muddlers on the market are around 8 inches, which is fine if you’re muddling in a short glass, but if you muddle in your shaker (which is fairly common) you run the risk of accidentally smashing your fingers on the side of the shaker. I’ve done it, it hurts!” Other muddlers like the Cocktail Kingdom Bad Ass Muddler and OXO SteeL Muddler were a little on the short side.
Fletcher’s Mill advertises that its muddler is “ergonomically shaped;” we think the design is successful. Other muddlers such as the Cocktail Kingdom Bad Ass Muddler and PUG Muddler felt too big for smaller hands, while the PUG and Mr. Mojito muddlers were a bit slippery. Even though one end of the Fletcher’s Mill muddler is considered the top and the other end is considered the base, in practice we found it easy to hold either way, and both ends make a good muddling base. This means the muddler can accommodate different glass widths or ingredients to be muddled, and you can choose which side of the muddler is more comfortable for you.
Some of the muddlers we tried tore herbs, but both ends of the Fletcher’s Mill muddler have flat bases that are much easier on delicate ingredients. Most experts recommend muddlers with flat bottoms rather than teeth: “having spikes can result in over-muddling herbs like mint, resulting in a bitter cocktail,” says Chris Tunstall. Alex Day and David Kaplan prefer muddlers with sharp bottom edges (rather than rounded) for digging into the corner of the glass.
The Fletcher’s Mill wood is unvarnished, making it easy to grip with wet hands. We found the varnished PUG Muddler and unvarnished Mr. Mojito Master Muddler were more slippery in the hand. The other advantage to being unvarnished is that it doesn’t have material that could chip into a drink. All of our experts advise against using muddlers with varnish, lacquer, or paint for that reason.
Like all kitchen utensils made from untreated wood, this muddler should be hand-washed and then towel- and air-dried. Soaking it in water or putting it in the dishwasher could cause the wood to swell and crack (which could also make it a haven for harmful bacteria). If desired, you could treat the wood with a food-safe wood oil.
We chose to test the Fletcher’s Mill muddler as an alternative to some more expensive wooden muddlers, yet we ended up preferring it. It does not have many reviews on Amazon, but several reviewers praise it for being “solid” and made in the USA.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $10.
If you have some power tools and the time, we also like the DIY route Jeffrey Morgenthaler uses of cutting a French rolling pin in half to create two muddlers. “What I do is this, and it’s really easy: take an inexpensive 20-inch French rolling pin (the kind with the tapered sides) and cut it in half,” says Morgenthaler. “Voila. Now you have two perfect muddlers for fruit. Coat them in food-grade mineral oil and they will seriously last you the rest of your life.”
We tried this using Ateco’s 20-inch Length Maple French Rolling Pin, which gave us two 10-inch muddlers, about the shortest size we would recommend for use with taller glasses (11 inches would be more ideal). We found the DIY muddlers worked as well as the Fletcher’s Mill, and it was an inexpensive way to make two muddlers with a comfortable tapered design and a solid base that muddles citrus efficiently and doesn’t tear herbs.
How to use a muddler
Place the herbs, fruit, or sugar in the bottom of a sturdy glass or shaker and use the muddler to press the ingredients with a twisting motion. Herbs should be muddled gently, as over-muddling can release chlorophyll, which turns brown and has a bitter flavor.
Mr. Mojito’s maple 12-inch Master Muddler was comparable to the Fletcher’s Mill muddler in every respect except that the tapered design was slightly slippery in the hand. At $18, it’s comparable in price to the Fletcher’s Mill muddler. And we liked that the base of the Mr. Mojito muddler was wide enough to cover a good surface area at the bottom of the glass.
Cocktail Kingdom’s Bad Ass Muddler is a heavy plastic muddler that is solid and efficient, covers a lot of surface area, gets into the edge of the glass, and doesn’t tear herbs. But at 9¾ inches long, it’s a bit short for using with a 28-ounce tin. In addition, the painted Cocktail Kingdom logo flakes off easily; we would suggest scrubbing it off before using the muddler to avoid getting bits in your drink. People with small hands might also find it bulky.
The OXO SteeL Muddler is easy to grip and has nubs on the bottom that aid in quickly muddling citrus. However, these same nubs bruise herbs a bit (not horrendously, but not ideal, either) and can be difficult to clean.
PUG’s Muddler, made by Chris Gallagher, is beautifully crafted, a good length, and handles citrus and herbs well. For the right hands, the angled top might be ideal; however, for this reviewer it felt big and pokey.
Rabbit’s Push Muddler gave us a lot of trouble in testing. The lock mechanism failed many times, causing splashes and messes, and the two halves of the muddler were difficult to thoroughly clean and dry.
The Swissmar Stainless Steel Cocktail Spoon with Hammer is primarily a bar spoon, but we wanted to test whether the hammer end could make this a good two-in-one tool. The hammer head turned out to be too small and light to press citrus, while the teeth on the bowl of the spoon made it uncomfortable to hold upside-down.
The Uber ProStirrer is another potential two-in-one tool and we found the heavier tip worked much better for muddling citrus than the Swissmar spoon above. It was fine for muddling one or two drinks, but any more than that and the the bowl of the spoon can get uncomfortable in the hand.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $22.
While not absolutely essential, a citrus juicer allows you to easily extract fresh lemon and lime juice for cocktails. A handheld citrus press makes just the right amount of juice for the home bartender, and we’ve found it far easier to use than a handheld reamer. For our original guide, we tried 16 different citrus juicers, and this round retested our original pick against four models. Again, we found the Chef’n FreshForce Citrus Juicer more efficient and easier to use.
Many of the citrus juicers we tried are made of enameled metal, which can eventually chip. Instead, the FreshForce Citrus Juicer is mostly made of heavy plastic, with an unpainted metal cup that presses down on the lemon or lime. “I prefer the unpainted metal ones because eventually that acidity from the citrus chips or flakes the paint on the metal,” says Brian Van Flandern. Despite its mostly plastic construction, the FreshForce weighs almost a pound and feels solid.
The FreshForce has an innovative gear mechanism at the hinge that increases juicing power and minimizes hand strain. As a result, we were able to extract more juice with the FreshForce than with any of the other hand presses. It worked equally well with lemons and limes, although anything larger than a small orange will be an issue.
Virtually no juice sprayed out the sides of the juicer and between five lemons, only two seeds leaked through. The relatively bigger holes did let quite a bit of pulp through. The handles are comfortable, although this reviewer found it a bit bulky for someone with small hands. (In this respect, the Bellemain juicer was more comfortable; see Citrus juicers competition).
Michael Dietsch agrees with our pick: “The Chef’n FreshForce juicer is fantastic. I’ve used it for nearly five years without a problem,” he says. “It has a geared hinge that gives you greater power when you’re juicing. It doesn’t result in significantly more juice, but the greater power makes it easier to squeeze.”
How to use a citrus press
Slice a lemon or lime in half. Place cut side face down in the bowl of the juicer, position press over a cup or bowl, and squeeze the arms together. Remove the squeezed citrus, and repeat until you have the desired amount of juice.
Our friend Kevin Liu has an article about getting the most out of citrus posted on Serious Eats that’s worth checking out, while an article by Michael Dietsch on the same site recommends cutting off the knobby ends. We found rounder, rather than longer, lemons tended to work better.
Citrus press competition
The Bellemain Stainless Steel Lemon Squeezer with Silicone Handles is the most comfortable model for this reviewer’s smaller hands, as our pick, the Chef’n FreshForce Citrus Juicer, feels a bit bulky. The silicone covers on the handles makes for a good grip, there are no issues with flaking paint, and we noticed minimal spray, little pulp, and only two seeds in the juice of five lemons. This press didn’t extract as much juice as the Chef ‘n, which was the main reason we disqualified it. Interestingly, this juicer looks just like the Norpro juicer (see below) but with the addition of silicone handles.
Cocktail Kingdom’s Beehive Juicer looks big but it is fairly lightweight and doesn’t require too much force to squeeze. But our hands got tired from the metal edges on the handle. The juicer had a few noticeable sprays out the side and a tendency to break the lemon peels, but there were no seeds and little pulp in the extracted juice. In our tests, this juicer extracted the least amount of juice. The relatively large bowl size can accommodate oranges and even small grapefruit.
Norpro’s Stainless Steel Citrus Press Juicer is another retest based on a positive review from one of our experts. We found that the relatively thin, tapered handle is not particularly comfortable, but it did extract the second highest amount of juice after the Chef’n FreshForce. This juicer fell apart in America’s Test Kitchen’s experiments, but we had no issues both times we tested it.
OXO Citrus Squeezer is lightweight but doesn’t require too much force to squeeze. The curved handle is comfortable to hold and has good grip. In our test there was no spraying, no seeds, and very little pulp, but the juicer extracted one of the least amounts of juice.
Originally published: October 18, 2015