Mixology 101: The Tools

Mixology is referred to the art of mixing beverages alcoholic or not, usually cold in a combination that will yield a drink with a new flavor called cocktail. The word cocktail itself originally was an adjective describing a creature with a tail like that of a cock, specifically a horse with a docked tail; hence (because hunters and coach horses were generally docked) a racehorse that was not a thoroughbred, having a cock-tailed horse in its pedigree (early 19th cent.). Sense 1 (originally U.S., also early 19th cent.) is perhaps analogous, from the idea of an adulterated spirit. Later of coarse the word was used to describe the very well known alcholic (or not) beverages. The earliest known printed use of the word “cocktail,” as originally determined by David Wondrich in October 2005, was from “The Farmer’s Cabinet”, April 28, 1803, p [2]: “11. Drank a glass of cocktail — excellent for the head … Call’d at the Doct’s. found Burnham — he looked very wise — drank another glass of cocktail.” The second earliest and officially recognised known printed use of the word “cocktail” (and the most well-known) was in the May 13, 1806 edition of the Balance and Columbian Repository, a publication in Hudson, New York , where the paper provided the following answer to what a cocktail was: “Cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters — it is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a Democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else.
According to the great book on bartendering “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” by David A. Embury, first published in 1948 there are in total 6 basic cocktails and most of the other major cocktails are spinoffs of those. Before we go in to detail on the basics of those cocktails and their spinoffs we need to review the essential for a successful home bartendering.

martini  collins   highball

The Glassware: The three basic glasses you need for home bartendering are three, a Cocktail, a Collins and a short Collins (or highball). The cocktail glass is usually holding Martinis and Daiquiris and almost never ice is added to them. A typical size is 8-9 oz. The drink has to be served cold so the glass is kept in the fridge or is let to cool with the addition of ice, prior to serving. The Collins glass is used to served drinks on ice. The tall is used for mixed drinks while the short are usually used for straight up rinks like, Scotch and Vodka or Gin. If you don ‘t have them yet, buy generic from a restaurant supplies store. You can get as many as you want, and if one breaks you don ‘t have


The Tools: There are four essential tools you will need for an effective home bar. A shaker. A simple shaker preferably stainless steel. I actually use the bottom part only, and for the top I am using a simply glass. I find that the top part although it firmly binds on the actual shaker it does not give the mechanical method to open it. So go with the bottom part and a glass. That is shown in the picture right next to the regular shaker. For the record it is called Boston shaker. You will also need ameasuring shot glass. The one shown in the picture is 1 oz. and 2.5 oz. on the other size. You will also need a stirrer long enough to reach the bottom of the shaker. You will also need a strainer. I use a regular strainer to strain the ice and the other stuff. I use a straining spoon. The spring one although it fits nicely in the stainless steel shaker it is hard to clean, and it is not so much more effective compared to the other one. Besides I am using an old straining spoon that I had from a cooking set. Finally you need a bottle opener. I have one for beers and one separate for wine. The wine one is not for cocktails and the sharp tip is kinda dangerous. Please avoid the sets. They look nice but it is hard to find a set with all the functionalities.


The drinks: Aaaah the drinks… Well you need drinks but unless you plan to have a big party just make sure you have the essential.

  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Rum (white or white and spiced)
  • Scotch
  •  Fruit juice
  • French vermouth
  • Cointreau
  • Cognac (optional)

Towels: Well you need at least one to pat dry your hands. If not you will nasty finger prints on the glass.

Extra stuff: A knife to cut lime, lemon and oranges, a jar with cocktail onions, a jar with green olivesand a jar of maraschino cherries. Also get straws and if you plan a party make some fresh, strainedlime juice (not form the store!). Also prepare a simple syrup in a bottle by boiling for 5 minutes 2 cups of sugar and a cup of water with a slice of lemon.

Get those essentials and you are 90% ready to have a professional bar. With those you can make all the basic cocktails their variations. And you can have endless nights of fun. Just don ‘t do it to much.


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Last modified: June 23, 2013 by Georgios Pyrgiotakis