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Good tools are a pleasure to work with, and an economy in the long run. Shun elaborate gadgets. The only people who use them successfully are the pitchmen paid to demonstrate them. Here’s a list of what you should have. Quite a few are familiar kitchen tools – no need to duplicate for the bar.

Shaker: The best type of shaker consists of two containers, a bottom, made of heavy glass, and a tight-fitting metal top. Glass retains cold better than metal and will give less dilution to your drink.

Pitcher: A martini pitcher with a lip to hold back ice can be used for stirring all drinks.

Strainer: A flat wire strainer with coiled-spring edge is ideal for home use.

Corkscrew: A plain wing-type corkscrew works very well and costs about a dollar. Don’t be tempted by the decorative bone or silver-plated fancies featured before the holidays.

Measuring cup: Get the double-enders. One side measures a full jigger – 1 ½ ounces – the other side a pony – 1 ounce.

Other essentials are:

  • Lime squeezer
  • Juicer – a hand juicer is adequate
  • Bottle opener
  • Long-handled bar spoon
  • Ice bucket – make sure the cover fits tightly
  • Stoppers – to recork open soda bottles
  • Canvas bag and mallet – for crushing ice

Other items which are helpful but not necessary:

  • Muddlers
  • Wooden cutting board
  • Stainless-steel paring knife
  • Long plastic or metal stirring rod
  • Ice scoop
  • Funnel
  • Set of measuring spoons
  • Fine wire strainer
  • Lemon zester
  • Potato peeler


You don’t really need special glasses for serving liquor, but it adds to the pleasure. The following sizes are recommended:

  • A stemmed cocktail glass of 4-ounce capacity. This will hold a generous drink and you won’t have to fill it to the brim.
  • A 7-ounce old-fashioned glass for “on the rocks” drinks and frappes, as well as old-fashioneds.
  • A 12-ounce Collins glass that will double for highballs and coolers. This size holds a good-sized drink, and enough ice to keep the drink cold.
  • Several 2-ounce shot glasses with heavy base are handy to have.
  • Sours and some medium-sized drinks are quite attractive served in wine goblets.

Standard Measures

  • A quart, whether it’s milk, water or whiskey, holds 32 ounces
  • A fifth is 1/5 of a gallon, 4/5 of a quart or 25.6 ounces
  • A half-gallon is 64 ounces
  • A gallon is 128 ounces
  • A jigger is 1 ½ ounces
  • A pony is 1 ounce
  • 2 tablespoons equal 1 ounce
  • 6 teaspoons equal 1 ounce
  • A dash is 1/6 teaspoon or about 8 drops

Practical Party Guide

The caterer’s rule of thumb is estimating the number of bottles needed for a party is one fifth for every four people. This is fairly generous, allowing four 1 ½-ounce drinks per person, plus spillage. Obviously there will be variations depending on the crowd, the occasion, season of year, drink preferences and the bartender. You wouldn’t want guests to take more than two cocktails before dinner, if that. On the other hand, people will imbibe more at a party that runs into the small hours. You certainly don’t want to run out, so keep a reserve supply. It’s reassuring to have more liquor on hand than you expect to use. Savings may be effected by purchasing the half-gallon or gallon size, where available.

One last reminder – have plenty of ice. You can overcome almost any shortage but ice. Arrange for a supply from a dealer or vending machine, allowing the equivalent of 3 ice cubes per drink. That should take care of the shaker or pitcher or glass.


From Whiskey in the Kitchen by Emanuel & Madeline Greenberg, 1968.