I tend to shy away from recommending barware sets because, as with most kits, attention to quality is often forgone for one component or another. That being said, you can find plenty of good bar sets for reasonable prices in our buying guide. Should you want something more high-end, check out the Graham Collection from Juliska.
It's a simple but oh-so-swanky little set that offers just about everything you need. Though it’d have been nice if the company had included the shaker, a bartender's knife, and a wine key, just about everything else is there.
The set contains a strainer, a jigger, a bartender's knife, ice tongs, a mixing spoon, a bottle opener, and an elegant little stand to hold it all on display.
But, keep in mind: If you're hunting for a set anywhere between about $50 and $200, we suggest you make up your bar set piecemeal. A bit of selectivity will go a long way toward establishing a dependable set of bar tools you could pass on to your children.
Pros: High-end design, great quality, includes many essential bar accessories and tools
Why you'll love it: The FINEDINE Home Barware Set is an affordable little bar kit, but it has most of the essentials to get you through any party.
There is a sweet spot with buying barware sets. Spend too little, and you run the risk of buying flimsy, rust-prone junk. Spend too much, and you'll probably end up with a few good things and a few not-so-good things, which is money not terribly well spent.
The quickest way to send anything stainless steel to an early grave is to put it away dirty or wet, and that goes double for cheap stainless steel.
The set includes 15- and 30-ounce shaker tins, a Hawthorne cocktail strainer, a 0.75- and 1.25-ounce double cocktail jigger, a 7-inch Flat bottle opener, six pour spouts, a pair of 2-ounce stainless steel shot glasses, and a red knob bar spoon.
Pros: Affordable, has almost every bar accessory you need, stainless steel
First things first: There are three "traditional" types of cocktail shakers. The three-piece, or cobbler, is the simplest of all, and fairly self-explanatory. Load it up, shake, pull off the small lid, and pour.
It's elementary in that there's less risk of splattering your walls with lime juice if you don't get a good seal, but it also doesn't enable as much force as a simple two-piece Boston shaker. It's also about half the price of a cobbler shaker of equal quality, which is important to note: You want a shaker that's functional.
Top Shelf Bar Supply's Boston Shaker is a definitive bartender favorite, but if you want to save a bit, Cocktail Kingdom's Koriko Shaker is a comparable and perfectly serviceable alternative that has a loyal following of bartenders, and I've had no complaints with mine at home.
Spend much less than $15 or $20 on a shaker, though, and you run the risk of subpar quality stainless steel that with just the least bit of neglect lends itself all too easily to rust. Cheap steel shakers can also freeze shut so tightly that you can easily find yourself mired in frustration and despair, wondering if your precious concoction will ever pass your lips before it devolves into a tepid soup. Heaven forbid.
Pros: Affordable, reliable, simple to use
Cons: Some prefer glass for a top piece, higher grade stainless steel, or both (18/10)
Why you'll love it: You don't need to spend a ton on a jigger, and Cocktail Kingdom's double-sided jigger is just the right price for a high-end jigger.
Cocktail Kingdom's double-sided jigger is the jigger that is best fit to survive the treacheries of bar use and abuse, which may be the reason I keep spotting this one on all manner of bar tops across New York City.
We like the unique, bulbous shape of this jigger, which is reminiscent of a cabernet sauvignon glass and just adds a little more character to the bar set all around.
Oxo's SteeL Angled Measuring Jigger is a fresh take on the jigger. It's designed for easy measuring and pouring. Granted, it's a modern design that won't necessarily fly naturally with the rest of your barware, unless you're going for an ultra-modern look.
If you're looking for something cheap and classic, check out Winco's 1-oz. by 2-oz jigger, which is as generic and inexpensive as they come.
Pros: Affordable, stainless steel, well made, easy to use
A mixing glass is a proper way to make cocktails with whiskey. Shakers are generally reserved for citrus-based drinks in which you want to break up the molecules of the fruit to impart flavor and scent.
If your budget gives you more room, and you can't help but reach for the best, the Crafthouse crystal mixing glass by Fortessa has a heavy feel, a vintage look, and comes with two rocks glasses and a stirring spoon and strainer made of 18/10 stainless steel, which sort of seals the deal for us.
Why you'll love it: Hiware makes a mixing glass that's similar in design and durability, but for a fraction of the price.
Hiware makes a timeless little mixing glass for a remarkably fair price. There's no need to go over the top here, but some of the more popular brands fall short here by using cheap glass that cracks early on, according to both professional and verified buyer reviews.
Hiware makes dependable but affordable stuff across the board, and, generally speaking, is a brand we'll stand behind.
While this spoon won't break the bank, and our affordable pick will do the job just as well, there's something about holding a denser, higher-quality stainless steel mixing spoon that's worth appreciating.
Why you'll love it: Hiware's bar spoon has a twirling handle, it's fairly well balanced, and it doesn't cost a fortune.
Bar spoons are fairly plain contraptions, but to make a cocktail with whiskey, you're going to need one. The important things to make sure of are that it's balanced and that the spoon is one piece, and not bonded to the handle, which will eventually cause it to fall apart.
Hiware's Stainless Steel Mixing Spoon is just the ticket for those on a budget.
Walnut, so long as you dry it well, is a sturdy, hefty wood that will live a very long life as a muddler. You want a little weight in a muddler because it makes your job a good deal easier. It also doubles as an excellent tool should your guests get a little unruly.
Just know that shiny varnish comes with a bit of a threat around food and beverages: Neglect it, and it may start to peel, at which point you might start finding shards of urethane in your mojitos.
Why you'll love it: The Carter Stainless Steel Muddler is two-sided, with one flush end for herbs and leaves and a toothed end for more resilient citrus rinds and fruits.
We see both form and function working together in the Carter Stainless Steel Muddler. Certain things, like mint leaves, call for more gentle muddling, so you'd want to use the flush end for those, while others, like citrus, require a slightly more aggressive approach with the toothed end.
When it comes to muddling and juicing, there are no better tools than bare wood. They're easier on the hands than metal, and the fact that there's no finish means you won't find shards of enamel in your drinks.
Crate & Barrel's Mixologist Cocktail Tool Kit has everything you need in its simplest, most functional form, and comes with a stand so you can hang everything to dry after use and it doesn't end up getting put away wet, which causes wood to split.
We like the Chef'n FreshForce Juicer because of its elaborate gear system, which not only makes squeezing citrus easier on the hands but also helps you get more juice out. It even comes in three different sizes meant to fit lemons, limes, and oranges.
While we usually prefer metal to plastic, the paint coat on most metal citrus presses eventually breaks up and chips due to the acidity from citrus, and we don't really like the idea of having paint chips in our margaritas.
Pros: Easy to use, gets lots of juice, comes in different sizes
The Oxo SteeL strainer has a raised lip and a little thumb piece to make pouring a cinch. It's also nice and compact, so it won't get tangled up in your drawer like some other strainers with what we find to be oversized, unnecessarily complicated handle designs.
From an oblong shape that allows you to fit more than one bottle inside of it, to a drain tray for keeping your good ice above the melted stuff, Crafthouse's by Fortessa Ice Bucket checks all our boxes.
The main thing to keep in mind when you're buying an ice bucket is that you have sufficient insulation. There are a lot of pretty ice buckets out there, but many of them don't function all that well. Pick up a thin-walled, copper-plated bucket and you'll have nothing but water in no time — maybe slush, if you're lucky.
Fortune Candy's ice bucket is our top pick because of its double-walled construction that creates great insulation to keep your ice from melting.
It also has a tidy little place to store the tongs in the lid so they're not hanging out collecting dust and getting dirty throughout the course of your soirée.
Pros: Stainless steel, keeps ice from melting, affordable
I've been enchanted by Juliska's playful take on drink- and tableware since it first caught my eye a few years ago. From the Berry & Thread collection to the whimsical swirls adorning the Amalia line, there's something elegant but fun with everything the company makes that will liven up even the dullest occasions.
If we were splurging on heavier drinkware, and especially rocks glasses, we'd go with Schott Zwiesel, which is heavy, thick, chip-resistant, and nearly unbreakable.
If you want to shop and do your own research, we completely understand. Below are a handful of our favorite places to shop for bar tools, barware, drinkware, and related accessories, all the way from bar carts and stools down to shakers and jiggers.
The best places to shop for barware:
Amazon is, of course, stocked with just about everything at every price range.