Okay, so liquor is kind of expensive. I really ought to stop collecting it for a little while, as it is taking over my bar, and I’m sure my bank thinks I’m an alcoholic (what with all of the Party Source and Cork ‘n’ Bottle purchases I’ve made recently). The stuff you use to MAKE cocktails, however? Surprisingly inexpensive. Here are a few tips:
Juicers: When we started making cocktails at home, I used the lemon reamer I use for cooking. It turned out to be messy and annoying. I had seen Molly Wellman using these sunny, green and yellow juicers, and as I was picking up some Jarritos at Kroger in the “hispanic” section, I noticed that they sold the same juicers– and they were on sale for under $3. They are made by Imusa, and they are fantastic– made of heavy cast iron coated with enamel, and really extract a ton of juice. They come in two sizes– lemon, which work well on large limes and small lemons, as well as some smaller oranges, and lime, which works well with Key limes. If you have any gargantuan lemons (like I’ve been seeing lately– they’re softball sized!) or grapefruits, stick with a reamer. Unless you’re doing a lot of juicing, you probably don’t need one of those heavy-duty mechanical juicers. Interesting fact: I saw the same juicer– same brand and everything– at a “big box” store, not in the Hispanic food section, and it was twice the price. Interesting. Still, even at $6 on Amazon, it’s not a bad deal
Cocktail glasses: You don’t have parents or grandparents with cocktail glasses stored in their basement? Never fear. You can find things like champagne coupes, small Martini glasses, margarita glasses, and other really interesting glassware that probably were in someone else’s basement at Goodwill. I recently picked up a bunch of really interesting glassware– probably 18-20 pieces– for less than 50 cents a piece. They mark on all of them with sharpies, which come off with either some Goo-Gone or a run through the dishwasher. Plus, if you break one (and trust me, you will)– you won’t feel too bad.
Shakers: We’ve all seen the $20, $30 and more expensive cocktail shakers, but you don’t really need them. Do you have pint glasses? Grab a few pint glasses, and head over to your local, high-end liquor store (in Cincinnati, I tend to go to the Party Source or Cork ‘n’ Bottle) where you can buy metal Boston shakers. Though they can be a bit tricky to get apart the first couple of times you use them, having interchangeable parts is crucial when you’re making a bunch of drinks. You might see the folks at Tonic serving up Juleps in small Boston shakers, and you can use the pint glasses for beer. I hate a unitasker, so these are ideal. They do take a little practice, but it’s worth it! Here’s a video to show you how it’s done.
And another that shows you the best angle for the metal part, so you can always get the top off!
Strainers: If you’re using a Boston shaker, you’ll need a strainer. A julep strainer is used for straining out of the mixing glass, and the Hawthorn strainer (the one with the spring) is used to drain out of the mixing glass. Imbibe Magazine just did a comparison of Hawthorn strainers, and you can find the issue on the newsstand. I have an Oxo strainer, but sometimes I’ll also use a tea strainer (like in the video above) if I want to make sure there are no bits of ice or pulp in my drink.
Don’t forget a jigger– OXO makes a nice one that has measurements on each side, and runs about $7 at Target.
See? It’s not too expensive to shake up a cocktail!