Building an at-home bar is rather different from building a commercial bar. You only really need to stock bottles you and your guests like rather than a wide enough selection for every taste in a target demographic. You don't need a shelf full of glasses and while it's nice to have bar sinks, they're really not necessary. There are a few tools of the bar that tend to get excluded from home setups, though, that can really make the difference between so-so homemade cocktails and top-notch craft drinks. Here are three pieces you should consider for a truly exceptional personal bar.
Ever wonder how classic bars produce that glorious, snowy crushed ice for stellar drinks like the Mint Julep? Here's a hint: It ain't a snowcone machine. Craft bars employ a simple but specific tool called a Lewis Bag for the job. Lewis Bags are canvas sacks designed for ice-crushing purposes, but not just any canvas will do. A proper Lewis Bag is made from heavy industrial canvas rather than the thinner, weaker stuff used in shopping bags and the like. This is because you'll be clobbering the Lewis Bag with a mallet or baton to make your fine ice. Ice is probably the most overlooked ingredient in cocktail crafting and the consistency of the ice in a drink can make a huge difference in the final product. The Lewis Bag and mallet allow you to make drinks that bridge the gap between hard rocks and blended textures, keeping the liquid frosty cold without watering it down.
Dedicated Herb and Spice Grinder
With the resurgence of classic and classic-style cocktails, fresh herbs and spices have re-entered the mixology vocabulary. The day you learn to use fresh ingredients in your drinks is akin to the day you start grinding your own beef for hamburgers. The improvement in taste and texture is so astounding that going back to processed stuff becomes unthinkable. Herbs and spices are most flavorful and aromatic when they're ground from fresh, whole sources and those wonderful oils will only be further enhanced with a little alcohol.
By the same token, fresh-squeezed juice beats bottled juice every time, hands down. While it may be inconvenient to squeeze your morning glass of orange juice every single day, there's really no excuse for skimping on the carefully crafted luxury of a cocktail. You only ever need an ounce or two of juice, if that, for any given cocktail, so there's no need to worry about the number of fruits you need to fill a glass. When it comes to juicers, I prefer the mechanical hand press. It's more efficient and generates more juice than those awful cone presses everybody hates and they don't alter the flavor like automatic presses tend to. And anyway, you won't need an automatic press for small amounts of juice. With your fresh-squeezed mixers, you'll be able to enjoy cocktails without the cloying, chemical notes of bottled products and actually get some nutrition with your drink.