If only I had something that….
How often do we say this while looking at our sad little alcohol hub at home, followed by a trailing off in disappointment that there’s nothing out there in the whole wide world to match our requirements?
Quite a lot. So what’s the solution? You could search online, but you’ll probably get distracted by pictures of a cat wearing a T-Rex costume. Or you could just read this guide to find out about cool stuff. Today we’re looking at 20 home bar accessories that you never even knew existed, and even if you have heard of them, you probably never knew what the heck they did. Prepare to be enlightened.
Home Bar Accessories for Liquor and Spirits
In some cases, a jigger is a small man who dances blithely in the streets of Scotland. But in the world of home bar accessories, a jigger is a measuring tool used to eek out just the right amount of liquor before you drop it off in the cocktail shaker.
Jigger refers to the actual liquid measurement — 1.5 fluid ounces to be exact — but the tool comes in different sizes. It looks like two different-capacity cones stacked back-to-back. Kind of like an awkward hourglass, but with no sand inside to make you melancholy about the rapid passage of time.
A jigger is especially useful if you’re trying to whip up drinks fast, since it feels right at home between the index and middle finger, and can be filled and flipped effortlessly.
2. Caribbean Swizzle Stick
The name alone will make you buzzed with happiness. A Caribbean Swizzle Stick, A.K.A. le bois lélé, is a wooden bar tool that consists of a thin main shaft and an end with a bunch of prongs on it. Think of a chicken foot with extra toes. Traditionally, the stick is made out of twigs from the Quararibea Turbinata tree and functions just like a rudimentary blender. An essential for tropical-style cocktails, you add your ingredients, then your ice, stick in the swizzle stick, rub the handle together between your palms like you’re trying to start a fire, and enjoy the perfectly frothed cocktail you just created.
3. Cocktail Rimmer
Ever wonder how they get that salt all around the your margarita glass? Bet you $5 the bartender has a cocktail rimmer. This tool consists of three lids/containers that are wide enough to accommodate different size glasses: one spongy lid for the sticky stuff (ex. lime juice), one for salt, and one for sugar. You’re not limited to these traditional options though — you can fill the lids with anything from chili powder to pop rocks if you’re looking to kick drinks up a notch. Simply dip the glass rim in the sticky liquid, then lightly roll it in the crunchy selection. Remember to use a new glass each time and to rim before you add the alcohol.
The key to the mother of all mojitos, a muddler looks like a pestle of the infamous mortar and pestle duo. You need this bar gadget to mash up fruits, herbs, and other ingredients in the bottom of the glass and set their flavor free. The average muddler is about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. Most are made out of wood, though you can find some modern metal and plastic ones out there. The bottom can be either smooth like the end of a baseball bat, or ridged with teeth. An essential for mint juleps and old fashioneds, it’s possible to over-muddle a drink, so use lightly if you dare to muddle.
5. Brandy Warmer
The word brandy comes from a Dutch term meaning burnt wine, because that’s pretty much what it is. Heat elevates this liquor’s aromas and flavors, so it’s often enjoyed warm. You could use your hands to raise the temperature or you could just use a brandy warmer. The latter consists of a metallic stand with a tealight candle holder at its center and a place to nestle your brandy snifter above. In addition to drawing out the best of your drink, a brandy warmer will make you feel like a great English lord in his castle.
6. Whiskey Rocks
For the fine bourbon and whiskey lovers, these solid soapstone cubes keep your drink chilled to a perfect 50°F without melting and diluting like real ice cubes. These rocks are a fairly new phenomenon, and while soapstone is by far the most popular material, you can also find this gadget in granite and steel.
Put the stones in your freezer for about four hours, stick them in your lowball glass filled with single barrel malt scotch whisky, let it sit for five minutes, and then kick back at your desk and pretend to be a troubled author writing the novel of the century as you sip your liquor. Actual words and creative mindset not included.
Home Bar Accessories for Wine
7. Wine Cooler
Though it’s probably one of the most essential home bar accessories for wine lovers, not many people understand the magic of a wine cooler. In fact, when people hear wine cooler, they think of that ubiquitous low-alcohol wine and fruit juice abomination that underage drinkers everywhere seem to want to try.
In the grown-up, modern wine world, a wine cooler is a refrigerating cabinet where you store your precious collection of reds and whites at the perfect temperature where flavors blossom and optimal mouthfeel emerges and the bottles stay safely nestled away from sunshine and temperature fluctuations and jostling…well we could go on and on, but you should probably just look at these ones for yourself: compressor wine coolers.
8. Wine Dispensing Bag
An accessory for when you’re away from your home bar, or when you’re at somebody else’s house and their bar isn’t what you expected, a wine dispensing bag is a…wine dispensing bag. It’s a little bag that you put wine in. Then you leave the house. Then you dispense the wine surreptitiously. Then you drink the wine. It comes in tote, purse, and floppy hobo bag form. There’s a spigot on the side so you can duck under the table at a fancy restaurant, pretend you’re mooching for some gum, and refill your glass instead so you can get tipsy without an exorbitant check. Lifting the bag above your head and guzzling isn’t recommended, but may be necessary if your friend insists on serving Jager Bombs.
You pick up the wine bottle with your right hand. Then you pick up one piece of stemware in your left hand. Then you stand there confused and wonder how you’re going to pick up the other three glasses you need for a group picnic. Then you set both back down and pick up a wine stemcaddy instead. Best described as a home bar accessories thingamajig, you slip the center of this whatchamacallit over the wine bottle neck. It rests securely on the bottle’s shoulders and you can hook stemware onto each corner, usually two or four glasses. The trip from your home bar to the table or the car just got 10x easier.
10. Wine Tasting Cup Necklace
A wine tasting cup necklace, and more specifically, a tastevin, is a drinking accessory that’s been around for a couple of hundred years. Nowadays, it’s carried around by only the most snootiest of sommeliers. So if you wear this out and about, be prepared to go all out and own the thing. That’s right, show everybody that you look good in a chain necklace with a cup dangling at the end. And also show everybody that you know what it’s used for.
Basically, a tastevin is used to check the maturity of wine. The shiny, dimpled bottom on this handy-dandy tool reflects the wine, and illuminates its color and clarity, even if the restaurant has the lights turned down low. Back in the olden days when there was no electricity down in the cellar, this gadget was a lifesaver. In modern times, it’s still great if you’re a mole person who has a home bar with dim lighting.
11. Wine Drip Collar
We all dribble a little and some do more than others. Most people haven’t mastered the deft twist and lift that’s needed at the end of pouring wine into a glass to prevent drops running down the bottle side. Anyone too fancy for coasters can use a wine bottle drip collar. It’s literally like a dog collar or ring with velvet on the inside that you put over the neck of the wine bottle to catch any stragglers before they can reach the woodgrain.
12. Wine Thermometer
Use this gadget to see if your wine’s running a fever. White wine is best served at 55-58°F and red wine is best served at 62-65°F. Digital wine thermometers wrap around the bottle like a watch on a wrist so you can check the temperature before popping the cork. There are also stick-like mercury thermometers that you insert into the wine bottle after opening. A home bar accessory that’s best used after you’ve put the vino in the fridge for a short period to chill, this gadget is only needed if you don’t have a wine cooler to store your collection at the right temperature at all times.
Home Bar Accessories for Beer
13. Beer Pouring Spoon
Ever wonder how a black and tan is born? It’s all thanks to this spoon with an extra bend in its handle. All you need is a pint glass, a pale ale/lager, a stout/porter, and this curvaceous home bar accessory. Pour the light-colored beer first, filling the glass about halfway. Then hook the spoon on the pint glass rim and pour the dark beer over the back of the spoon’s bowl. This keeps the two types from mixing and physics does the rest — the stout is less dense and will naturally sit on top of its pale counterpart.
14. Cap Catcher
While beer cap art deserves a cookie, please don’t start your masterpiece while you’re still bartending for the in-laws. One of those home bar accessories that you didn’t know you needed until you got it, a cap catcher is a dedicated receptacle for any beer tops you pop off. It can look like a 3D trapezoid, a mason jar, or a plain old bucket. The catcher is usually mounted on the bar edge or nearby wall, and some have a bottle opener built-in above so you hardly have to lift a finger. Then, when everybody’s asleep, you can sneak away with your stash and start on a replica of Seurat’s La Grande Jatte.
15. Wine & Beverage Cooler
Repeat after us: a wine cooler is for wine bottles, and a beverage cooler is for beverage cans, and a wine and beverage cooler is for wine bottles and beverage cans. A more dynamic home bar accessory than just a wine cooler, a wine & beverage cooler has two separate cooling zones: one for beers and other drinks that you want to keep cold, and another side to store wines at a slightly warmer temperature.
Most mass market lager beers taste better at 35–40°F, which is too cold for wine. A wine & beverage cooler solves this problem by separating the collections and chilling to a lower minimum temperature than plain wine coolers. If you care about beer and wine, the few degrees make a big difference when it comes to taste.
16. Koozie, Beer Hugger, Beer Sleeve, Bottle Jacket, Can Cooler, Coldy-Holdy, Stubby Cooler, Drink Sheath
You get the picture. Whatever cutesy-wootsy name you personally call it, this sleeve slips over a beverage container and keeps it from warming up too quickly. It’s usually made out of foam or fabric, and insulates the bottle against heat from your hand, the sun, etc. The principle behind this beverage sweatshirt is the same as a tea cosy, except that product keeps the hot kettle insulated so heat doesn’t escape.
Other Cool Home Bar Accessories
17. Vermouth Atomizer
One of those real speciality home bar accessories, a vermouth atomizer looks like a bottle of perfume. Except inside is something much better than Unforgivable Woman or Midnight Poison or some other absurdly named scent: vermouth. To refresh your memory, vermouth is wine that’s been spruced up with herbs, spices, flowers, and other lovely ingredients.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to use the atomizer. Just pour chilled gin into a glass and then spritz the glass with an ultra-fine spray of vermouth. Conversely, you can spray the chilled glass first and then add chilled gin. Either way, afterwards you’ll sip and realize that you now know what an extra dry martini should actually taste like.
18. Absinthe Fountain
Absinthiana sounds like a country in Eastern Europe, but it’s actually the various accessories you need to drink absinthe responsibly and properly. Since this spirit is super alcoholic by volume, you have to dilute it. An absinthe fountain or dripper looks like a 4-legged octopus. You fill the center container with ice water, pour the absinthe into a glass, and lay a sugar-cube-topped spoon across your cup’s rim. Then place the cup under one of the fountain spigots and let the water spill slowly over the cube until it dissolves and your spirit looks opaque.
19. Bottle Lock
Yes, there is such a thing as a lock for your wine and spirits bottle themselves. This accessory is great for any budding bartenders with kids. There are two basic types: a combination lock that you insert into the top of the bottle, and padlock device that slips over the top of the bottle. Just don’t lose the key.
20. Portable Ice Maker
Bartending refresher course: straight up means a drink is shaken with ice, and then strained and served without the ice in a glass with a stem. On the rocks means the drink is poured over ice. For these drinks and many mixed concoctions, you need ice. Traditional methods include filling up trays and putting them in the freezer; buying bags of ice at the grocery store; or using your fridge dispenser.
A portable ice maker is a newer invention that sits right on your home bar countertop and pops out around 30 pounds of ice per day. The magic formula for this bar appliance is: plug into socket + add water into the maker + press buttons + take two tequila shots while you wait + scoop out ice from the machine + make a nice cocktail = enjoy.