Mixology Basics by Hella Cocktail Co., bar tools, craft cocktail mixer, hella bitters

Hella Bar Basics

Making great drinks at home is hella fun, cheaper than going out, and easier than you might think. We’ve put together a guide on how not to totally suck at it. From how to use tools to liquor pouring sorcery, we’ve got your back.

Bar Spoon

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A Bar Spoon is a long-handled narrow spoon used to stir, mix, layer, garnish and even muddle cocktails quickly and efficiently. A vital asset behind the bar and in the kitchen, the Bar Spoon is a very versatile and multi-functioning utensil. One signature characteristic of is its spiralled handle. This threading helps the Bar Spoon rotate freely between thumb, palm and fingers with a simply action from the wrist. When starting out, pay close attention to how the spiral feels as you pinch and apply downward pressure to the Bar Spoon handle. It almost stirs itself!

There are endless designs and styles of Bar Spoons. We recommend a minimum length of eight inches, with some form of counter-weight affixed to the top of the handle. As a unit of measurement, a bar spoon holds about 5 millilitres of liquid (the same as a conventional teaspoon) or 2.5 ml of liquid (standard size in Europe).

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Citrus Press

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Leave the electric juicers to early morning power walkers. Cocktailing is a made-to-order exercise. A simple handheld Citrus Press is the fastest way to draw fresh juice from lemons and limes to put directly into your mix. Also known as a hand squeeze or citrus squeezer, this compact device uses a hinged bowl with handles to easily extract the juice.

When prepping your fruit to be pressed, be sure to cut across the middle hemisphere (not from tip to tip) for maximum exposure of the juicy pores. Place the fruit in the Citrus Press’ bowl face down and squeeze firmly over your Jigger, measuring cup or Mixing Glass.

Over the course of making several drinks, the interior of the Citrus Press will accumulate a layer of citrusy essential oils. Fortunately, it’s easy to clean, so be sure to scrub the inside layers of the tool before putting it away.

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Drinks That Need a Citrus Press:

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how to use a citrus peel for a cocktail

Cobbler Shaker

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The Cobbler Shaker, sometimes referred to as a three-piece shaker, is the workhorse of any home bar. A major benefit of the Cobbler Shaker is that it comes with a built-in strainer and, often, a measuring cup. A cup-shaped lid, which caps the strainer, fits snugly onto the tapered base. When shopping for this classic bar tool, look for a substantial, heavily constructed shaker that fits tightly together and a heavy gauge stainless steel. The metal matters because it will efficiently chill the cocktail without freezing your fingers off.

Consider serving leftover cocktail in the Cobbler Shaker along with the poured drink. Similar to the days when extra milkshake was served in frosty metal cups, a little something extra to top of your guest’s martini glass is a thoughtful sign of true hospitality.

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Coupe Glass

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The Coupe Glass, also known as a Champagne Coupe or the Champagne saucer, is a stemmed glass featuring a broad, shallow bowl. As you may have guessed, this glass was originally developed for Champagne; however, craft and Prohibition era cocktailers have taken a fancy to the classy heritage of a Coupe Glass. A few suitable cocktails:

  • Martinez
  • Martini
  • The Last Word
  • Boulevardier
  • Southside

Although the origins of the Coupe Glass are hotly debated, you can offer lively cocktail party conversation by connecting its shape to the life and times of Marie Antoinette.

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Crushed Ice

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If you ever decide to make Mint Juleps around Derby time or whip up some Rum Swizzles come summer, then you are eventually going to have to tackle the art of crushed ice. Luckily, making some good crushed ice is very simple and just requires a little bit of elbow grease. Although, you can buy an ice crusher online for a relative bargain, I recommend taking the old school route and getting yourself a Lewis Bag and wooden mallet. It is much easier to operated and creates a better cocktail because the canvas of the bag absorbs much of the ice’s moisture, yielding a less watery end product.

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Cubed Ice

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These guys will be the bread and butter for most of your cocktail needs. They are not only excellent for shaking and stirring, but also work wonderfully in drinks—everything from a Rum & Coke to a Margarita. Because of their inherent versatility, I would recommend having plenty in stock so you don’t end up running out of ice when you need it most.

How To Use This Thing:

cubed ice how to use

Double Rocks Glass

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The Double Rocks Glass, also known as an Old Fashioned glass, is a short tumbler style glass suitable for cocktails or spirits served over ice.

  • Typical Size: 10-12 oz

Double Rocks Glass glasses typically have a wide brim and thick base. This affords you the option of building your drink in the serving glass, as opposed to inside a Mixing Glass or Cobbler Shaker. When you build an Old Fashioned in its namesake glass, you put in the sugar cube and bitters directly in the bottom of the glass before pouring in ice and whiskey.

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Hawthorne Strainer

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The Hawthorne Strainer has been a staple item behind every bar. Home, professional or otherwise. Hobbyists and Master Mixologist near and far know the importance of finding the strainers tool that fits their specific requirements. The Hawthorne Strainer is characterized by its stainless steel wire design, made to quickly and efficiently strain your cocktails, martinis or shots. Leaving them smooth, and free of ice shards and fruit pulp. Because, in many cases, the even texture of a well crafted cocktail is what makes a it stand out from the crowd.

Even within the Hawthorne Strainer family, there’s no limit to the variation of colors and design flourishes. Although, as a workhorse bar tool, we prefer to steer clear of the frills and keep it classic. No matter your bartending style or technique, be sure to choose a well constructed strainer that fits comfortably and securely into your Mixing Glasses!

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Highball Glass

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A Highball Glass is a straight-sided tumbler style glass suitable for serving “tall” mixed drinks and cocktails that call for a splash of carbonated water or soda. A few classic examples:

  • Tom Collins
  • Dark & Stormy
  • Pimm’s Cup
  • Gin & Tonic
  • Cuba Libre

The elegant length of a Highball Glass accommodates a nice stack of ice cubes as well as a straw and creative garnish. To get extra fancy, you can even line the inside of the glass with a cucumber ribbon before pouring in your ice and liquids.

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Jigger

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Simply put, a Jigger is a measuring cup. It’s important to keep one or more on hand for the sake of accuracy, consistency and inventory control. The classic Jigger design is a basic hourglass shape with two opposing cups of different volumes. Most Jiggers are made of easy-to-clean stainless steel, but where things get interesting is in their variety of shape. Some are small and stout ― holding as little as a quarter ounce ― while others are tall and slender with intricate finishes. A well-made Jigger is generally inexpensive, so it’s a good idea to outfit your bar with at least two in order to have a selection of cup sizes.

  • Small Jigger Capacity: 1/2 oz & 1 oz
  • Medium Jigger Capacity: 3/4 oz & 1 1/2 oz
  • Large Jigger Capacity: 1 oz & 2 oz

For spill-free pouring, angle your bottle so the liquid fills the Jigger from its side inward while holding the Jigger close to the lip of the Mixing Glass. This way there’s minimal space to travel as you tip-over the liquid into the Mixing Glass.

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how to use jigger in a cocktail

Large Cube

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Since ice cubes with larger surface area melt much slower than smaller pieces of ice, these big cubes are perfect for drinks where minimal dilution is desired. Spirit forward cocktails, such as Old Fashioneds and Vieux Carrés, are ideal for these large ice cubes since the cubes are excellent at keeping a drink cold while melting as little as possible. The ideal size for these cubes is around two and a half inches by two and a half inches, and if you are not in the mood for chopping down frozen slabs with an ice pick, you can find the molds at plenty of shops online.

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How To Use This Thing:

How to use a large cube in a cocktail

Lime

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Used in Margaritas, Dark and Stormies, Bloody Marys, and countless other fresh-tasting classics, citrus wedges are usually served perched on the rim of a glass, and can be optionally squeezed and dropped into the drink once it’s served.

Technique: Slice off the polar ends (top stem and bottom tip) of the fruit, then slice the fruit in half lengthwise (from top to bottom). Now cut each individual half into thirds (for small fruit like limes) or quarters (for larger fruits like lemons). Finally, slice a small notch partway through the center of each wedge (see picture directly below) to fit the glass’s rim.

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Luxardo Cherries

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Before they ever sold cherries, Luxardo was a distillery on the Croatian coast. Founded in 1821, they made their name with a cherry liqueur they called maraschino. The distillery started jarring cherries in maraschino around 1905, thus creating the original maraschino cherry. The original recipe called for Marasca sour cherries simmered with sugar, cherry juice and plenty of maraschino liqueur.

Out of the jar, they’re not like the candy-apple red lumps bartenders plunk into kiddie cocktails. These are a work of class, the dark finishing touch to a stiff drink. Their red is so deep, it’s almost black; the syrup thicker than molasses on a chilly day.

The taste is nutty like Amaretto and fruit forward, without the sticky and acrid taste that those waxy red “cherries” have. You can have the humblest of cocktail ingredients, and with a Luxardo cherry, boom, it’s suddenly an elegant drink. The fake maraschino cherry is for when you’re three people deep at a dive bar. These make you feel special. Luxe, even.

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Mixing Glass

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Mixing Glasses are essential for any professional bartender or home enthusiast who takes the art and showmanship of craft cocktailing seriously. The heavy carafe, most often made of thick glass or crystal, is for stirred drinks which typically call for only spirits or liqueurs, bitters, sugar and ice – unlike shaken drinks that can contain fruit juice.

To use this tool properly, carefully measure out the ingredients over ice and “rotate” the liquids by drawing your Bar Spoon along the inside of the Mixing Glass. The width and weight of the container should allow enough stability to get up to a brisk speed without causing friction. The goal is to chill the drink by softening the ice without creating unwanted bubbles or shards of ice crystals. Getting the drink down to a satisfying temperature will typically take between eight to fifteen seconds of consistent stirring. The presentation and romance of a skilled stir make drinks taste that much better. So practice up!

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Muddler

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A Muddler is a club-shaped handheld tool with a rounded shape used as a sort of a pestle to pummel the aroma and flavor from fruits, herbs, sugar cubes and other fresh ingredients in the bottom of a Mixing Glass. A few examples include:

  • Mint Leaves (Julep or Mojito)
  • Lime Wedges (Caipirinha)
  • Bitters-soaked Sugar Cube (Old Fashioned)
  • Rosemary, Sage, Basil (use your imagination)

While some modern Muddlers are constructed of steel and rubber, we prefer the classic design made of beautiful acacia wood with a scalloped end. The standard Muddler is about eight inches in length, but pick one that fits your needs. Just make sure that it’s long enough to extend over the top of your pint glass or Mixing Glass as you work.

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Nick & Nora

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The Nick and Nora glass is a stemmed glass that is used for serving stirred or shaken cocktails. It can be used for pretty much any drink that would otherwise be served in a Martini glass or coupe glass, though we’ve found that it most commonly sports spirit-forward drinks without citrus—at least that seems to be the trend in recent years.

Drinks served in a Nick and Nora glass are considered “up,” and should never be served with ice. If you want your drink on the rocks, use a Double Rocks Glass or Highball Glass. The stem prevents them from getting too warm in the drinker’s hand, but you’d be wise to chill them in the fridge or freezer before serving.

The Nick and Nora glass takes its name from the main characters of The Thin Man, a 1934 comedy-mystery film about a retired detective who gets hired to find a missing man. The main characters, Nick and Nora Charles, sip cocktails out of these glasses throughout the film (and its sequels).

Today, Nick and Nora glasses serve as a throwback to the good old days, and are often used by craft cocktail bartenders to put a fun twist on classic and modern drinks alike.

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Olives

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Olives as a cocktail garnish need no introduction. This briny pickled stone fruit is the quintessential garnish for Martinis. The traditional type of Olive used is a green olive, like the Spanish Queen or Green Barouni olive.

Don’t: add Olives to any fruity or sweet cocktails.

Do: apply liberally to savory and dry drinks, even splashing in some Olive brine for flavor.

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Drinks That Need Olives:

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Y Peeler

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The Y Peeler is a wishbone-shaped cooking sharp used to skin vegetables and fruit. A good Y Peeler plays an essential role in garnish design by enabling consistently presented orange peels, lemon twists, and cucumber ribbons.

Drawing the Y Peeler across the outside of the fruit and smoothly slicing off a layer to access the pith just under the skin, especially of citrus fruit, exposes the bitterly delicious and fragrant essential oils stored in the outer layer.

Proper use of the Y Peeler is important because, even though it has a safety blade, it’s still very sharp and can cause accidental cuts. For instance, when slicing an orange, start by placing your thumb firmly opposite the Y Peeler and pulling the blade downward, stopping in time to peel the fruit from tip to tip.

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From bar to table, Hella Cocktail Co. products make your whole night a little more daring and delicious.

Our Recipes

From bar to table, Hella Cocktail Co. products make your whole night a little more daring and delicious.