bar tenders kit cocktail drinks tray

I’ve got a post coming about putting together the perfect Christmas drinks tray – but what about the bar kit itself? I’m not about to suggest we all start trying to emulate Tom Cruise in Cocktail – there will be no flaring on my watch, but there are a few essentials worth considering.

Cocktail Shakers

hawthorne strainer cocktail shaker

There’s a lot to be said for having a few pieces of equipment to hand. My 1920s art deco silver shaker is there more for show than use – mine was a 21st birthday present, but you can pick them up on Ebay easily, but you can buy a standard three piece shaker pretty much everywhere, and fancy ones anywhere from Oliver Bonas to Mr Porter.

If you use a shaker, then you’ll need a Hawthorne Strainer. 

hawthorne strainer cocktail sieve

The Corkscrew

georg jensen silver wine corkscrew

You’re going to want a corkscrew on the drinks tray – they’re good to have to hand, and some bottles of liqueurs and Armagnacs have corks. The one I have was a gift from Georg Jensen from the lovely bar range designed for them by Thomas Sandell. (£55 here). Georg Jensen also make a wonderful elephant bottle opener (£35 here). It’s also worth taking a look at Amara who have some fantastically over the top bottle openers and corkscrews. 


Obviously, the glasses are very important. You can take it as read that unless my guests request otherwise, I will usually serve anything gin-based in a large copa glass, filled to the brim with ice cubes. (The garnish will depend on the gin. )

I also love a cut glass tumbler for anything on the rocks. Mine are a mixture of John Lewis (sadly no longer available), vintage from Ebay and Waterford inherited from my grandmother. Soho Home have a great selection too. I also long for these Negroni tumblers from Habitat.

A tall Collins glass is nice for a long drink – the St Germain Spritz for example, and there’s a place for a traditional martini glass too, although their shape makes them a pain to store – I keep them in their original box in the cellar as I use them so infrequently.


I often use a jigger (or spirit measure) so that I can measure out the right amount of alcohol not, as someone once so delightfully suggested, because I am stingy, but because a good mixed drink should have its ingredients in the correct proportions so it tastes good.


Straws are useful for tasting and for stirring. Just do not buy or use plastic ones. I’ve invested in lots of metal ones – both bent and straight, in silver, gold and copper. (They come with a tiny spiral brush for cleaning, and they do go in the dishwasher.)

A swizzle stick

I’m not averse to a swizzle stick – try Etsy and Ebay for vintage sets like these vintage pink flamingo glass ones. The jury is out on paper cocktail umbrellas: I’m not against them aesthetically – I just always seem to stick them up my nose.

A Good Ice Bucket

cocktail shaker ice bucker art deco glass

I have three: a lovely big double wall metal one from Habitat that my sister gave me years ago, and which keeps ice cold for hours, even at the height of a heatwave, a vintage open top glass bucket from Ebay which is nice when you have friends round for just a drink or two, and a very pretty single layer lidded metal one from a friend, which looks great but doesn’t actually stop the ice melting for long. 

Sadly Habitat no longer make ice buckets, but this insulating double layer metal one from John Lewis & Partners is perfect. If you just want pretty then, they also have a glass one from their Croft Collection which I covet for my drinks tray.

Don’t forget grippy ice tongs – fishing ice out with a spoon is a slippery business. 

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