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Bartending 101 with Ward

November 21, 2020 | By Ward Simcox | 1 Comment

Hi! I’m Ward, and since I was old enough for it to be acceptable, I’ve been passionate about mixology – in other words, the art of mixing stuff together until it tastes good and will get you drunk. A few months ago, I started, where I share some killer cocktail and baking recipes that you can make at home, along with some photos that (hopefully) make you want to. Jeremy was kind enough to ask me to share some of my favorite drinks on ScheckEats, so you’ll be seeing my recipes on the site from time to time! In preparation for that, I wanted to first give you a little intro to my philosophy on being a home mixologist and a quick crash course on what you’ll need to make great cocktails at home. 


Getting into the Spirit

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when it comes to both making and drinking cocktails is this: figure out what you like and don’t be ashamed of it. Like many things in life, there are a lot of ads, people, and other influences telling us what a 25-year-old man should drink or what a 50-year-old woman should drink – ignore them! Drinking something that you don’t enjoy in order to feel cool entirely defeats the purpose of drinking it, which is enjoyment. Maybe you prefer dark spirits like bourbon or light spirits like gin. Maybe you don’t like the taste of liquor much at all, in which case vodka cocktails will likely be your best friend. Figuring out what you like to drink and owning it is the first step in learning what kinds of recipes you’re going to enjoy.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be adventurous. Maybe by bad luck, you’ve only had whiskey in cocktails that you didn’t like. Being open to trying whiskey in new drinks could expose you to something you didn’t know you enjoyed!

Finally, if you don’t have any experience making cocktails, don’t be intimidated. Like many skills worth having, drink making takes a long time to master, but only a little time to be good at! Before you know it, you’ll be whipping up great cocktails (like the one pictured below) for your family, friends, and even just yourself. Let’s get into some of the things you’ll need to get started.

Things You’ll Need

To make great cocktails at home, you’re going to need a few tools. The good news is you can get everything you need for about 30 dollars! Here’s a link to an inexpensive set that has everything I outline below, plus some.*


If you’ve ever seen a bartender in action, this one’s pretty obvious. Your shaker is where you’re going to pour your ingredients and shake them with ice, turning them into a cocktail. There’s three main reasons we do this: 1) it mixes the ingredients, 2) it gets the drink cold and frothy, and 3) it dilutes the drink slightly, which makes it much more palatable – cocktail recipes are written planning for dilution, so don’t view it as a bad thing!


When you’re making your cocktails, you’ll need an easy way to measure out ingredients. Jiggers are tiny liquid measures that you pour into before you pour them into your shaker. 

Hawthorne Strainer

After you’ve shaken your cocktail, you need a way to get it out of the shaker and into your glass without all the ice going with it. That’s what the Hawthorne strainer is for. It goes in the top of your shaker when you pour, holding back all the ice while you pour the drink out of the shaker. 

Fine Mesh Strainer

Depending on what cocktail you’re making, you’ll often end up with fruit pulp or ice shards in your shaken drink that you don’t want in the cocktail when you’re drinking it. To get them out, you’ll pour the cocktail through your fine mesh strainer into the glass to make for a ~smooth~ drinking experience.

Bar Spoon

Sometimes, you’ll come across a cocktail that you don’t want to shake. Why? Spirit-heavy cocktails that don’t contain juice, such as Martinis, Manhattans, and Old Fashioneds don’t usually get shaken, because we want to limit dilution and keep the texture the same. For those cocktails, you’ll use your bar spoon to stir the cocktail with ice to get it cold before pouring it into the serving glass. The bar spoon also has a bunch of other nifty uses, but that’s for another time.


Muddler is basically a fancy word for “smusher.” Sometimes a drink recipe will require you to press citrus, berries, herbs, or other fun stuff in the bottom of your shaker. Your muddler is your tool for doing that.

Full Set

With these tools, you’ll be ready to start making cocktails at home like a true pro. Now, get to drinking and, if you haven’t already,  figuring out what you actually like to drink. Stay tuned for all the recipes to come here on ScheckEats, and check me out on Instagram (@bakingbuzzed) in the meantime for lots of exciting cocktails, bakes, and shenanigans. See you around!

*All products featured in this article are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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