Best Bar Sets

Updated January 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

36 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best bar sets

Have you always wanted to make your favorite drink at home but thought it was too complicated to mix? A bar set gives you the basic tools needed to create cocktails and mix drinks at home — drinks that will impress your friends or simply allow you to relax with your favorite beverage in the comfort of home.

Bar sets are popular these days with people who love to entertain as well as folks who prefer to stay in. They’re not incredibly pricey, but they are incredibly handy. The question is, which bar set is right for you?

No need to feel muddled. In this buying guide, we explore the various pieces that come in a bar set, examine prices, provide tips, and answer frequently asked questions. We also provide information about our favorite bar sets for your consideration, which makes shopping all the easier.

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Citrus fruits are an essential part of the mixed drink experience, so stock up before preparing cocktails with your bar set.

Key considerations

What are you drinking?

A good bar set gives you the ability to mix a range of drinks with just a few versatile tools. Of course, most mixologists want a few specialty tools in their kit, and that’s understandable.

It’s important to know what kinds of drinks you’ll be serving most often, whether for yourself or guests. Do you like to kick back with a beer or glass of wine in the evening? Do you love simple drinks like gin and tonic or whiskey and soda? If this sounds like you, you may not need extra gadgets like a Hawthorne strainer or a bar knife in your set. On the other hand, if you love to create signature cocktails for friends and at parties, you definitely need a more robust bar set.

Material

Many consumers prefer to use stainless steel components to prepare their libations. The material will not interfere with the flavor or color of the ingredients you’re using to mix the drinks. Stainless steel cools down fast and returns to room temperature almost as quickly, so it won’t hamper the ideal temperature of those icy cocktail concoctions you’re making.

Notably, some bar sets come with a display stand or rotating carousel so you can prominently display your tools and keep them at the ready. Often, these stands are made of beautiful bamboo, but others are made of sleek-looking composite materials.

Quantity

Bar sets can include anywhere from 5 to 15 pieces, and there are versions for every budget. If you start with a smaller set, you can always add pieces later. Just make sure you have the essentials on hand to start: a cocktail shaker, bottle opener and corkscrew, and jigger for measuring.

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Did You Know?
For many people, a cocktail shaker is an irreplaceable component of a bar set. Cocktail shakers made of sturdy stainless steel tend to be the most durable choices.
Staff
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Features

Here’s a breakdown of the components in a fairly robust bar set:

Corkscrew: Depending on the bar set, this may come as a standalone item or be combined with a bottle opener so you always have the right tool on hand to open your wine and beer.

Bottle opener: A bottle opener is a must-have for popping open beer bottles quickly.

Shaker: There are several types of shakers you might want in your collection.

  • Boston shaker: A Boston shaker is a two-piece metal tool for shaking ice and your drink together, quickly chilling it before serving. It’s a flashy way to mix drinks but takes a little practice to get just right.
  • Cobbler shaker: A Cobbler shaker is great for beginners: it’s a three-piece metal shaker that takes the complexity out of the mixing process. The mixer chamber is big enough for a large drink, the lid has a built-in strainer to make pouring super-easy, and the cap that covers the strainer for shaking doubles as a jigger.
  • French shaker: A French shaker is similar to a Cobbler shaker with a mixer chamber and lid, but it has no strainer or combination cap and jigger.

Strainer: A cocktail strainer is designed to sit securely at the top of a glass and evenly distribute liquid as you pour. It’s an essential element for layered drinks, as it slows and controls the pour. It also strains out pulp, twigs, and other elements that would otherwise give a drink an unwanted texture or flavor. Strainer types include the following:

  • Hawthorne strainer: Versatile and easy to use, this is the most common strainer found in bar sets.
  • Julep strainer: This concave strainer spoon fits nicely over a pint glass.
  • Fine strainer: This secondary mesh strainer further strains out juice pulp, herbs, coffee grounds, or ice chips.

Bar spoon: This long-handled spoon is used to mix or layer cocktails. It needs to easily reach the bottom of a mixing glass with room to grip and stir, and it should be the equivalent of one teaspoon (because a bar spoonful is a measuring figure used in drink recipes).

Jigger or double jigger: A jigger allows for the precise measurement of spirits. Choose one that measures up to 2 ounces in half-ounce increments. An hourglass-shaped double jigger allows you to quickly measure larger or smaller amounts by flipping up one end or the other.

Mixing glass: A mixing glass is a sturdy, straight glass with a heavy base that is large enough to accommodate drink ingredients and ice.

Muddler: While you could use the back of a bar spoon to crush herbs or fruit for a cocktail, a muddler gives you a fast and even crush. A stainless steel muddler is typically fitted with a rubber end cap and works best for crushing fruit. A wood muddler has a rounded or flat head that draws out the aroma and flavor of herbs.

Juicer: You can quickly juice lemons, limes, and oranges with a juicer. A lever-style juicer works fast.

Don’t bang a shaker on the edge of the counter to break the seal. Use your thumb to apply pressure to the lid or the smaller mixing cup until it opens.

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Accessories

Bar mat: Talisman Designs Original Multi-Use Countertop Bar Mat
Protect the surface of your bar, countertop, or bar cart from spilled liquids, melting ice, and knife cuts. This mat from Talisman contains no BPA and is skid-proof.

Garnishing tools: Mercer Culinary 8-Piece Garnishing Kit
You can add pizzazz to any fruity drink with fruit garnishes. That task is made easier with purpose-built tools like the ones found in this eight-piece set.

Cocktail picks: Folkulture Stainless Steel Cocktail Picks
Jazz up those cocktails and martinis with decorative, reusable picks. These quaint stainless steel picks are a great conversation starter, too.

Ice bucket and tongs: FineDine Double-Wall Stainless Steel Insulated Ice Bucket
Unless your bar set will reside right next to the icemaker or freezer, having this shiny insulated ice bucket and metal tongs right next to your drink-making tools will allow you whip up drinks in no time at all.

Dyk2
Did You Know?
Hold a jigger between your first two fingers and thumb as you pour so you can quickly tip the measured liquid into a glass or shaker.
Staff
BestReviews

Bar set prices

Inexpensive: Bar sets can be found in the $16 to $33 range, but these may sacrifice quality by using thinner steel or having fewer components.

Mid-range: Quality and necessity meet in the $34 to $59 price range, with nice additions like pouring spouts and stands.

Expensive: Premium gift sets and extra touches like gold or copper plating can be found in bar sets that cost between $61 and $94.

Tips

  • Stock up on basic spirits with your bar set. Basics include vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, rum, and vermouth.
  • For mixing drinks, you can make your own syrup. Simply mix sugar and water, and keep it handy for mixing drinks.
  • You can whip up a great drink fast, even if you can’t make it to the store for fresh juice or fruit. Keep tonic water, club soda, ginger ale, and cola on hand for this purpose.
  • It’s okay if you don’t have a mixing glass. A sturdy pint glass will do in a pinch.
  • It’s also okay if you can’t find the jigger. Just know that an ounce of liquid is equal to 1/8 of a cup, while two ounces is 1/4 cup.
  • You can enjoy a cocktail even if you don’t drink alcohol. Non-alcoholic cocktails are trending upward, and lots of creative new drink recipes are popping up.
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Shake your cocktail shaker for just 12 seconds in any shaking style you please. That’s all it takes for a perfectly mixed chilled drink.

FAQ

Q. Why is stainless steel the material of choice in most bar sets?

A. Food-grade stainless steel resists rust, even when it’s dinged up. It’s easy to clean, and it looks good in any bar setup. Professional bartenders will choose stainless steel over any other material because of these qualities. Lower-priced cocktail shakers may be made of thinner stainless steel, making them vulnerable to dents and dings, but that’s about the only thing to worry about.

Q. Which is better for my home bar: a Boston shaker or a Cobbler shaker?

A. While it’s largely a matter of preference, a Cobbler shaker is a good all-around choice for new mixologists because it incorporates a measuring cup and strainer in the lid, is easy to use, and is economical. The Boston shaker, which tucks the lip of a metal or glass cup inside another metal cup, is flashy and fast — perfect for busy commercial bars — but has a learning curve.

Q. Are pouring spouts necessary to complete a bar set?

A. No. They are nice accessories, and lower-priced bar sets sometimes include them instead of a pricer item like a strainer. That said, a pouring spout is great to have because it helps control the flow of liquor from the bottle, improves your aim, and makes measuring a lot easier.

If your bar set does not include a pouring spout, worry not: they’re easy to find on their own, and besides, you may want a different pour spout from the standard long pour, like a screened spout to keep fruit flies out of your mixer.

Q. Which type of strainer is the best for a beginner to use?

A. Bar sets often include a Hawthorne strainer, which is versatile because its spring helps hold it in place over a variety of mixing cup sizes. However, some mixologists recommend that beginners start with a julep strainer. Shaped like an extra-large spoon with holes poked through it, the julep strains more slowly and does not fit all cup sizes, but it’s easier to hold in place and allows newbies to hone their technique.

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