Mixers, Tools & Basic Bartending Knowledge For Every Home Bar

Mixers, Tools & Basic Bartending Knowledge For Every Home Bar

6 minute read

Basic bartending knowledge isn't just for those who want to tackle the art professionally. Arguably, every homeowner who loves a good cocktail and enjoys hosting backyard barbecues or dinner parties needs some basic bar knowledge. 

For one, you want to impress your friends and family with your bartending and mixology know-how. For two, you'd love to whip up different cocktails to enjoy out on your newly stained deck. For three, and perhaps least likely for most of you, it avoids potential embarrassment. I'll explain.

It was only recently I discovered that the correct term for a scotch without ice or soda is 'neat' when I ordered up my usual and the bartender snickered at me (how dare he?!). I quickly recounted with mortification the number of times throughout my history I'd ordered my scotch 'plain' at a cocktail bar (as if something as rich and smoky as Lagavulin could be described as plain!) 

So, neat it is then, and an apt term, conjuring up an image of a freshly pressed n' starched shirt. It's a drink for the stickler for fine, tidy things. 

The great art of drink mixing or bartending has a particular etiquette that any good host should know. Tools and tricks of the trade are easy to pick up and apply no matter the limits of your bar knowledge or how formal or casual the event that you need it for is. 

In this blog, we'll go through some basic bartending terms and suggest some indispensable bar tools you may want to add to your collection. You may be surprised to discover you have many of them already! And when you're done here, check out some fantastic (and easy) recipes for elegant tapas to go with those cocktails. 

Ready? Let's dive in!

Basic Bartender Terminology

bartending 101


A spirit poured directly into a glass (a highball glass, as opposed to a shot glass).

Mixed Drink

A drink with two or more ingredients, poured over ice. For example, rum and cola. If served in a tall glass, it's called a highball.


A combination of one or more liquors, a sweetener, a bitter, and water or ice. They're a little fancier than the mixed drink but may be used to describe its less exciting cousin.


Any spirit and carbonated water drink mixed over ice in a tall glass.


One spirit poured directly into a shot glass, such as tequila.


Two or more spirits mixed into a shot glass, such as a B52.


The best brands of liquor available (what does that look like in your kitchen?!).


A drink served before a meal or with appetizers, designed to sharpen the appetite. They're usually low in alcohol and sugar, since both interfere with appetite. The usual suspects are wine and botanical or bitter spirits.


The opposite of an apéritif, it's usually served after a meal to aid digestion. Typical offerings, such as brandy and amaros, are more bitter and sweet than apéritifs, and less acidic.

Essential Mixers

You don't see chocolate milk or cream on this list for a reason! Brown cows have something of a curdling effect on most stomachs, but some people still love 'em! That's why we recommend that you have it on hand, but keep your bar stocked with the following three to cover a wider variety of drinks. (And just in case you've never heard of a brown cow, it's Kaluha and cream on ice).


These are concentrated botanical infusions with an alcoholic base, and they traditionally have a medicinal purpose. They're a key ingredient in many classic cocktails. Concentrated herbal bitters are liquors such as Aperol, Campari, and Cynar. They can be added to cocktails or sipped solo. Cocktail bitters are more concentrated and only a few dashes are required in a cocktail.

Citrus Juices

Fresh-squeezed is the best choice, and it's wise to drink it immediately after squeezing it. We recommend lime, lemon, and orange for the most versatile cocktail blends. Squeeze out sensation following these three steps: 1) Allow the fruit to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to yield more juice, 2) Roll it between your hand and the countertop, and 3) cut it in half if using a juice squeezer, or in quarters if using your hands. 


Recently, I was in my local supermarket scouring the aisles for my usual tonic water to mix up a G&T that evening. I couldn't find it anywhere. After several minutes, I finally found a high-end brand of tonic water. It was twice the price of my usual, but hey--it was the only tonic in the place, so I bought it. Well once you've tasted quality tonic water, there's simply no going back! It was clearly the upgrade.

The basic types of soda are: soda water, club soda, tonic water, ginger ale, ginger beer, lemon-lime, cola, and root beer. You can usually substitute the clear sodas for each other, with tonic water mixes coming out a little drier. Sweet sodas can be substituted for each other too, though one may be more refreshing than the other. We suggest experimenting, perhaps with small amounts of liquor if you want to taste test several mixes!

Basic Bartender Tools

You probably have most of the following tools in the world of bartending, but if not, they're easy to find. In case you're not familiar with a jigger (I wasn't), it's a shot or cocktail measuring cup ranging in size from 0.5 - 2.5 ounces.

  • Peeler
  • Jigger
  • Corkscrew
  • Paring knife
  • Bottle opener
  • Cutting board
  • Juice squeezer
  • Cocktail napkins
  • Standard shaker
  • Long cocktail spoon

Our Drink Of The Day? A Dark & Stormy!

Unless you live in the tropics, it's not very summer sounding! But it certainly tastes like summer--sweet, refreshing, and rum has an unmistakable island flavor. 

Ingredients for a Dark & Stormy

2 ounces dark rum

3 ounces ginger beer

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, optional

Lime wedge, for garnish

Bottoms Up!

I hope you enjoyed this crash course on basic bartending knowledge! Check out 7 Recipes For Cool & Classic Summer Cocktails, and get your free Summer Entertaining Guide: 9 Ideas For A Festive & Fun Fourth Of July Summer Party.

And for great kitchen tips and awesome deals on exclusive kitchenware, join our Insider's Club.

From our kitchen to yours, Cheers! Salud! Prost! Saúde! Skål! Santé! And more!

« Back to Blog