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Casual Bartending

Have you ever found yourself hosting a last-minute drinks do or trying to make a cocktail at someone else’s place or a rented holiday flat? Sometimes, these impromptu evenings can be the most fun, but not if you’re scrabbling around trying to get the drinks just right. You don’t need the most expert or expensive equipment though; there are many household utensils you can use to mix your own cocktails and spirits. Here’s how to be a mixology maven when you don’t have all the professional bar accessories.

Keep it Simple

If casual hosting is the name of the game, one or two simple cocktails made well are enough to entice without overwhelming. It means less equipment too which, when you’re using household alternatives, is a good thing. We love the Rosemary Gimlet for its fresh, citrusy aromatics and the Grand Manhattan for its warmth and complexity; two very different classics, both with wow factor and very simple to make. Keep a good vodka, cognac and whisky in your home at all times.

Six equipment basics - and their household alternatives

As well as having plenty of ice available in a bowl (with a spoon if you don’t own tongs), here are six items you can grab from your kitchen to set up your own casual hosting, mixology bar. The glasses you decide to use are up to you…

  • The cocktail shaker (for shaking cocktails): Use any tubular container with a tight-fitting lid so you can mix without fear of spillage. Try: a portable coffee thermos.
  •  The mixing glass (for stirring cocktails): Any large, open-topped glass jar or jug works well here. The more elegant, the better. Try: a normal pint glass
  • The strainer: Use any small mesh strainer, like a tea strainer or small sieve to catch those bits of stalk, seeds or pulp.
  • The mixing spoon: Use a long-handled teaspoon if you have one or even, (shh) a clean chopstick!
  • The paring knife (for citrus): Many cocktails require a twist of fresh lemon, lime or orange rind and a small kitchen paring knife works perfectly well.
  • The jigger (for measuring spirits): Bakers will have measuring cups, but if none are available try an egg cup for size. It holds just the right, single, spirit portion


A small flourish of just about anything on your glass with add a fun, finishing touch to your cocktail. For the citrusy, fresh drinks, a simple spiral of lemon, orange or lime is incredibly affective. Failing that, a sprig of rosemary, thyme, basil or mint for the more herbal concoctions and for the warmer, whisky or rum based one ones, a cinnamon stick, a bay leaf or a sprinkle of nutmeg adds a baking spice touch - All things you might find in the garden or in the larder. You’re all set!

All you need now is a strong, cocktail shaking arm (or borrow one) and your own effortless charm.