In the Mix

10 must-haves for making craft cocktails at home

Don’t call Erik Zanghirella a bartender. A self-described “liquid chef,” he is one of a new, in-demand breed that’s changing what it means to run a chic restaurant bar. Erik is a highly trained mixologist, a profession that’s part drink-maker and part performance artist. 

“The key is projecting confidence,” the Italian native explains as he whips up signature cocktails at Sherman Oaks’ On The Thirty, like the $14 Jalisco—a tall, alluring concoction of tequila reposado, fresh lime and orange juice, amber agave nectar, orange peels and Hefeweizen beer. For aspiring mixolgists or those who simply want to feel like one, here are Erik’s lists of behind-the-counter essentials. 

Spray Mister
I use a mister—filled with different things—to coat the inside of the glass for every drink served. Sometimes it is dry vermouth. Other times it is something like absinthe, which adds texture and complexity to a drink. 

Sweeteners
One of the most important items. Each sweetener does something different—whether it’s regular white sugar, agave or simple syrups. I like to make my own syrups flavored with things like hibiscus. Syrups really help cut the acidity. 

Garnish
You drink with your eyes first, so a garnish is like 40% of the cocktail. It is about appeal and presentation. I love to use edible orchids, mint sprigs (perfect for summer!) and orange peel, which has essential oils to give that tingling sensation. 

Metal Pourer
The pourer really speeds up the process of drink-making. 

Bar Spoon
There are cocktails that still need a good, old-fashioned stir, including martinis and Manhattans.

Shaker
Get it in stainless steel. It really keeps the chill. Mixologists do not use blenders because, for one, they make too much noise. If I’m making tropical drinks, they are on the rocks. 

Soda Siphon
Typically used for whipped cream, but I use it with egg whites. It creates a white foam, which softens and rounds out the edges of a drink. Great for sour cocktails.

Libbey Glassware
The manufacturers of this line treat the glass exterior with a plastic film, so if one breaks it won’t explode with glass slivers going everywhere. It just cracks. 

Strainer
This is essential to avoid the fibers of fresh fruit, which clog straws.

Kumquats
This isn’t necessarily a “must-have,” but it will certainly set your bar apart. I really like this fruit because it has a distinct taste. I muddle them to get the juice from the fruit as well as the oils from the skin. Terrific with rum and with tequila. 

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