Best Barware of 2020
The simplicity and versatility of the Jillmo 11-Piece Bar Tool Set made our testers fall in love with Parisian shakers. The 304 stainless steel shaker holds 20-ounces of liquid, which is enough to make two cocktails, making it a great choice for home use. Making drinks is simplistic, thanks to two snug-fitting pouring spouts and a Japanese-style double jigger with interior measurements. Our testers prefer the taller and thinner shape and size of the Japanese-style double jigger because it makes pouring easy. The set includes a nicely weighted Hawthorne strainer that fits the tin very well, helping to prevent spills.
The ability to easily muddle fruits, vegetables, and herbs is important when making smashes, juleps, and mojitos. The set's 3.3-ounce nylon-headed muddler surprised us, with its pronounced teeth and wide head that easily pulp and express juices from ingredients. The most disappointing feature of the set was the Japanese bar spoon that has some flex to it. Included in the set is a solid wood stand to help organize your bar space, which is a nice added perk for the price.
The Mixology and Craft 14-Piece Kit is our choice of barware sets with a Cobbler shaker. This easy to use, stainless steel kit comes with everything the aspiring home bartender needs to make a wide variety of drinks thanks to a Hawthorne strainer. The pouring spouts fit snugly into bottles allowing precise measurements into the Classic Double jiggers. However, be careful when measuring, as one jigger is marked ½ and 1 ounce and the other ⅔ and 1⅓ ounce, which is different from the traditional ¾ and 1½ measurements that most drinks refer to.
Our lead tester has small hands, yet found the shaker easy to shake with one hand. There is a secure fit between the lid and tin, and even after the stainless steel contracts from the cold of the ice, the cap is still easy to remove. A European style bar spoon allows you to mix drinks in the tin or glass. This set comes with two cocktail picks, which will allow you to give a professional touch to garnish your drinks. Just be careful not to poke yourself with the end, as they are quite sharp. Both beginner and more experienced mixologists alike will appreciate this set.
The black ALOONO 11-Piece Cocktail Shaker Set is our favorite Boston shaker set because of its weighted tins. With a weight of 16.48 ounces, it gives them rigidity and feels nice in your hand. The set includes a well made Hawthorne strainer, which has the best tin interface of all strainers in our review. Its tightly wound spring coils fit snugly against the tin and its head fits perfectly over the tin, helping prevent spills and leaks. The 4.2-ounce stainless muddler has a rounded top on the handle, which fits the hand comfortably and enables you to push the nylon head into the container's base with ease.
The snug fit of the pouring spouts on the bottles was much appreciated. They require a little tugging to remove, giving us peace of mind that they won't accidentally come loose while pouring. The set includes a Japanese-style double jigger whose design is comfortable to hold and pour with. Interior measurement lines of ½, ¾, and 1½ are welcome when pouring (and accurate). The biggest downside to the ALOONO set is that it is hand wash only. One cycle through the dishwasher caused the black coating to discolor. However, this is a known issue with black and rose gold coated tins that buyers need to be aware of. Despite this caveat, when compared to the other Boston shaker sets in our tests, the construction and fit of the pieces are much better.
The Mixology and Craft 10-Piece bar Tool Set is our top pick for sets with stands. Featuring a nicely made Sapele mahogany stand, this set includes stainless steel tools and a stainless Parisian shaker. Other stands tend to be overcrowded, where here the tools are thoughtfully organized in the stand. Tools we needed were easy to find and reach, thanks to each tool having its own hole or slot. The European bar spoon is the only tool with a slot, and it rests in front of the Hawthorne strainer. Some reviewers found this slot to be annoying, but we found it easy to use knowing that the spoon needs to be inserted before the strainer.
This kit comes with a Parisian shaker, which is sleek, easy to use, and stores nicely into its hole. The set's European style spoon is heavy-duty and is great for making stirred drinks, and its handle is long enough to comfortably stir with your hand above the tin. A nice added piece is a Waiter's Friend corkscrew, which is a corkscrew, bottle opener, and foil cutter in one. This tool is great for opening beer bottles and wine bottles alike and is a nice addition to a home bar. If you're looking for a quality set with a good looking stand, look no further.
Sometimes you want simplicity and quality at a reasonable price, and that's where the Cresimo Cocktail Shaker Set excels. This basic three-piece 18/8 stainless steel set with Cobbler shaker, classic double jigger, and European spoon includes everything you need to make basic cocktails without getting overly complicated. The 18/8 stainless shaker weighs 8.5ounce and has .62mm thick walls, which were the thickest of all the Cobbler shakers we tested, giving it extra rigidity. We tested the tin at holding 25-ounces of liquid, which our testers enjoyed because we could make three drinks at a time, instead of two.
Unlike some Cobbler shakers that seize shut after shaking due to contraction of the steel, the cap of the Cresimo shaker was easy to remove with a slight tug. The set includes a basic double jigger with ½ and 1-ounce measurements, meaning we had to flip the jigger back and forth a bit more when making drinks that called for 1½ -ounce measurements. By no means is this a dealbreaker, just more of a mild annoyance. This set is one that can be added onto and personalized with additional pieces based on the user's preferences. Given the quality and price, we had trouble finding much fault with it, making it a great choice for buyers on a budget.
The NAUZone Professional 9-Piece Bartender Kit is a great purchase considering its weighted stainless steel Boston shaker and accessories. The set lacks the Julep strainer found in other sets but also costs a few dollars less. The NAUZone includes a Hawthorne strainer, Fine Mesh strainer, Japanese spoon with fork, five pouring spouts, a bottle opener, and ice tongs. The shape of the ice tongs is not our favorite for picking up ice, as the lack of serrated teeth makes it hard to grip the ice, but it will get the job done.
The weight of the tins is comfortable in hand and for shaking, and .80mm thick walls give the tins rigidity. The smaller tin, also known as the cheater, is advertised as 16-ounces, but ours measured 19-ounces. However, it does fit securely into the 28-ounce shaker tin. One major difference we noted from the sets we tested with a Hawthorne strainer is the larger size of the Hawthorne strainer. The strainer has a tab to help press it into place as you pour, which we loved. We were surprised by how hefty the muddler is — it weighs 10 ounces. The handle's height extends well beyond the tin, and its weight makes it easy to pulp lemons and limes, though it is a bit heavy when making multiple drinks. The set's overall quality is fairly good, and its tools and price point make it a good purchase for the money.
Featuring 304 stainless steel pieces, a weighted Boston shaker, three types of strainers, and other useful accessories, the VinoBravo 12-Piece Bartender Kit is a quality set that rivals higher-priced sets in many regards. We enjoyed the quality of the shakers with their thick .84mm walls and weighted bases. They were comfortable to use and easily came apart with just a few taps of the hand. Measuring was easy with the internal lines on the Japanese-style jigger; however, we were concerned that the pouring spouts would come loose since we found them to fit a bit loosely in our bottles.
Our biggest complaints about this set are the fit of the Hawthorne strainer in the tin and the weight of the muddler. The springs of the strainer are not as snug against the sides of the tin as other strainers, causing liquid to occasionally seep out of the side when pouring. While the muddler works, it is relatively lightweight with a narrow head, and we found heavier and wider muddlers to perform better. Given the overall quality and performance of the pieces in this set, we feel it is a good set for the price.
If you're looking for a compact set that can travel with you, the Barillio Black Shaker Set fits the bill. Featuring a black storage bag, this compact set includes the basics to make a drink just about anywhere. It includes a cobbler shaker, classic double jigger, pouring spouts, a muddler, and a European bar spoon. We liked the shaker's weight (8.7 ounces) and were pleased with how easily the cap came off after shaking. However, we did notice that the ½-ounce measurement on the jigger was slightly under the lip instead of at the top.
One of the downsides to this set is that the 304 and 430 stainless steel has a black coating on it that should only be hand washed to prevent peeling and discoloring. All of the set's pieces except for the spoon fit into the tin, and the spoon fits easily into the bag, making it a great choice for picnics and other outings.
We were completely underwhelmed by the Modern Mixology Kit With Stand, especially when tested side by side with similarly priced kits. The set includes a lightweight, unfinished wood stand which is much lower quality compared to other stands tested. The 18-ounce shaker is very lightweight, weighing only 7.5-ounces and flexes easily in hand. The 18-ounce size is also considerably smaller than other Cobbler shakers tested, whose average size is 25-ounces.
The American bar spoon easily bends in your hand and is fairly short, making it more difficult to mix in the tin. The overall lack of quality in this set, combined with the cost, makes this one a hard pass, and we recommend looking at some of the other higher quality Cobbler shaker sets.
The FineDine Premium Cocktail Shaker Set was the only set we tested whose tools have rough and sharp edges to them, and whose stainless steel surface easily gets scratched. Both the tin and Hawthorne strainer came out of the box with markings on them. We were not a fan of the screw top on the Japanese spoon and felt it could easily get lost. The Hawthorne strainer's spring is loosely coiled and fits poorly to the tin.
One feature we appreciated about the set was that the shakers easily came apart with a tap of the palm after shaking. However, in comparison to others we tested, the set is much lower quality, many of which are much higher quality for just a few dollars more. We recommend passing on this set.
Why You Should Trust Us
A cocktail aficionado, Tara Reddinger-Adams has most likely spent far too many hours reading about the history of Amaro, barware, and learning the ins and outs of making a great drink. No stranger to product reviews, you'll find Tara's reviews of mountain bike shoes on our sister site OutdoorGearLab. Tara enjoys extensively reading about and researching products before making a purchase and brings a critical yet practical perspective to her reviews.
To begin our research to determine the best barware sets, we spent hours researching and cross-referencing reviews of 29 barware sets. After taking copious notes of the pros and cons of each set, we narrowed our selection to 10 sets and began testing. We spent hours analyzing each set's features, durability and quality, ease of use, and value to help you find the best barware set for your home.
Analysis and Test Results
To determine the best barware sets for the home mixologist, we first considered the type of shaker. Reading through reviews, we quickly learned that there is a lot of confusion regarding shakers, especially between the Cobbler and the Parisian shaker, so we've added a quick overview of each help you better understand the three types of shakers in our review: the Boston, the Cobbler, and the Parisian.
The Cobbler shaker is a three-piece cocktail shaker with a strainer built into the lid. This is typically considered an easier shaker to use due to its size and is more frequently used by beginners since it alleviates the need for a separate strainer. However, the Cobbler's downfall is that it is not suitable for drinks with eggs or those with muddled herbs, fruits, or vegetables, as the strainer holes are relatively large, allowing ingredients to easily pass through.
At a glance, the Parisian shaker looks like a Cobbler shaker, but it lacks a built-in strainer. The Parisian shaker is a two-piece shaker and requires the use of a strainer. The walls of the Parisian shaker fit tightly together, allowing for some visual flair while making drinks. However, this tight fit can also be harder to open.
The Boston shaker is a two-piece shaker that traditionally has a 28oz. tin and a 16oz glass. For our review, we tested tin on tin shakers, which are gaining popularity and are commonly referred to as Boston shakers. The Boston shaker requires the use of a strainer and is considered more difficult to use as you must hold the two pieces together as you shake, and the tin on tin design forms a tight seal that can be harder to open.
So, what about jiggers? A standard double jigger is 1.5 ounces on one side and .75 ounces on the other side. Jiggers come in varying shapes and sizes, and in our testing, we measured each jigger for accuracy of it's advertised size and found some measured more than their stated amounts. Our testers also weighed the shakers and muddlers, dropped pieces on purpose, tested shakers and pouring spouts for leaks, and considered, "who would benefit best from this set?" With 10 sets to test, we could easily compare differences in quality, construction, and ease of use between sets, giving us some strong opinions and scientific findings of each set.
All of the barware sets in our test will make a basic drink, such as a Martini, (shaken, not stirred), but not all feature the tools required to make a Mint Julep or a Kentucky Maid. For this metric, we considered the tools included in the set that allowed us to make the greatest variety of drinks. The VinoBravo 12-Piece Bartender Kit, Jillmo 11-Piece Bar Tool Set, and the ALOONO 11-Piece Cocktail Shaker Set were the most complete sets we tested and included tools to make everything from a Gin Fizz to a Pisco Sour.
The ALOONO and VinoBravo each feature a Boston shaker, while the Jillmo features a Parisian shaker. All three sets include a Hawthorne strainer, Julep strainer, and a Fine Mesh strainer, which is always used in combination with a Hawthorne or Julep strainer to help remove small ice chips and pulp from the pouring into the drink. Each set also includes a Japanese-style double jigger with interior measurement lines, a Muddler for crushing up sugar cubes, fruit and vegetables, a Japanese Bar Spoon, two pouring spouts, and ice tongs.
The NAUZone Professional 9-Piece Bartender Kit is also a fairly complete set and only lacks a Julep strainer, but includes five pouring spouts and a bottle opener, which will come in handy if you're making Micheladas. Instead of a Japanese-style double jigger, the NAUZone comes with a classic style double jigger, which is shorter and squatter and does not lay in the hand quite as nicely as a Japanese-style jigger.
The Mixology and Craft 14-Piece Kit will allow you to make a variety of cocktails, aside from those needing a Julep or Fine Mesh strainer, and its stainless steel cocktail picks will give your drink garnishes a professional touch.
Durability and Quality
Differences in the quality of the shaker, pourer, and other tools can make creating the perfect cocktail a more enjoyable experience. For this metric, we looked at the overall construction and durability of all pieces in each set. We dropped them, weighed and measured pieces, washed them with ScotchBrite pads, and even when it said not to, we put them through the dishwasher. We closely examined the springs on Hawthorne strainers and evaluated its fit with the tin. A poor-fitting Hawthorne strainer can cause the liquid to pour out the sides and onto the counter. We also tested the pouring spouts on various bottles to see how tightly they fit the bottle and if they leak.
Two things can affect the weight of a cocktail shaker; if the base is weighted and the thickness of the shaker wall. These two elements also affect the rigidity of the shaker and can make it easier to grip. We found shakers with walls under .60mm to have some flex to them, however, not all styles tested were available with a thicker wall, such as the Parisian shakers. As hard as we tried, none of the products we tested failed, which is impressive.
The Cresimo Cocktail Shaker Set with a 24-ounce tin made of .62mm thick 18/8 stainless steel performed very well in this metric. This shaker was the heaviest of the Cobbler shakers tested, weighing 8.5 ounces. It has a nice rigidity to it and only flexes subtly in hand. The set includes a sturdy European spoon and classic double jigger, which are on the lighter side. Unlike some shakers that can bind after shaking, the lid easily comes off, and the stainless steel is scratch resistant.
The overall quality of Jillmo 11-Piece Bar Tool Set also did well in this metric. Made of 304 stainless steel, which is less corrosive than 430 stainless steel, the included pieces are sturdy, especially the Hawthorne strainer. The 20-ounce shaker is lightweight at 7.4 ounces, and its walls are only .52mm, meaning it does flex in hand fairly easily, but the shaker's performance was not impacted when testing. The Hawthorne strainer's tightly coiled spring fits into the tin very well, and the pouring spouts fit snugly into bottle openings, giving us confidence when pouring both liquor into the tin and cocktails into glasses.
The ALOONO 11-Piece Cocktail Shaker Set performs very well in this metric with one exception: its black coated 304 stainless steel set is not dishwasher safe and will discolor. This aside, the set features a 16.48oz, 304 stainless steel weighted Boston shaker with a .86mm thick wall. This weighted base and wall thickness add rigidity to the shaker and, when closed, forms a snug seal. Of all the products we tested, the Hawthorne strainer included has the best fit with the tin and is our tester's favorite strainer of the bunch.
The FineDine Premium Cocktail Shaker Set and Modern Mixology Kit With Stand were both lackluster in their quality. The FineDine set has sharp edges on the spoon, and the stainless steel is easy to scratch. The spring coils on the Hawthorne strainer are loosely spaced, resulting in a poor fit with the tin. The Modern Mixology Kit with Stand has a very short, flexible spoon and the lightest weight and smallest Cobbler shaker tested, measuring just 18-ounces. In comparison to similarly priced kits, neither was of the same quality.
Ease of Use
In this metric, we considered how easy the shaker is to get apart after shaking, how well the strainers fit into the tins, if the jigger measurements are accurate, how easy the jigger is held, the weight and shape of the muddler, and lastly how easy the pieces are to care for.
People have their preferences when it comes to shakers, and the pros and cons of each are outlined in our tips. We found the Parisian to be the easiest to use of the three types of shakers we tested, allowing us to make the widest variety of drinks.
The Jillmo 11-Piece Bar Tool Set with a 304 stainless steel Parisian shaker and high-quality Hawthorne strainer is not just easy to use, the tin also fits very well, which helps prevent spills. Its Japanese-style double jigger is well marked for accurate measurements, and the pouring spouts fit bottles snugly. Its pieces are dishwasher safe, although you do want to be mindful not to lose the pouring spouts in the dishwasher. Weighing in at only 3.3 ounces, we wished the muddler had a bit more heft behind it. It is on the lighter side; however, its nylon head is wider than others, and the pattern on the head is a bit more aggressive, allowing it to easily break up skins from cucumbers and fruits.
The Mixology and Craft 14-Piece Kit has a stainless steel Cobbler shaker that forms a solid seal when ice is added, and only a slight tug is needed to release the cap. For those drinks that have muddled ingredients, it comes with a Hawthorne strainer. Without being too heavy, the 4.0-ounce muddler easily breaks up mixed items. All of its pieces are also dishwasher safe. The jigger measurements include ⅔ and 1 ⅓ ounce, in addition to the more standard ½ and 1-ounce measurements, so a bit of extra attention is required when selecting what side of the jigger you will use so have accurate pours.
The simplest set to use was the Cresimo Cocktail Shaker Set, with three basic pieces consisting of a stainless steel Cobbler shaker, classic double jigger, and European spoon with muddler. All the components to make basic shaken and stirred drinks are included in this kit, and all are dishwasher safe. With only three pieces in this set, the jigger can be stored inside the shaker, making it is easy to take along with you.
The Barillio Black Shaker Set and the ALOONO 11-Piece Cocktail Shaker Set are both hand wash only as the black coating over the stainless steel can discolor, peel, and chip in the dishwasher.
When considering a set's value, we compared it to other sets that fell within a similar price range while taking into account the overall construction of the set, pieces that add value, and ease of use.
The VinoBravo 12-Piece Bartender Kit is one of the most complete sets we tested and is a great value when considering the tools and the quality of the 15.2-ounce weighted shaker. We found the muddler to be middle of the road, and the pourers to not fit quite as tightly as others tested, but the other tools performed well. For someone looking for a more "complete" kit to make juleps and drinks with egg whites in the recipe, the VinoBravo is a solid choice, especially considering the price.
If a set with a stand is more appealing to you, the Jillmo 11-Piece Bar Tool Set with a stainless steel Parisian shaker is a quality set. Included are all three types of strainers and other accessories that make cocktail making a bit easier, such as snug pouring spouts and a Japanese-style jigger with measuring lines. Best of all, this set won't break the bank and looks good to boot.
For those looking for a more simplistic set at a lower price point, the Barillio Black Shaker Set is worthy of consideration. Its easy to use stainless steel Cobbler shaker comes with two pouring spouts, a classic double jigger, and a European stainless spoon. Everything you need to make basic shaken or stirred drinks is included. Due to the black coating, take note that the set is hand wash only. A bonus to this set is the storage bag that allows it to be easily transported.
There are plenty of barware sets on the market with varying accessories and price points. For those who are looking for simplicity, we recommend a Cobbler shaker with a built-in strainer. If you're looking to make drinks that have muddled herbs, fruits, vegetables, or egg whites in them, we recommend looking at Parisian or Boston shakers with a Hawthorne strainer. Regardless of what you choose, we encourage you to experiment with your set. We hope our review taught you a little about the types of shakers and accessories available to help you make the perfect cocktail. Cheers!
— Tara Reddinger-Adams