The best cocktail making kit should be sleek, sophisticated and sublime. There is nothing better than a man who can handle his jigger.
In order to mix a good whisky cocktail you need the best cocktail making kit. And a man who can handle his jigger and mix a knee-trembler is useful to have around. Too often the homemade British cocktail is marred by poor preparation, not enough ice and inferior equipment. Even if it’s just an annual champagne cocktail before the hunt ball, an aperitif before lunch or digestif after dinner, the cocktail is an occasion. You might sip at a G&T slumped on the sofa in a dog-haired fleece, but not a Manhattan.
COCKTAILS AND CIVILISED LIFE
“Cocktails and the enjoyment of them are an essential part of a civilised life,” says William Yeoward, whose eponymous shop on the King’s Road is brimming with exquisite handmade crystal and a new range of barware inspired by the Jazz Age. “The making and presentation of the cocktail is to me almost more important than the consuming. I wanted for my bar ravishing glasses that were simple and functional and would evoke the era of the cocktail craze in America in the Thirties.”
As prohibition took hold in the US, a plethora of American bars opened in the grand hotels of Europe, bringing the cocktail with them. The seductive scent of Hollywood lingers. Yeoward’s American Bar range has an elegant insouciance. The Corinne champagne flute (£25), cocktail glass (£25) and martini glass (£26) are the perfect foundations for the home bar. The Lillian cocktail jug (£85) is striking. “The cocktail jug is a great vessel from which to mix and serve. It is elegant, generous and also beautiful at parties,” says Yeoward. It would make a fantastic present with a pair of Lillian cocktail glasses (£26 each). The Jerry shaker (£650) from the William Yeoward Crystal range echoes the Jazz Age and holds enough for several generous cocktails.
The best cocktail making kit involves appropriate bar accessories. A long spoon for stirring is invaluable, and one need go no farther than Patrick Mavros’s brilliantly rendered, animal-topped cocktail spoons (£120 each). The guineafowl and cheetah are particular favourites, as is the grouse-topped swizzle stick (£180). OKA’s reeded buffalo bone ice bucket (£120), bottle opener (£18) and corkscrew (£15) are elegant and understated and would complement any existing kit. “They are made in the remote villages of North India, the craftsmanship being taught from generation to generation,” says Sue Jones, co-founder of OKA.
But it is the cocktail shaker that takes centre stage. William and Son’s sterling silver cocktail shaker with integrated recipes (£4,495) includes the classic dry martini and a Singapore Sling. The bubble cocktail shaker (£4,995) and ice bucket with tongs (£11,850), all in sterling silver with gilded interiors, look stylish and modern.
VINTAGE COCKTAIL SHAKERS
The Pullman Gallery is a cocktail aficionado’s paradise. Owner Simon Khachadourian discovered an Asprey “Tells-U-How” cocktail shaker in Bermondsey market in the Seventies. He fell in love with it, and his collection grew from there. “Some people love quirky, some people like modernist, and some people like traditional shakers,” says Khachadourian. “For collecting, people favour Art Deco. The Twenties to Thirties were the archetypal cocktail years, and branded is better: Asprey, Tiffany and so on,” he says. “Cocktail shakers are collectable as they were costly, luxury items when new, and affordable only by the more affluent. One of Asprey’s most iconic cocktail shakers, ‘The Thirst Extinguisher’, was priced at 25 guineas when launched in 1932, the equivalent of six months’ wages for a working man, consequently relatively few were sold.” The original 1932 version, priced today at around £8,000, exudes period charm and, like the reproduction from Asprey’s (£5,950) in sterling silver, is inscribed with Between the Sheets, Old Fashioned and Whisky Sour cocktail recipes.
“The most iconic shakers in the collection are the Thirties sterling silver shakers by Tiffany, from around £3,000. They are classic and elegant with pierced foliate strainers and sterling silver overlaid glass shakers,” he says. “Novelty shakers such as the ‘Boston Lighthouse’ shakers by the International Silver Company of Meriden, Connecticut (£28,000), the Asprey ‘Tells-U-How’ recipe shaker and the Emil Schuelke ‘Penguin’ shaker from 1936, both around £4,000, are highly collectable.” And the best thing to mix in one? “Definitely a vodka Negroni,” he says.
HAVE COCKTAIL BAR, WILL TRAVEL
The vintage glamour of the cocktail bar is brought bang up to date in Linley’s extraordinary Tectonic Bar in British ebonised walnut with white gold leaf and nickel accents (£85,000) . “The bar echoes the tectonic plates that form the surface of the earth,” says Linley. “Cocktail cabinets are becoming increasingly popular with people wanting somewhere to neatly store drinks and barware but which also add to the art of entertaining rather than a cupboard under the stairs hiding dusty bottles.” The Tectonic Bar has everything needed to make the perfect cocktail, including a cleverly concealed fridge.
The tradition of the travelling cocktail is British. A bullish stiffener acts as a buffer from the cold, a party reviver and courage maker in one. Vintage kits are highly collectable but new company Tipplesworth provides an excellent modern version.
“Cocktails, the best cocktail making kit and the art of cocktail making are having a well-deserved resurgence at the moment,” says Frankie Snobel of Tipplesworth. “You become an instant dinner-party hit when you can mix up an impressive drink for your guests,” she confirms. “It’s all about using quality ingredients, proper barware and presenting it with a bit of panache.” Tipplesworth has three variations on the travelling cocktail case theme. One, the bramble case in purple tweed (£185), provides everything necessary for this delicious gin-based cocktail, including a bottle of Sipsmith gin. “The Bramble is a lovely drink for this time of year. It combines gin, lemon, sugar and blackberry – a flavourful balance of tart and fruity,” she says. And Tipplesworth’s website has some instructional and fun videos.
If you couldn’t distinguish an Officer’s Nightcap from Hanky Panky then start practising. The chap who can thrust a well-made Rusty Nail into a flagging pre-supper paw will always be in demand. And a proper cocktail needs the proper kit. Just don’t forget the ice.
WHAT TO WEAR WHEN SIPPING A COCKTAIL
The best cocktail hat is glamorous without being overwhelming. Think Jazz Age with a hint of devil-may-care. Fulham miliner Jane Taylor has dressed many Royal crowns, including those of the Duchess of Cambridge and Zara Philips. Her bespoke Hexie cocktail hat (£690) is the cat’s pyjamas. Hexagonal, in glitter fabric and knotted on top, it would make cocktail hour go with a swing, particularly if you’ve a sidecar in hand and a dashing chap in tow.
And a man could do worse than follow our advice on the best evening wear to don. A smoking jacket is the perfect foil to a glamorous companion.