Okay, so you’re about to have friends over and impress ’em with some cocktails, but 5 minutes before they’re scheduled to show, you realize that you’re as much of a procrastinator as this here author and you forgot to make sure you had all the tools you actually needed to get the job done. As in, you don’t have a muddler. And that shaker you thought you had? You can’t find the cap. But no need to panic; with a few hacks, you’ll be tending bar like a pro in no time. Let’s troubleshoot what to do in a few specific instances.
1. Thing you don’t have: a jigger
What to use instead: anything that measures liquid volume
It’s important to get precise liquid proportions in a carefully crafted cocktail, and measuring ingredients accurately with a tool dedicated to this purpose—a jigger—makes this possible. But if you don’t have one, fear not: you probably have a set of measuring spoons, right? Or a measuring cup? Or that tiny plastic cup that comes with a bottle of Dayquil? You’re good to go.
A standard double-ended jigger has two stainless steel cones of differing sizes: often either 1 ounce and ½ ounce, or 1 ½ ounce and ¾ ounce. A standard shot in the U.S. is usually between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 fluid ounces (except in Utah, where it’s specified as exactly 1 1/2 fluid ounces). Pro tip if you’re using something that measures tablespoons instead of ounces: 2 tablespoons = 1 ounce.
2. Thing you don’t have: cocktail shaker
What to use instead: a sturdy container with a sealable lid
Shaking a drink is important when elements of varying viscosities are at play. A little aeration helps combine disparate ingredients into a blended, frothy texture. Shaking your drink with ice also chills it to the right temperature, and often dilutes it juuuust the right amount for a perfect flavor situation before serving (but beware: shaking too much can over-dilute!) Any lidded jar that’s big enough to fit your cocktail ingredients plus some ice is a fine shaker substitute.
3. Thing you don’t have: a strainer
What to use instead: a jar lid/mesh colander
A strainer’s a useful tool for a few different cocktail preparations. If a cocktail is meant to be served up (that is, chilled but without ice), you’re gonna need to filter out the cubes that were used to cool it during the mixing phase of prep. And even if a cocktail’s served on the rocks, it still usually needs to be strained into your glass over fresh ice if you’re doing things properly, because the ice in the shaker or mixing glass has already begun to melt. For many a stirred cocktail (barring build-in-glass exceptions), you’ll stir the ingredients in your mixing glass to combine and dilute before straining into your rocks glass over fresh ice. So how to strain in a pinch? Just grab the lid from your makeshift shaker and you’ll be all set! The flat part of a mason jar lid works especially well. And if you need to double strain your drink to get out pieces of fruit or herbs? A mesh strainer you probably already have for cooking or making a cup of tea lends itself to a job well done.
4. Thing you don’t have: a muddler
What to use instead: wooden spoon handle
Muddling is a way of pressing the flavor out of herbs and fruit, so you’ll want the option of being able to apply some force with whatever tool you use; the heavy-ish handle of a spoon or spatula you likely already own should achieve the same results as a muddler would. But note that the amount of force you’ll need to apply will vary depending on what you’re dealing with (the more delicate stuff doesn’t require as much pressure, so no need to over-exert . . . though your biceps are looking great, truly).
5. Thing you don’t have: bar spoon
What to use instead: any long, narrow object
Stirring a cocktail with ice helps to chill and dilute it, and combines ingredients without aerating them. If you don’t have a spoon that’s been crafted for this specific purpose (i.e., one of those long-handled babies you may have noticed in the Shaker & Spoon logo), anything that’s similarly shaped will be a fine substitute: a chopstick, a knife . . . even your finger if you get desperate (just wash your hands first to avoid adding any extra, uh, flavors).
6. Thing you don’t have: juicer/reamer
What to use instead: your hands (and maybe a knife if you’re feeling civilized)
If you don’t have a juicer, fear not. You just have to cut your fruit into smaller, more manageable pieces (might I recommend quarters?), and squeeze away. The best part of creating anything is the mess you make in doing so, right?
7. Things you don’t have: Lewis bag and mallet
What to use instead: ziplock bag, towel, blunt object
Some cocktails call for serving over crushed ice. For those of us who don’t have a refrigerator to do the dirty work for them, there’s a particular tool combo out there favored by pro-mixologists to tackle the task: a Lewis bag and a mallet. A Lewis bag is foldable and made of canvas, so when you fill it with ice and beat its contents with an accompanying mallet, it absorbs the resultant water, leaving you with ice that’s not too wet and oh-so-perfect for, say, a mint julep. But if you don’t have a Lewis bag, you can cheat with a ziplock bag and a towel. Just fill your bag with ice, zip the bag, cover it with a towel, and beat away. What to use for that last step? Any blunt kitchen object will do—such as a rolling pin, or a pestle. Once it’s crushed, scoop the ice out of the bag carefully (ie, without the water).
8. Thing you don’t have: Mixing glass
What to use instead: pint glass
Okay, this one may seem like a no-brainer, but better to err on the side of caution, right? I mean, admittedly, a traditional mixing glass (the kind made of crystal, in another country, and shaped like a beaker) is harder to break than a standard pint glass, and usually pretty to look at. But if all you’re using it for is, uh, mixing your ingredients, you just need any container whose volume is large enough to allow you to do so. A pint glass is perfectly sufficient here. Or, hey, if you’re a scientist and have a clean beaker lying around, that works, too.
So there you have it: all you need is a little bit of improv in your kitchen and you’ll be good to go in a pinch with Shaker & Spoon’s cocktails . . . regardless of whether you have a shaker, a spoon, or neither! =P