If you have kids, a home bar isn’t just a luxury these days, it’s an essential. Oh those kids. They are sweet and fun and rewarding, of course, but there are days (hours, minutes, seconds…) where they’re also loud and messy and overly active, making you want to reach for at least one strong cocktail before the day is done. And the nice thing is, in your own house, happy hour can pretty much be any time you want it to be (just like coffee hour).
You don’t need an entire bar’s worth of fancy kitchen tools and gadgets to be able to make delicious mocktails and cocktails straight from your kitchen. A shaker or blender, some glassware that isn’t decorated with your kid’s favorite cartoon character, and a few other products can get you started.
So many summer drinks are also easier than they look. We are loving this Avocado Mango Margarita, courtesy of Love One Today, which only takes a handful of ingredients and 15 minutes to make. The recipe is non-alcoholic so the entire family can enjoy one, but hey, if you want to add a splash of tequila to your own serving, we won’t tell. Check out the recipe below, and then scroll on to see what cocktail essentials will get you slinging and sipping your very own drink in no time.
- 1 ripe, fresh avocado, halved, pitted and peeled
- 1 cup fresh mango, peeled, cubes
- 2 cups sparkling water, lime flavor or club soda
- 4 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
- 2 tsp. agave nectar
- 1 cup ice cubes
- Ice cubes to serve
- Place avocado, mango, lime juice, agave nectar, and sparkling water in a blender in the order listed and blend until well combined.
- Add ice cubes to the blender and blend again for less than a minute.
- Garnish with a slice of avocado, mango and lime. Serve with ice.
Cocktail Bar Tools
First things first, if you want to enjoy a mocktail or cocktail at home, a good shaker will help you feel like a true bartender. This Cresimo set comes with 12 different pieces to make it easy for you to whip up a whole menu of drinks. It includes a stainless steel shaker, muddler and bar spoon, strainer, jigger, ice tongs, corkscrew, wine opener, and bamboo stand to organize everything together. For some inspiration, there’s also an included recipe booklet.
One reviewer said, “This is a really nice shaker set. My wife and I typically don’t mix drinks at home but were having friends over for the 4th and decided Margaritas would be fun. This came just in time on the 3rd! It’s very solid and feels more substantial than the price would indicate. It works well with no leaking or spilling and is super easy to use. I love the little measuring cup…I felt like Tom Cruise in Cocktail using it in front of our friends…although my wife discouraged me from throwing bottles in the air! I suspect we’ll be using this for more than just Margaritas in the near future.”
A blender is a valuable kitchen tool to help with mealtimes, but you can also put it to good use for cocktail hour, whether that’s whipping up a healthy smoothie for the kids or a slightly-less healthy smoothie (read: margarita or daiquiri) for the adults. The Ninja blender is easy to use and has four presets to crush, blend, puree and more. The pitcher holds 72 ounces and is dishwasher safe.
One reviewer said, “There are some products that just change your life. I wanted to get in on the smoothie thing, and there simply is no other way to do it than with a blender, and no better blender to do it with….Neither my kids nor I particularly like fruits and vegetables and as a result we don’t get nearly enough. And yet I can put in 10 bananas, two cartons of strawberries, two of blueberries, a bag of spinach (yes, spinach!), a cup of plain Greek yogurt, one interrupted conversation … and: ambrosia! The decanter is huge, and yet between the three of us we can and do empty it in one meal. Yay!”
What’s better than having ice cubes in your drink? Giant ice cubes! This set of ice cube trays will make two inch square ice cubes and 1.75 inch-diameter ice spheres. Because of their size, these ice cubes and balls will melt more slowly, keeping your drinks cool for a longer period of time. You can also make infused ice or popsicles or let your kids get a kick out of having one giant ice cube in their juice glass. The trays are BPA-free and the food grade silicone makes getting ice out easier than with a hard plastic tray.
Says one reviewer, “I love it when a product does exactly what it promises to do, this is one of those. The silicon material of these trays make removing the ice cubes/ball simple and easy and they look exactly like the pictures. You can get some round popsicle sticks and make kid treats from fruit juice, or punch and they will love it this summer. They clean up easy and fast. One of the nice things I found was I had looked at the pictures and thought that getting water into that small hole might be a bit of a mess but it comes with a small funnel designed that hole so that shows somebody was thinking about the customer. So when I add PRICE + Performance + Quality Material = 5 Stars and I might have to get some as stocking stuffers when the holidays roll around.”
A citrus squeezer is one of those things you don’t think you need until you try to squeeze lemons and limes by hand and get juice into your eye. The Zulay 2-in-1 squeezer has two different sized compartments to help to get the most of both small and larger sized citrus fruits. It’s made with industrial aluminum and has a non-toxic coating, and is small enough to fit into a drawer when not in use. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime to your meals, sauces, or cocktails without having to worry about seeds getting in the way. (If you want to add a citrus peel as a garnish, you might also consider getting a peeler).
One reviewer said, “For years I’ve been squeezing lemons by hand, couldn’t justify spending more on a real squeezer. Well, eventually after all the wet hands, lemon juice going everywhere and sore hands I just had had enough. I ordered this and by far am very picky with what goes into the kitchen to avoid spending more money to replace in the future. I’m particularly considered about safety/chipping/materials. Well – I tried this out with our classic chicken piccata and it was the quickest, easiest experience and well made. Put the lemon in, squeeze the lever, keeps all my seeds out (no more fishing!) and everytime consistent results. I saved more money getting the most juice from my lemons than probably on the product. Wish I would’ve bought sooner.”
The simple, clean design of a classic rocks glass is what makes it great for easy, everyday use. By day, grab a glass to drink water or juice, and by night, feel free to switch to something stronger like a cocktail or a whiskey on the rocks. This set includes six dishwasher-safe, 11-ounce glasses that have a heavy base to prevent tipping, and are resistant to breakage, chipping, and scratches.
One reviewer said the glasses are a “high dollar look at a low price” and “They wash fine in the dishwasher (no cracks or discoloration) and they’re a little thicker than I thought they’d be. I’m mostly using these for water and juice, but I imagine they’d make great bar glasses also. My favorite thing about them is that they’re perfectly straight, which allows me to store them easily and save space in my cabinet.”
Highball glasses are tall and thin and a sleek way to drink even ordinary beverages at home. Sure, you can use a highball glass for water, juice, or iced tea, but it’s probably (definitely) more fun to use one to leisurely sip on a cocktail like a good gin and tonic or minty mojito. This set comes with six glasses that are made with lead-free Italian glass and can hold 13 ounces of liquid. They’re also dishwasher safe.
Says one reviewer, “It may sound crazy but I am in love with this set of glasses. They are tall, sleek, and elegant. The way they feel in your hand is perfect: not too heavy, not too light–just right. I know I will be inconsolable the day I break one–which is inevitable. I’m buying a second set just to have replacements on hand.”
To elevate the feel of your (kid-free) happy hour, opt for an elegant stemmed glass. Riedel makes a variety of cocktail-specific glasses, and the Nick & Nora was named after the martini-drinking couple from the detective series, The Thin Man. It’s designed to let you sip on your drink without having to tilt your head. And the curved edges mean that you’re more likely to get your cocktail into your mouth instead of all over your shirt, unlike with a traditional v-shaped martini glass. The set comes with two dishwasher-safe glasses to allow you to share a martini with a friend, or have an extra one ready for yourself.
One reviewer says, “Riedel makes high quality, clear crystal glasses – ping them and they ring out with a nice tone. Thin, elegant glass. The Nick and Nora glass is the perfect size for classic three-ingredient cocktails from the golden age of cocktails. Lemon drop, martini, side car etc. Cocktails shaken, then strained and served without ice cubes. The shape of this glass is more spillproof than a martini glass.”
Bitters are a great way to add a unique twist to your cocktail or extra flavor to plain sparkling water for a refreshing non-boozy beverage. This set comes with five different bitters, including citrus, smoked chili, aromatic, orange, and ginger. A little goes a long way, so experiment with just a couple of dashes depending on what flavor you’re in the mood for, and a whole new world of mocktails and cocktails will open up to you.
One reviewer said, “Great deal and a great way to add flexibility and variety to any cocktails that use bitters. The selection is nicely varied and each one really does have a unique flavor and character. One thing to note is that Hella bitters are a bit more mild than Angostura and a lot of other traditional bitters. I find that to be generally a good thing, as it’s easier to add subtle notes to cocktails and makes it less likely you will overdo it with the bitters. You may use a bit more than with other brands though. But for anything short of a professional bar this set should last you a good long time.”
These aren’t the saccharine maraschino cherries that topped your ice cream sundaes growing up. They’re made from Italian marasca cherries and are all-natural, soaked in a syrup of cherry juice and sugar, and not the alarmingly bright red color you’re thinking. Use these Italian delicacies in an Old Fashioned, or whatever your drink of choice is (Shirley Temples count), for a nice but not excessively sweet garnish. Of course, you can still put them on your sundaes or other desserts, but they’re so delicious that you might be tempted to eat them on their own.
Says one happy reviewer, “If you like a good cocktail then immediately place this in your cart (maybe two) and checkout quick. I ordered these for my husband as a gift and all I can say is WOW! You do not know what you are missing if you don’t order these immediately. I will not eat the maraschino cherries you buy in the grocery store, red or green. They are horrible in my opinion, not worth eating. These however do not last long in our house. You can really put them on anything that you would have put the grocery store kind on. Or if you’re like me, you’ll catch yourself eating them straight out of the jar, because they are just that darn good.“
For more delicious inspiration, check out our Home & Kitchen essentials.