Whether you’re relaxing at home after a long day or getting ready to entertain friends and family, there’s something undeniably appealing about the process of mixing just the right cocktail to set the mood.
Unfortunately, learning to make cocktails properly can be much harder than it seems. Recipes can be tricky, you have to have all the ingredients you need (and they have to be added in exactly the right amounts), and it all has to be mixed/stirred and served just right. It can also be a very time-consuming hobby – after all, you can’t call yourself a real cocktail master if you only know two or three recipes. Instead, if you want to merit the mantle of master mixologist, you’ll probably have to go through a few books and memorize quite a few recipes.
Thankfully, there are now easier ways to make and enjoy some pretty cool cocktails at home. Cocktail kits allow you to learn to make impressive and unusual drinks easily. They have simple, step-by-step instructions that allow you to build a pretty impressive repertoire of cocktails one month at a time and, best of all, you won’t have to be running to the store to find syrups and bitters – ingredients are included.
So take a look at our top four cocktail kits and decide which one is right for you and take your first steps on the road to becoming a better mixologist.
Lonerider Bundled Bourbon Cocktail Box – Best Ingredients
Price: from $62 (💲💲💲)
Includes alcohol – ❌
|What We Like||What We Don’t|
|Produces 12 cocktails per box||No bourbon included, sadly|
|High Quality ingredients||A little more expensive than some other kits|
|Interesting bourbon cocktail recipes|
|Real fruit included|
|Mystery Gifts a nice touch.|
Lonerider’s Bundled Bourbon Cocktail Box comes with a fairly decent array of syrups, spices and extracts- all good quality with pleasing flavors and in ample amounts. The kit is designed for bourbon so you’re looking at recipes with plenty of sours, old fashioneds, and even hot toddies come winter. The bourbon, sadly (and for local alcohol-related shipping laws), isn’t included so you’ll have to find your own.
Where this cocktail kit really shines in in the fact that it ships with real fruit in every box. That’s right, they include actual oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and more into their boxes. Now, don’t get us wrong, the concentrates that most kits provide do a good job and can make very tasty drinks. But there really is no substitute for the natural goodness that you only get from fresh fruit. It’s tastier, provides better balance and can even add some much needed nutrients to your sugar and alcohol-laden drink.
And drinks you’ll make. With three recipes per month and enough ingredients to make four of each, you’ll be able to mix up a total of twelve cocktails every month. Each box contains everything you need to get started making their recipes, such as various syrups, fruits, bitters and so on.
And there is a surprising amount of variety in their recipes considering that all their cocktails are designed around bourbon. Recent boxes, for example, offered the following recipes:
- The Gold Rush: A simple mix of honey syrup, lemon, and high-proof bourbon
- Bourbon Cider Thyme Punch: a sweet and tart punch made with apple slices, fresh thyme, angostura bitters, thyme simple syrup, apple cider and bourbon.
- Fall Spiced Old-Fashioned: Bourbon infused with cloves, cinnamon and star anise. Garnished with orange, served over ice.
In addition to the ingredients Lonerider likes to throw in little mystery gifts with their boxes. These can range from bar tools, to sweets, to Lonerider branded clothing. A very nice extra, and one not commonly seen in cocktail kits!
Overall, at $62 per box (there is up to a 16% discount for longer subscriptions), Lonerider’s Bundled Bourbon Cocktail Box is a bit more expensive than some other cocktail boxes. That said, you do get good quality and fresh fruit ingredients that bring your cocktails up a notch and, of course, everything you need to make some surprisingly creative bourbon recipes (minus the bourbon).
SaloonBox – Best Cocktail Recipes
Price: $53-49 per month (depending on subscription length) (💲💲)
Includes alcohol: ✔
|What We Like||What We Don’t|
|Tasty, unusual cocktail recipes||Somewhat pricey|
|Curated by expert bartenders|
|Uses top-shelf spirits and ingredients|
One of the keys to a good cocktail kit is the recipes it includes. For the aspiring mixologist looking to wow, better recipes make better drinks.
SaloonBox is a cocktail subscription box that collaborates with mixologists and bartenders from all over the US to find the best recipes for their kits. The result is a dependable and curated collection of unusual, interesting and delicious drinks recipes, delivered to your door every month.
If you’re looking to try a drink that’s a little different than what you might be used to, SaloonBox is a great choice. A few examples that we saw were:
- Limone Fizz: limoncello, vodka, and mango-habanero syrup combine to give you a fruity, sweet and spicy flavor sensation, all at once.
- The Ramble: gin, elderflower liqueur, blackberry syrup, lemon and lime juice combine to give you some tasty, complex notes.
- Golden Hour: A drink made up of Licor 43, brandy, honey syrup and a little salt to give you a very sippable and tasty nightcap.
- Piña Guayaba: combines coconut rum, guava juice, lemon juice, coconut water and ginger bitters to give you a little taste of the tropic seas.
Each compact box contains just about everything you’ll need to make these fantastic drinks, including artisanal fruit syrups, bitters and garnishes. While they don’t include fresh fruit, which would be nice, their concentrates and syrups are pretty high quality and won’t go bad either.
Saloonbox also includes small bottles of quality liquors (such as Zacapa Rum, Blue Chair Bay, Rebel Yell and more), enough to make two recipes for two people. Oddly, due to licensing and liquor laws, in some states the liquor is actually shipped separately from retailers so you get two packages that may arrive at slightly different times.
You’ll also get a number of printed inserts with tons of info on them, from the history of the drinks in question to the techniques involved in building cocktails, which can be a great way to learn more about the history and techniques of mixology or something for people to read while you mix up a drink or two.
Crafted Taste – Best for treating yourself or others
Price: $100-$150 (💲💲💲💲)
Includes alcohol: ✔
|What We Like||What We Don’t|
|Makes 12-16 cocktails per box|
|Curated by top bartenders|
If you’re looking for a premium cocktail kit that offers you more bang for your buck, Crafted Taste might be the kits you’re looking for.
Each box contains full size, 750ml bottles of liquor and mixers for you to use, from high quality brands such as Buffalo Trace, Dashfire, Black Button, Fortaleza, Tierra Noble and more. This is very much a step up from the usual miniature bottles provided by most kits, so you can create masterful cocktails and grow your home bar at the same time.
Along with the liquor, the kits give you everything you need to get started, including recipe cards, ingredients and instructions. The recipes included in each box are created by top bartenders and curated to give you the ability to make 12 to 16 truly outstanding cocktails each month. Generally speaking they put artisanal twists on old classics, such as a strawberry/basil and vodka Strawberry Tanager, a bamboo sake, a chocolate-infused daiquiri and more.
There are three types of kits to choose from, depending on your budget and preferences.
Mixer – the mixer kit is the most affordable, at $100 per kit. These don’t contain the full bottles of alcohol, but instead provide you with the bitters, syrups and other ingredients you need to make your cocktails
Full – Full kits include a 750ml bottle of liquor alongside your cocktail ingredients.
Premium – The premium kits upgrade the included liquor to a more premium and more expensive brand (hence the name…and price tag) or, when that’s not an option, they’ll include a second bottle of alcohol.
Crafted Taste also makes for a pretty giftable cocktail kit for friends or business contacts who may be interested in tending their own home bar. You can sign a friend or loved one up for several months, and there’s the option to include a monthly message or customize it with corporate branding as well. And if you’re looking for a one-time gift, the company will work with you to create a specially crafted kit, suited for the recipient, which is thoughtful.
The main downside to Crafted Taste is…the price. There is no getting around it, it is an expensive cocktail kit. Mixer kits cost $100, Full kits cost $150 and Premium kits go for $200.
That said, for the price you are given high quality, respected brand-name ingredients, a curated selection of intriguing recipes and a monthly delivery of full sized bottles of pretty high quality alcohol that not only will allow you to make bar-quality cocktails at home but will also help you stock your liquor cabinet with more of the good stuff.
American Cocktail Club – Best Budget Kit
Price: $40.99-49.99 (with alcohol), $32.79-$39.99 (without alcohol) (💲)
Includes alcohol: ✔
|What We Like||What We Don’t|
|Can Include Alcohol or not based on your preference or location||Only 4 servings per box|
|Good quality ingredients|
If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, we recommend the American Cocktail Club’s subscription box. They offer a very good cocktail kit at lower prices than other services- without sacrificing quality.
American Cocktail Club offers a lot of variety for subscribers. You can choose the “Everything Box,” which comes with everything you need to make 4 servings of your own cocktail, including carbonated water, mixers and garnishes, all natural juice blends, bitters, the occasional bar tool, small (50ml) bottles of spirits, and recipes to figure out how to put it all together
Despite being more affordable than many other cocktail kits, quality has not been sacrificed for price. You may not be able to stock your bar with the smaller bottles of liquor, but generally speaking, you’ll receive artisanal mixers and spirits from pretty respectable brands, Caribbean Joe, Jim Beam, Camarena and the like. They’re not the most top shelf brands but they’re good value for money and will mix up into pretty good drinks.
Now, due to liquor distribution laws, these can’t ship to Canada, Arkansas, Utah, Kentucky or Mississippi. If you live in one of those areas, have your own alcohol or just want to save some money, you can choose an “Everything But the Booze Box.” It comes with the same stuff that’s included in the Everything Box, it just doesn’t include spirits (as the name would imply).
American Cocktail has a variety of kits to choose from, and they are some of the more affordable cocktail kits out there. You can make a one time purchase or subscribe for 3,6 or 12 months,with the cost per month going down as you subscribe for longer. The “Everything Box” costs $49.99 for a one-time purchase, $46.49 per month for 3 months and going down to $40.99 per month if you subscribe for a year.
The “Everything But the Booze Box” starts at $39.99 and goes down to $32.79 for a twelve month subscription.
Finally, the cocktail recipes included in each box are tasty, pretty easy to put together and, interestingly, many are gluten-free. The company often partners with mixologists around the US and many of their cocktails are interesting twists on popular classics- think spicy ginger margaritas, watermelon mojitos, peach mules and so on. You may not get an exotic or ethereal cocktail, but you certainly will enjoy your drinks and have a good time making them.
Which is really the point if you think about it.
What should a good cocktail kit include?
Simply speaking, a good kit should include everything you need to make a cocktail with as little fuss on your part as possible.
Recipes – A big part of any good cocktail kit is the recipe or recipes they include. If you’re going to pay a premium for having a box of cocktail components delivered to your door each month, they had better configure themselves into something more unique than the usual screwdrivers and highballs (not that there’s anything wrong with those). Better kits have recipes that are created in consultation with cocktail specialists (mixologists) or bartenders to offer unique drinks or at least classics-with-a-twist for you to enjoy at home.
Accents and Ingredients – To modify flavor and coloring, any kit worth it’s proverbial salt should come with a variety of special ingredients, such as bitters and syrups. Not everyone has these at home and fewer still have the inclination to make a special trip (or order) to get them. Like they spirits they accompany, these can vary greatly in quality and poor choices can leave a disagreeable aftertaste. Better quality cocktail kits use ingredients from higher quality manufacturers, and some use artisanal ingredients to create interesting flavor profiles.
Modifiers – Adding flavor and softening the base spirit, modifiers are an important component to any cocktail. These are recipe-dependent and can be anything from fortified wines, liqueurs, syrups or even fruit juices. The better kits use higher quality modifiers and fresher ingredients when they can.
Spirits- if you’re looking to get started mixing cocktails at home you may not always have the right base spirits handy. Some kits include small or even full size bottles of alcohol, but alcohol shipping and distribution laws vary by state and not all cocktail kit companies are able to ship spirits to you. Some get around this by partnering with local distributors and ship spirits separately from the main box, while others simply send you recipes, modifiers and ingredients. While we obviously prefer receiving the relevant spirits to go with our cocktail recipes, we don’t automatically dismiss kits that can’t provide them.
What do you need to start making cocktails at home?
Most kits will include everything you need for their cocktails, and even those that ship without alcohol will give you everything else you need. But what kind of bar tools are necessary to truly master the art of mixology?
The most vital tools in a bartenders arsenal are actually pretty easy to find and should be fairly inexpensive to buy in the age of Amazon.
A bar spoon – More than a simple stirrer, these long handled spoons are so ubiquitous that a lot of drinks recipes use them as a unit of measurement (ex: “one bar spoon pomegranate syrup…”).
A shaker set– While cocktail lovers may be divided on James Bond’s insistence on shaken martini’s, they all agree that many cocktails require a vigorous shake to properly blend their ingredients.
Jiggers – These two sided measuring tools are essential for anyone looking to build a quality drink. Like the bar spoon, they’re often used as units of measurement and many recipes will be difficult if you don’t have access to one.
Strainer – If you’re shaking your cocktail with ice or if you’re using real fruit as an ingredient, you’re going to need a strainer. Otherwise you’ll have bits of ice diluting your drink or bits of pulp caught in your teeth, and neither one is much fun.
Of course, these are just the essentials. While you can build practically any drink using those four tools, you’ll find it much easier if you have some extra bar tools lying around to help you. Obviously, we can’t list all the bartools in existence, but some of the more useful ones we’ve found are:
Extra Glassware– You’ll want some extra glasses just for cocktails to avoid the chance of contamination when you’re moving spirits, bitters and (sometimes) egg whites around. In fact, there are several different kinds of cocktail glasses, designed to enhance the experience of certain drinks. While you can certainly get by without a complete set of Rocks Glasses, for example, you’ll find they make it much easier to muddle fruit into a drink.
Fruit Muddler – a large pestle used to crush fruit, sugar or herbs so as to release their flavors and make them easier to mix with alcohol. Sure, you can use the handle of a wooden spoon, but the broad bottom of the muddler tends to produce a better result without damaging your glass.
Ice Cube trays – Not just your standard square ice cubes either, as some drinks call for a large spear of ice in the middle. You can also get fancier, shaped trays to produce unusual ices that will make your cocktails more memorable.
So, now that you know what you’ll need for your bar, all you need to do is pick a cocktail kit and start mixing!