Must-Have Equipment for Summer Cocktails

This week our guide is all about making your perfect summer drink.

What’s your go-to summer drink? A margarita? A dark and stormyHibiscus iced tea? This week our guide is all about making your perfect summer drink, whatever that may be. My coworkers have made hundreds of cocktails, sodas, and frozen drinks to evaluate the gear you need to set up your own bar. We’ve found the ultimate shaker and identified the best muddler for popular mojitos and mint juleps. And with our winning manual juicer, you can enjoy fresh lemonade or limeade without any annoying seeds. With a cold drink in hand, let’s raise our glass to summer.

—Carolyn Grillo, Senior Editor, ATK Reviews

Our favorite set of plastic cups has everything we were looking for, including thin rims that make the cups very pleasant to drink from. The textured exterior allowed us to grip the cups securely. After these cups were used, washed repeatedly, and deliberately dropped onto concrete, they retained only minor nicks and dents. A bonus: This is the least expensive set (per cup) in our lineup.

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This squat but surprisingly roomy cobbler shaker was leakproof and easy to use: Simply twist on a strainer and snap on a domed top, which doubles as a 1- and 2-ounce jigger. (The silicone top faded a bit after 10 washes but sealed just fine.) While the thin metal cup got cold during use, its carafe-like shape made it fairly comfortable for testers of all hand sizes to grip. The cup’s wide mouth allowed for effortless filling, muddling, and cleaning; a reamer attachment was a nice frill.

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With a little practice, this large Boston shaker was simple and comfortable to handle. The wide mouth and medium height of the sturdy, tempered mixing glass made for quick filling, stirring, muddling, and cleaning. And the glass itself sat low in the larger cup, making it especially easy to form and maintain a long-lasting seal. Our only gripe? The thin metal cup got fairly cold during use.

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Distinct from citrus presses that use small holes, this model features a star-like arrangement of large draining slots, which direct the juice in a steady stream with no splattering or overflowing. Its large, rounded handles were easy to squeeze for testers of all sizes, which helped this press quickly extract far more juice than any other model. Its roomy bowl could also accommodate up to medium-size oranges (but not large ones).

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With a hard plastic frame and lid enclosing a silicone ice cube tray, this model was easy to transport to the freezer without spilling and made excellent ice cubes that were clean and straight-edged. The frame and lid also helped reduce freezer and coffee odors; while the silicone tray did smell slightly after a week, the problem was less pronounced than in several other models. Relatively compact, it’ll fit in most freezers.

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This small, inexpensive plastic beaker has bold, clearly marked lines and numbers that can be read from above; a single wide mouth made it a breeze to fill, and a tiny spout ensured a clean pour every time. In addition to the ounce lines you'll need for making cocktails, the beaker also has volume lines for tablespoons, fractions of a cup, and milliliters, so you can use it to measure liquids in the kitchen as well. Better still, the lines are positioned in such a way that no one set of measurements obscures another, making each set equally easy to read and use.  More on this test

This classic model was accurate and had bold, easy-to-read measurement lines that clearly corresponded to specific numbers. The handle, though small, was smooth and wide enough to be comfortable. We also liked that the glass resisted staining and was durable. Our one criticism: Using the cup properly requires crouching down and looking at the lines at eye level, which was uncomfortable for some. 

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Our winning spoons had a simple design that allowed for a continuous, bump-free sweep, with a ball-chain connector (similar to what military dog tags hang on) that was easy to open and close. This set's metal construction felt remarkably sturdy, and ingredients didn't cling to the stainless steel. And while the 1-tablespoon measure did not fit into all spice jars, it was a minor inconvenience for an otherwise easy-to-use set.

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This clear ice maker made the prettiest ice cubes: sparkling, perfectly cube-shaped, and completely transparent. Its insulated plastic frame makes it easy to transport to the freezer and helps protect the silicone tray inside against freezer and coffee odors somewhat. But it’s pricey and it requires a large chunk of freezer space. Plus, it can be a bit tricky to pry the silicone ice tray out of its insulated frame; we often needed to chisel four “unclear” cubes off the bottom of the tray before we were able to get the clear ice out.

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The two ice sphere molds in this set were a little finicky to fill, requiring us to pour water through a relatively small hole in the molds’ top hemispheres. But their hard plastic shells were compact and stackable, so they were easy to transport and fit into small niches in the freezer. While the silicone hemispheres that form the ice do pick up some freezer and coffee odor, they make for particularly easy ice removal: Just push on the silicone bottom and the sphere pops right out. As with the other sphere molds, you won’t get perfectly round ice—the spheres look a little like cute ringed planets with small bumps on top.

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This inexpensive sealer attaches with an easy one-handed motion and an affirming click. Wine saved with it was just as fresh as a newly opened bottle for two full days (a full week if left undisturbed) and still drinkable on day three, thanks to its protruding plug and a secure closure that combined to make the best seal. Once on, it was almost flat against the top of the bottle and fit easily in the fridge.

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The longest model in our lineup, this double-headed muddler stood tall in vessels of all sizes. With a moderate weight and a large, smooth head, this model quickly and efficiently muddled everything under it, making great drinks. Testers liked that it also had a second, smaller head, which was handy for maneuvering in narrow vessels or for making a second drink without having to wash the muddler. Made of unvarnished wood with indentations cut into it, this model was particularly easy to grip, even when wet. And although the wood stained slightly after its overnight cocktail bath, the muddler was otherwise quite durable.

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This new blender from Breville improves upon its predecessor in a few key ways. It’s more powerful, so it can get smoothies and almond butter even smoother, and it has a dedicated “green smoothie” button that completely blends fibrous ingredients into a silky smooth drink. It’s reasonably quiet and reasonably compact, and combined its ingredients efficiently with minimal pauses to scrape down the sides. Like the previous model, it still automatically stops every 60 seconds, which can be a little annoying during longer blends, but this wasn’t that big of an issue. Its timer makes tracking recipe stages very easy.

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It’s easy to use this model: Simply press the large button on the top of the machine until you’ve obtained your desired level of carbonation. The plastic water bottles connect to the machine easily and are dishwasher-safe. The machine uses SodaStream’s new “quick connect” CO2 canisters, which slide into the back of the machine and lock into place when you pull down a plastic handle. Like other models from SodaStream, it takes up fairly little counter space and is sturdy. 

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