Every professional bartender knows that bar tools make the job of crafting cocktails easier. Bartenders use a wide range of tools – some only for specialty drinks – while others are used constantly.
With such a dizzying array of tools available, what are the essential bartending tools for the discerning mixologist or home bar? In this guide, we will explore some of the “can’t live without” tools, from the humble bar spoon to more complex shakers and mixing glass options.
The Bar Spoon
Although simple on its surface (after all, a spoon is known to nearly everyone) the bar spoon is a multipurpose tool that most bartenders rely on time and again.
Traditional used in stirred drinks, bar spoons can also be used for specific uses, like partially straining stirred drinks as they are transferred between containers. This essential bar tool can be used for reaching deep into the bottom of jars, measuring ingredients, and even breaking ice cubes (using the back to pound the cube) when needed.
Sometimes referred to as cocktail shakers or shaker tins, these essential bar tools are often the first investment a bartender will make.
For delicious cocktails using multiple ingredients, high quality bar tools like Japanese shakers (which have a slightly different shape) ensure a superior beverage. They can be used to mix ingredients together as well as perform specific roles in making drinks, such as dry shaking, frothing, or straining stirred drinks (when the ice should be removed). Some shakers (such as a 3-piece shaker) come with a built in strainer and feature a tight seal to prevent leakage.
Here are the three primary types of cocktail shaker:
Cobbler shaker (3-piece) – the most traditional of shakers found in homes is the cobbler, with a two-piece body and tightly-fitting cap. When you’re making drinks for your home guests, most of your favorite cocktails will be made using a shaker of this type. Inside is often a strainer to separate liquids from solids. The built in strainers are easy to clean with a sponge, glass washer or similar device.
Boston shaker – if you possess advanced skills or are a flair flair bartender, you’ll often select the Boston shaker, which features two shaking tins that fit together tightly. Cocktails are poured from a gap between the two tins, which requires either a separate strainer or the ability to slightly split the tins (allowing only the liquid to exit while the ice remains inside). To separate solid fresh ingredients from the liquids, this type of shaker is typically used with a Hawthorne strainer. The advantage of these shakers is that they are very easy to clean with a glass washer or can be quickly rinsed and dried with a soft cloth.
Parisian or French shaker – the French-style shaker combines the cobbler with the Boston, offering a similar shape to the cobbler with a two-piece construction like Bostons. Although simple and effective, they are not common in modern bar uses. If you prefer a throwback style, it’s hard to go wrong with a vintage French shaker!
The key to consistency and quality in cocktails is a smooth pour. Many bartenders can “free pour”, but average home bartenders may not have the ability to accurately measure spirits and other ingredients.
Cocktail jiggers are some of the most useful tools in the barkeeping arsenal, particularly if you want accuracy when making cocktails.
In the professional bar setting, the jigger also helps to control costs (which is always a focus of the establishment’s beverage director). Accurate measurements of spirits protect against out-of-control overhead expenses while ensuring that the general manager stays happy.
Jiggers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of the most popular feature two measurement options, allowing the head bartender to craft perfect drinks.
The Mixing Glass
Although related to the jigger, a mixing glass is specifically designed for precise measurement of certain drinks (usually in large quantities) where any errors can result in unfavorable results. Often, a mixing glass will be etched or screen printed with graduated marks, although recently a mixing glass call a “Yarai” has dominated the craft cocktail scene, which in spite of having no markings can currently be found on bar mats across the country.
The Wine Key
For establishments that serve wine, bartenders know that the wine key is a must-have tool.
Wine openers come in a wide array of styles, from simple folding devices to more elaborate tools that twist corks with aplomb. These openers can also be used in a pinch for other drinks; to slit boxes open, cut foil seals around bottlenecks, and open beer bottles.
The Bottle Opener
No bar or tavern is complete without bottle openers at the ready. Either handheld or mounted to a solid surface (as is often the case in a sports bar), the bottle opener is the go-to device for opening beer and soft drink bottles. In kitchen accessories, bottle openers are sometimes paired with a can opener (allowing for the ultimate in multi-use tools), so if you’re in a pinch you may actually be able to find one in your home kitchen!
A sharp knife is hard to live without in the bar industry. From slicing fruits for fresh juice to making delicate garnishes from other fruits, opening boxes, cutting seals, trimming labels and more, a knife should always be within reach behind the bar.
A good knife is the perfect gift for your favorite barkeeper, whether they are crafting beverages at home bars or in high-end clubs or restaurants. Consider the knife to be one of the best bar tools you can have on hand.
We may not think of the glasses that cocktails are served in to be tools, but these glasses often influence the flavor and presentation of our favorite drinks. Some of the most popular bar glasses include:
- Coupe glass
- Tom Collins glass
- Highball (tall glass)
- Shot glass
- Martini glass
- Old fashioned glass (a variation on a rocks glass)
Paired with an automated device to wash glassware, with these bar accessories (and a fine mesh strainer if you’re crafty), your home or commercial bar is ready to provide a delicious cocktail for every guest.