Today’s blog post is to share with you what I think are the absolute must have bar tools. This is not an exhaustive list. There are plenty of specialty tools out there which can fill a cabinet! Of course, you can find just about all this stuff on Amazon, but there are plenty of other vendors which might cater more to the aesthetic you’re looking for in your bar.
This list doesn’t include the glasses you might need – in fact I have an entirely different post which includes the go-to list that you’ll need. Make sure you check that one out too.
Shakers, Cups and Measures
First of all, let’s start with the vessels we’re going to be pouring our drinks into or out of. These are certainly must have bar tools! The first is your basic measuring glass. There’s plenty of them out there to choose from. You’re looking for measuring gradients on it which show teaspoons, tablespoons, ounces, and maybe even milliliters. The one I like best is the angled style which you can read from the top as you pour, rather than have to look at it from the side. Fancy!
Now for the shaker cup or just shaker. These are typically metal or plastic because they need to be hardy to bash all that ice around. There are plenty of shakers out there to choose from. Most of them come with a strainer cap and maybe a little shot glass top – all metal. There’s nothing wrong with those tops, but I like getting a good heavy pint glass to use with my shaker so I’m able to prepare more servings at a time.
A quick note on shaking your cocktails – don’t rush it and use some good-sized ice cubes. The smaller the cubes, the more they shatter and add more water to your drink. That might not always be the most desirable outcome. Fewer, bigger cubes, and a longer shake (like count to at least 30 while shaking) can dramatically alter the flavor of your drink.
I’ve seen a few different kinds of strainers out there and they really do cater to much different kinds of cocktails. Some of them are like a wire mesh cup you pour through. Others are just an oversized spoon with many holes in it. My favorite go to strainer for the most number of drinks is a hand strainer that has holes in the strainer plate and a spring around the edge.
I really like this one because it’s very versatile and you can just place it on your shaker cup and pour away. The bigger chunks of ice will be kept back so you can avoid over-watering your cocktail.
Bar Spoon and Muddler
There’s two ways to combine ingredients by hand. One is to use the shaker and the other is with the bar spoon. They both serve much different roles and it’s important to know some of the differences.
For example, let’s consider the simple martini, and a certain British spy who was famous for his preference for “shaken, not stirred.” A shaken martini will both chill the ingredients as well as chip off little bits of ice, which melt and dilute the liquor ever so slightly. When a martini is stirred, the ice is not chipped, and less water makes it into the drink, but the stirring allows the drink to still get good and chilled.
The old fashioned spoon with the twisted stem is my favorite hands down. It takes a little practice, but you can use that twist to turn the spoon in the glass, which is fairly satisfying when you get the knack. A nice tall stem means you can get right to the bottom of that shaker cup or pint glass you may be mixing in.
Gotta mash up those ingredients at the bottom of the glass, and this little club is your friend. Here’s a tip on muddling – especially tender ingredients like mint leaves. Don’t push too hard, you are merely trying to bruise the leaves, not reduce them to pulp. Believe it or not, you get an entirely different flavor between a bruise and a hard mash.
I’ve tried some substitutes for a muddler, like a large-handled wooden spoon and some other less appropriate things like hammer or screwdriver handles (maybe my bar was in the garage?), but nothing is better than a nice standard muddler. I’d prefer the handle long enough to get to the bottom of a pint glass, but shorter ones can do too.
These are a bit easier to get and infinitely helpful to have on the bar. A small cutting board, a paring knife, and a channel knife. You’ll get plenty of use cutting up citrus and other ingredients with the first two items. That last one you may not be familiar with.
Whenever you have a recipe that calls for some citrus rind, this channel knife makes a very nice little ribbon of it for your drink. You can use a standard peeler of course, and that will probably work just fine in most cases, but I like a little artistry that this very simple tool can give you. It lasts a good long time too!
That’s it for the basics in this Must Have Bar Tools post. Do you think I missed something or maybe there’s a particular kind of tool that just makes your heart sing? If so, please let us know, and if we like the idea, we’ll add it and make sure to give you credit for it!