Originally Posted On June 22, 2023 and Last Updated On
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Essential Bartending Tools for Mixologists and Home Bartenders
Trying to decide what bartending tools you really need and which are more or less there for show? Our list of essential bar tools is just that, a list of the tools a bar just can’t do without whether that bar is in your basement or on 5th Ave in NYC.
Now at home, maybe you can substitute a tool with something similar from your kitchen drawer, but these tools are normally very inexpensive. So why not just buy a few and have the right equipment for the job. I guarantee you’ll enjoy making any drink that much more.
Many of these tools can be found in a regular kitchen, but a bartender’s version will be specially crafted for mixing your drinks. And whether your using these tools in a home bar or on the job, you should always make sure that your tools are clean and available for their next use. Become proficient in the use of your bar tools and you will find the art of mixology much easier to master.
The List of Essential Bar Tools!
There are definitely essential bar tools that every home or professional bar should have. These are the basics and if you’re just starting out, then pick these up before you go for anything fancy or extremely specialized. I’ve also added a few brands of tools I like for each so that you can save some time and get something that is well made and won’t let you down.
TIP: One thing I need to mention, one of the easiest ways to get started with these tools is to buy a bartending set. They’ll come with the most used tools and you can get them all at one time, and usually cheaper than buying each tool individually. Try this KITESSENSU set or this Mixology & Craft set for an easy and quick way to get up and running!
Jiggers come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. Most steel jiggers allow you to measure by 1-1/2 oz. (50ml), called a “jigger”, on one end and 3/4 oz. (25ml), called a “pony”, on the other end. But for some reason most seem to have a once ounce and two ounce cup, which can also be useful, but grab one that definitely has a one and a half ounce size if you want a ‘standard’ shot in the USA.
These are great to have on hand, especially if you aren’t good at counting out your liquor with a pourer yet. And contrary to popular belief, pouring too much alcohol in a drink does not make it better, it can actually ruin it. That’s why we measure and these are perfect for getting accurate measurements. Think of jiggers as little measuring cups like you’d use to cook with.
There are two common types of jiggers, the US standard type which is usually shorter and wider, and the Japanese style which is taller and thinner. Personally I think the Japanese style jigger is much more appealing to look at visually, but to each their own.
They’re made of stainless steel and should last a life time. And they’re pretty cheap too, so I suggest you pick up two of these, each with different measurements so that you’re completely covered.
My Personal Picks
For a one and two ounce jigger I personally recommend Piña Barwar’s Stainless Steel jigger here. Or similarly the Briout here (which is also the one in my picture). I love the look and ‘feel’ of both of these as they both have some weight and just feel good in your hand.
For a Standard one and a half ounce jigger I like the OXO brand as it has a nice no slip rubber part which is nice when you’re working in a busy bar. You can find them here for around $10.
You can also use a shot glass IF you know the exact measurement. Although it is a pretty decent guide, they are never as accurate a measure as a jigger. A one ounce shot glass measures 44 ml (milliliters).
Barspoons are spoons with are elongated handles made specifically for mixing drinks. They have long handles so they can reach the bottom of a tall glass and their handles are often ‘twisted’ so they can be used for layering a drink or shot.
Most barspoons are 10 inches long and are made of high quality stainless steal. Barspoons typically hold 1/6 ounce of liquid (a teaspoon). But you can find spoons as long as 16 inches and with all types of ends.
There are mainly three styles of bar spoons which you can see in the picture above depending on what’s at the other end of the spoon. You’ll find spoons that simply have a heavier end to the spoon that acts as a counter-balance, some that will have a disc shape which doubles as a muddler, and the last type has a fork. Yes, a fork. But no, not a spork!
Which one is best totally depends on you. The reason some spoons have a fork is so you can get an olive or cherry out of a jar quickly when mixing your drink. It is a handy addition, but not a necessity.
Then there is the spoon with a disc, or muddler used to muddle or crush pieces of fruit, herbs or sugar cubes. The muddler part is small but does a decent job in a pinch. And it is handy to have especially if you don’t really have anything for muddling.
So if you’re making mainly martinis in your home bar, the fork option might work best to get those olives out of the bottom of the jar. But if you like muddled drinks like a Mojito, then maybe a barspoon with a muddler is better.
Like I said, it all depends on your personal preference. Personally I just like a regular bar spoon, but I also have all the other tools and gadgets so I don’t need them on the ends of my spoon too.
My Personal Picks
The spoon set in the picture is a JETKONG set of spoons and you can get the whole set here for around ten or eleven dollars, not bad and maybe worth the investment to see which one you prefer. I like the KITESSENSU Bar Spoon if you want a spoon with a muddler. And for the ‘regular’ type that just has a heavier end, I like the Hiware which is only a few dollars here and is a quality spoon.
An absolute must for any bartender. A shaker is used to mix drinks with ingredients that are difficult to combine otherwise. They come in two styles: the two-piece Boston and the three-piece Cobbler shaker. For a more precise explanation on the difference between a Boston Shaker and Cobbler Shaker, click the link.
The Boston shaker is made of two tumblers usually made of stainless steel. The smaller tumbler typically holds up to 500ml, and the larger tumbler can hold up to 900ml. You’d usually add all you ingredients to the larger tumbler and use the smaller one as a lid. When the smaller tumbler is placed into the larger one, they form a seal and make a container for the shaking the ingredients.
Another way to use a Boston shaker is to use a pint glass, or even a cocktail glass instead of the bigger stainless tumbler. Personally this is how I most often use the Boston shaker.
The Cobbler Shaker, made of three pieces, is the most classic and is typically the one you will see in the kitchen supplies stores. Professionals tend to use the Boston shaker only because it is easier to clean when making cocktails all night, plus it just looks a bit classier.
This shaker is usually made up of a stainless steel metal tumbler, a snug fitting lid, and a small cap that fits over the lid. The strainer is built into the lid. It is far easier to use than the Boston shaker if you need to do a lot of straining.
One thing to mention is that you can get weighted or non weighted shakers. I like the weighted as they feel more sturdy in my hands. But either is fine.
My Personal Picks
Both of my picks for the Boston shakers are weighted and very well made. There’s the Piña Barware one here, and the A Bar Above one here. They;re both equally great and will last forever if you take care of them.
These barware are a bit newer to the scene and I really like them. Some of these are beautiful to look at, and in a bar setting they look very upscale. Similar to the shakers above, the mixing glass is a very large, wide mouthed glass made for mixing ingredients in and are made of a thicker glass and even crystal.
You can get ones that are weighted, which is what I prefer. Or a simple thinner glass if that’s what you prefer. I just like the weight of an nice mixing glass.
You normally stir your ingredients in these so there is no shaking although you could I guess. Typically you’ll use your barspoon to do the mixing, and when you have customers, the effect is quite elegant.
You can also use a nice thick pint glass if you want to get the basic affect but don’t have one of the more customized mixing glasses. The ‘mixing’ theory is the same, they just don’t look as elegant. But those proper pint glass are sturdy enough to be used.
My Personal Picks
For me, I like the old fashioned simple weighted mixing glass like the one in the picture, you can get it here. The KITESSENSU is more elegant and is made from cut crystal, so if you like something more ‘showy’ try this.
A Hawthorne strainer is used to strain any solid ingredients from entering your finished cocktail. They are super handy and even have a coiled spring on the underneath so that it fits perfectly in your Boston Shaker.
There are a few different ones, but they all have the same basic design and honestly, and one you grab should be just fine. Just make sure you get a quality metal one made of stainless steel so it doesn’t rust or anything.
They work just like any other strainer and should be made of high quality stainless steel. They’re simple, cheap and effective and every bar or home bar should have at least one.
My Personal Picks
You use a muddler to muddle drink ingredients so you can either crush or release flavors from ingredients like cherries or mint. There are a few different types and they can be made from about anything. The most common are the metal and wood muddlers.
You can Learn How to Muddle a Drink here.
Some muddlers will also have teeth or ridges on the bottom of the muddler to better grip whatever needs muddling. Most often you’ll see these on the metal muddlers while most wood muddlers are smooth. Personally I like the wood ones, and you can find handmade ones all over the internet. Some of them are truly works of art. But the metal ones work fine too and there are minuses and pluses to both.
For example, many of the metal muddlers have plastic bottoms, something I’m not really a fan of simply because they can separate after a lot of use, and personally I think they’re a bit ugly. But the wood one, depending on how they are finished, can chip and leave debris in your drinks, not good at all. So which you decide is always personal preference.
My Personal Picks
The muddler and spoon set is from Hiware and is a great metal muddler and super cheap, you can get it here. Or if you prefer a wooden one, try this Winco wooden muddler here. It’s simple and will last forever, and super inexpensive.
Speed pourers or pour tops are handy little gadgets that make sense for a variety of reasons. First off, they go on the top of your bottle and act like a top or cap, only you can pour your liquor out of them. This saves you a ton of time in a busy bar, and I’d never have a bar and not use them.
Once you get your bartending skills up to spec, you can easily ‘free pour’ a shot pretty accurately using them, saving yet another step. And they also make sure you’re pouring into the glass and not wasting any of the precious liquor. So that makes them cost effective as well.
The only drawback is that sometimes flies or bees can get stuck in them if you have a sweet liquor, or they can get encrusted with the sugar from some bottles. But as long as you are keeping your area clean, and your pourers, this should never be a problem.
My Personal Picks
I personally stay away from the plastic pourers and prefer the metal ones, they look great and last forever and they’re super cheap. So why not get something nice? And for a home bar where you may not be using your bottles as often, these even come with dust caps! These ones by AOZITA are around sixty cents each! But for my own bar, I prefer these ones by JBtec Which are the same in price. They are also the ones in the picture above.
This is one bar tool you don’t want to skimp on if you’re looking for a quality tool. These wine openers are great for opening wine, but they have a ton of other helpful gadgets on them as well.
There are two versions of a corkscrew you will encounter. Both are used for uncorking wine or champagne. The wingtype waiter’s version comes with a knife and pry bar used for removing foil from the bottle. This is the type that I always use and highly suggest you do too.
They come in nice stainless so they look great and are functional all at a very low cost. These are perfect for any home bar or even if you’re waiting tables.
My Personal Picks
My favorite wine opener is this Hicoup Wine Opener which you can find here. It really is an outstanding tool and the one I recommend as my number one pick.
When you are finished using a bottle for the night and no longer have the cap, a bottle sealer will keep the alcohol fresh overnight and can be reused indefinitely. But don’t use them for wine, as the best method of keeping wine fresh is using a wine saver. You can read more on our top picks for the best wine cooler for storing wine here.
Champagne stoppers are special types as they keep the pressure of the natural effervescence of the wine in the bottle and keep the champagne from going flat. Other stoppers do not secure around the bottle’s lip and would not work with champagne.
Ice Bucket and Tongs
An ice bucket is useful if you don’t have a large kitchen where you can store the ice or you have a small home bar with either no refrigerator or one of those really small ones. Some of them are pretty nice and insulated so they can keep ice frozen for hours at a time.
They’re also pool safe as they’re metal and won’t shatter or break. Just remember to use tongs to pick your ice cubes from the bucket so you don’t end up with any glass in the ice.
An ice scoop isn’t a must have, but they can come in handy if you’re using an ice bucket or for crushed ice so you don’t need to use your hands or the glass to scoop out the ice.
And just a quick note, don’t ever use a glass to scoop ice! Especially from a large ice bin like the ones behind a bar. If the glass chips or breaks, and they do, you’ll need to empty and clean the entire bin as well as throw out all the ice. You’ve been warned, and yes I have done this! Ugh!
Always just get a metal scoop, they’re a simple tool and the don’t cost a lot.
My Personal Picks
I like a simple ice scoop like the one you see in the picture above that’s available here for around $6. It’s clean, simple and durable. Or you can opt for the OXO brand which is also great, but comes with a rubber covered handle so it doesn’t slip out of your hands. You can find them here.
Although my list of bartending tools may not be as comprehensive as some other lists, these are the basic essentials you will need or should have if you want to start getting serious about mixing drinks properly.
The tools are all inexpensive and these small things can really make a difference on how it looks and feels to make a nice drink that you enjoy.