Last Updated on March 6, 2021 by Bill Allen
Essential Bar Tools for Mixologists and Weekend Warriors
Trying to decide what bar tools you really do 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. Now at home, maybe you can substitute a tool with something similar, 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.
If you’re looking for a great set of bartending supplies for your home bar and to practice, then I highly recommend this set. They have rubber handles and are made of high quality stainless. You can’t get much better than this for the price.
Barspoons and teaspoons are primarily used for the stirring and measurement of ingredients. Another great use of a barsponn is to crush flavoring ingredients. Most barspoons are 10 inches long and are made of stainless steal. The spoon itself typically holds 1/6 ounce of liquid (a teaspoon).
At the top of the handle (on most quality barspoons) is a disc called a “muddler,” used to muddle or crush pieces of fruit, herbs or sugar cubes. You can layer drinks by either softly pouring onto the spoon or by pouring down the spiral. It’s quite a feat getting layering right, and a spoon will really help.
Although any blender that can crush ice can do in a pinch, a heavy-duty one like a Ninja blender works the best for slushing ice and frozen fruit when it comes to making drinks and cocktails. This is a requirement for all successful bars especially ones that serve frozen Margaritas and frozen Daiquiris, although I personally rather use a frozen margarita machine as they don’t add water to the drink like blending ice does.
These metal openers are made for speed. They’re super cheap and a good one will last many lifetimes. So don’t skimp! Personally I love the heavier weight of a good bottle opener. And you can always get one with your favorite beer label on them. When I had my bar the beer distributors would give them to us for free. So if you have a friend in the biz, ask them, I’m sure they have a few extras. Great for beer or anything bottled like wine coolers.
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.
There are two versions of a corkscrew you will encounter. Both are used for uncorking wine or champagne. The 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. The wingtype are usually easier for removing the cork, but do not have extra tools for taking off the foil. And don’t forget to use a nice wine decanter and the right wine glasses to finish off the presentation!
Ice Bucket and Tongs
An ice bucket is useful if you don’t have a large kitchen where you can store the ice. Use tongs to pick ice cubes from a bucket. If you use a very large ice bucket, never dip glasses directly into the ice to fill. Use tongs or a small ice shovel or scoop.
Before every cocktail comes a fresh scoop of ice. Larger ice scoops work the best for preventing your from touching the ice with your hands. Be sure to always use a metal scoop to get the ice as you cannot serve ice touched by your hands or with broken glass. As a rule of thumb, NEVER use a glass as a replacement for your scoop.
If it happens to break, you will never get all the glass from the ice and you’ll need to throw it all away. Not so bad if it’s just a little ice, but have a commercial ice maker making a few hundred pounds and dumping all of it and cleaning out the entire unit can put a bar at risk of no ice for the evening. It’s happened to me, so be aware! When replacing the scoop back into the ice, be sure to leave the handle exposed so you only have to touch that part when you grab it for the next use.
A truly indispensable item for your home bar. The bar measure or jigger is one of the standard bar measurement tools and is used to ACCURATELY measure ingredients, particularly the alcohol. One of the most common mistakes is to think more alcohol makes for a better drink. Like any recipe, too much of any ingredient, even a great one, will ruin the final product.
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. Glass jiggers usually have only one size. 1 oz = 2 tbsp.
juicer or reamer Juicers and citrus extractors help to extract as much juice as possible for cocktails. Adding this fresh ingredient to your drinks goes a long way in flavor and quality. Don’t mix up using this for a blender, a blender will still give you pulp, something you do not want in a cocktail. Soaking fruit in hot water can also help with extracting them.
You’ll need a knife to cut your ingredients and garnishes. Even if you use a blender to make a drink, you may also need a knife to cut ingredients before putting them into the blender.
We recommend a paring knife approximately 4 inches (10 cm) long and an ordinary, sharp kitchen knife of about twice that length with a spear-like tip.
Mixing glasses are clear pint glasses bartenders use to combine several ingredients and also when ingredients need to be muddled. You can also use them as a shaker in a pinch.
The glass part of a Boston shaker could do the same task for stirring cocktails with ice.
This bartender’s version of pestle and mortar. The muddler is made of wood, plastic or even metal and is used to grind or crush ingredients for drinks such as a Mojito or an old fashioned. f you’re not familiar with a muddler, check out my article on what they are and how to muddle a drink correctly. Most quality barspoons will have a small muddler at the top of the 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.
The Boston shaker is made of two tumblers, one glass and the other usually stainless steel. The glass tumbler typically holds up to 500ml, and the the metal tumbler can hold up to 900ml. When the metal is placed over the glass, they form a seal and make a container for the shaking the ingredients.
To use the Boston shaker measure out the ingredients into the glass tumbler, spirits and liqueurs first, followed by juicers, mixers and any other flavorings. Then add the ice.
Then place the metal tumbler over the glass tumbler. Give the metal a firm tap with the heel of your hand to seal the two together. Test the seal by picking the two-part container up by the metal part and, gripping firmly with two hands, shake it well until the chill felt through the metal tumbler begins to become too cold to hold. Now, holding just the metal tumbler firmly, tap the metal tumbler just below the rim, right about the point where the glass comes in contact with it.
Never bang the shaker against the edge of the bar or other solid object in order to open it as this will often result in a cracking of the glass.
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.
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.
To use it, remove the top two sections of the shaker, add the ingredients and then the ice. Then, replacing the top sections, shake the contents well. You then remove just the cap that is on the very top of the shaker, revealing the built-in strainer, and then simply strain the contents into a glass.
The most common way to use the shaker is to first add a good size scoop of ice, then pour the least expensive alcohol first so as to avoid making a mistake and wasting an expensive ingredient in one of your upscale drinks. And talking about ice, check out our list to find the best ice maker for cocktails here.
Most bars will use speed pour spouts for serving. They allow you to use a counting method to measure shots and make the process of pouring much more precise than other methods. Most spouts pour at an average speed of 4 counts per ounce, but make sure to test the speed of the spouts when you first begin serving at a new bar. You can use a jigger to test your counts. I always try to serve a “good drink” as far as the amount of alcohol goes, so I use a 5 count. And a six for “neat” drinks.
If you have a Cobbler shaker you most likely will not need these additional physical strainers, but read on to find out if it is something you need.
The Hawthorn strainer is by far the most common type of cocktail strainer. It has a very unique look, with a wire “spring” that encircles the rim. The rolled spring around the edge of the strainer does a fine job of keeping the ice in the shaker while still allowing some of the fruit pulp, and even some small shards of ice, into the glass. Hawthorn strainers typically have two or four prongs which stabilize it on the top of the shaker.
The Julep strainer is a single piece of metal, with a round, bowled surface that has numerous small holes punched into it.
Both of these styles of strainers have a specific purpose. When you are using a Boston style of cocktail shaker, you will find that the Hawthorn strainer fits very well in the metal half of the shaker, but it is usually a tight fit on the glass part. On the other hand, the Julep strainer is too small for the metal part of the shaker, but fits nicely inside the glass part.
Unlike the Hawthorn strainer, the Julep strainer doesn’t fit across the top of the container, but instead fits gently within the glass at an angle, it takes a little bit of practice, but works quite well.
This tool, also known as a channel knife, allows you to beautifully zest citrus fruit by placing the sharp end on the outside of the fruit and applying pressure. When you get your desired length, release the zester then garnish the beverage. Simple yet effective. Here are some great zesters.