Essential Bar Tools for Mixologists and Weekend Warriors
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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.
A barspoon is handy for stirring Martinis as well as for layering drinks. They are extra long for taller glasses and usually have a spiral in the center. 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 coolers for storing wine here.
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!
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.
The jigger is essentially a speed measurement tool that is made specifically for bartending. There is usually a larger side that measures 1 and a ½ ounces and a smaller side of ½ an ounce, although the measurements come in all sizes. Again, very inexpensive, but great when you’re following a recipe and don’t want the alcohol to overpower the flavor of the drink.
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.
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.
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.
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some even have a strainer at the end which can be used to keep from pouring small chunks of ice into the drink. 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.
When you’ve added all of your ingredients, close the shaker with a glass or the opposite end of the tin and shake with short rapid back and forth movements to mix the drink and chill it at the same time. You can then pull apart the two ends of the shaker over a glass with just enough space for the liquid to pour into your serving glass without allowing ice chunks to fall. Here is our full guide on mastering the shaker.
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.
Strainers are usually accompanied with a shaker set. They allow the bartender to place the strainer over the end of the shaker and pour only liquid into the serving glass. A quality drink or shot will not have small chunks of ice or fruit unless the drink calls for it.
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.