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When you come across videos about making cocktails, you may notice that some of the basic tools the bartender uses include a cocktail shaker, a jigger, a bar spoon and a glass. These are the most used ones but there are actually more materials than you think that serve great purposes. If you aspire to become a bartender, you must have knowledge with all of the tools, gear and basically everything you need aside from knowing which drinks to mix. These tools are going to be your best friends and now let us acquaint you with them.
What are Bar Tools?
Just as a mechanic needs his tools and a scientist needs his apparatus, a bartender also needs his own stuff. One of which is the bartending tools. These things are what a bartender uses to properly make the best concoctions in a clean, safe and efficient manner. Some of them are always used while some are used occasionally for special drinks. Whether you want to set up your counter as a small home bar or you’re working in a fancy restaurant or bar, these tools are essential and must always be present, especially the basic ones. Here are the essential bar tools that you need for your bar:
These are the cylinder-shaped containers, mainly made of metal that are used to mix alcoholic beverages with other drinks and ice to make the drink cold as it is being shaken. Here are the four types of shakers to choose from:
Mostly used by professionals and a favorite type of shaker of most bartenders, the Boston shaker comes in two pieces: a mixing glass and a larger tin container. The two glasses perfectly fit to have an airtight seal when mixing, preventing your cocktail to spill. As effective and durable as this shaker is, it also requires great skill, especially when separating the two glasses. One wrong move might cause the mixing glass to break. It is easy to clean and because one is made of glass, it allows you to see what you are pouring. It doesn’t come with a strainer though, so you’ll need to have a separate strainer such as Hawthorne or julep.
Tin on tin
This is very similar to the Boston shaker because it also comes with two glass-like containers, only that they both are made of tin, hence the name. The tin on tin is easier to use than a glass on tin shaker because the tin won’t crack when you separate them. This shaker is advised to be used when mixing egg whites in your cocktail. And because both containers are made of tin, the drink will cool much faster and it provides a better seal. The only downside is that you won’t have a visual of the drinks that you’re mixing like a Boston shaker would. It also requires a separate strainer, a Hawthorne or a julep works fine.
The cobbler contains three pieces: a large shaking tin, a tightly fitted top with a built-in strainer and a cap to cover the top. It may less noisy, but it still has cons. For instance, when a cocktail is shaken, the lid can contract, making it stick and difficult to remove. And while it already has a strainer, they are not adjustable and not very fine, so your cocktail can still have traces of pulp or ice, so you might still have to use a mesh strainer. But still, it is a great shaker to use, especially when you’re a beginner and want to practice your mixing skills. As a treat, the cap measures exactly 1 ounce, so when you misplace your jigger, you can use this handy feature instead.
Also called the French shaker, this one also has two compartments: a metal bottom container and a metal cap. The Parisian shaker has the most appealing designs and it even comes in sophisticated colors so they can be hard to find and can be a bit more expensive compared to the other ones. It doesn’t have a built- in strainer like the cobbler so you would have a separate strainer. Like the cobbler, it also has the problem of the two parts becoming too tight and so they become difficult to separate. It also has a great thermal conductivity as they are made of metal. However, despite its design and other pros, it is not as effective as the Boston shaker or the tin on tin.
Most cocktail shakers don’t have built-in strainers and there is a need for separate strainers. Strainers are basically used to pour over the drinks into the glass to catch any unwanted particles such as pulp or tiny pieces of ice. It ensures that your cocktail is smooth all the time. Like the shaker, strainers also come in different types.
Perhaps the most widely-used strainer, the Hawthorne strainer is also the most complicated looking. It contains a metal disc with perforated holes and an attached handle, stabilizing prongs to keep it in place on top of a shaker tin or glass and a metal spring aligned on the disc that catches any solid particles when pouring a drink. This strainer complements the Boston shaker or the tin on tin because the metal spring perfectly fits the rim of the tin or glass due to its adjustable feature. It comes in varieties of style but they all have the necessary parts. On the downside of it, this strainer can be difficult to clean because of the spring and is easily damaged when not used or stored properly.
The julep looks like a slotted spoon but not as shallow and has a shorter handle. It has a round and shallow container with tiny holes that catches the solids. It’s not as effective as the hawthorne and the fine mesh strainer because the only factor that prevents unwanted particles from your drink is the holes. This is typically used with a mixing glass and for straining stirred drinks. It is used by placing it over the mouth of the glass with the shallow part facing down and held with the pressure of the bartender’s fingers. It is durable and easy to clean but can’t strain very tiny particles.
Fine Mesh Strainer
Among the other two, the fine mesh strainer is the most effective when filtering your drink. It’s like the strainer that you see in the kitchen, only smaller. It helps the other strainers catch all the tiny bits of fruit or ice that you don’t want in your drink. It comes in different sizes and they’re quite cheap. When you use it, you hold it beneath the first strainer to thoroughly filter the drink.
Cocktail jiggers are the small hourglass-like devices made from stainless steel that are used for measuring purposes in mixology. The standard jigger measures 1 ounce on one side and 2 ounces on the other. There are many types of jiggers that come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes, people mistake them for a shot glass or a shooter. To remove this confusion, check out the difference here and also check here so you’ll know what the types are and what is most suitable for you.
Bar spoons are what to use to stir your drinks. They are like spoons but have longer and slimmer bodies and the end has a variety of styles.
European bar spoon
The European has a long fully twisted stem and at the end, there is a disc that can be a substitute to a muddler and can also be used as a tool for layering drinks. It is sturdier because it was designed to muddle ingredients with its special feature and is also great to use when you’re working with long glasses.
American bar spoon
Dubbed as the basic bar spoon, the American has a simple but functional design. Its stem is also twisted but only in the middle part and it is instantly recognizable because of its iconic red rubber tip which is to provide comfort to the bartender’s hand when stirring. You can find this in any store and it is inexpensive.
This one has a longer and slimmer stem and has the most elegant look. The end can either be a teardrop-shaped tip that provides more weight for better stirring or a fork that can be used to pick up fruits for muddling.
Drinks wouldn't be complete without their containers since it’s also a matter of presenting the drink to the customer. There are many types of glasses that are typical for specific drinks. The following features the commonly used glasses in bars.
Collins - Similar to the highball only taller and slimmer at 6 cm x 17 cm and can contain 10-14 oz. of liquid. It is also used for mixed drinks such as the Tom collins.
Rocks - A short glass with various designs that can contain 6-10 oz. of liquid and measures 3.5 in. in height and about 3 in. in diameter. It is also called old-fashioned glass or lowball glass and is typically used to serve whiskey or scotch with ice.
Coupe - It looks like a stemmed small bowl that is used to serve cocktails like aviation or daiquiris, though initially they were used for champagne.
Martini - Take the coupe glass but replace the round bowl shape with a triangular bowl. This is a typical glass for martinis as can be seen by the name. It is ideal if it is served with an olive on a toothpick.
Margarita - A variation of the coupe glass that has two curves and used to serve margaritas and even shrimp cocktails.
Flute - A fancy-looking glass that is slim and is used for champagne and mimosas. It can hold 6-10 oz. of liquid and its stem allows the drinker to hold it without affecting the drink’s temperature.
Shot glass - A tiny glass designed to allow the drinker to consume the drink in one gulp, called the “shot”. It can hold 25-50 ml of liquid and has several varieties like the shooter. It can also double as a jigger.
Bar mats are necessary in bars since these protect your bar surface from spills and keep glasses and other tools in place. They are mainly made of rubber or silicone, making it slip-resistant. They also help in maintaining cleanliness on your counter by containing spilled liquids.
Paring Knife - A small knife with a short blade that is used to cut fruits for garnishes.
Cutting Board - A durable board that is made of either wood or plastic, used as a surface to cut fruits on. You can check out bartending cutting boards right here.
There is a variant called the channel zester which is used to zest twisty peels of fruits.
Peeler - Featuring a sharp and stainless steel blade, this tool is designed to remove fruit skins.
Toothpick - Can be either wood or bamboo, these are used to stick fruits or olives and then placed on top of the drink.
Whipped cream dispenser - Some drinks are more on the sweet side and require whipped cream. You can always use a store-bought whipped cream bottle but a dispenser looks more professional and allows you to make your own mix of cream. It’s one of the complicated tools used in bars and it works by using small chargers filled with compressed nitrous oxide to aerate the cream and will eventually create a foam.
Mixing Glass - a glass that is usually patterned and sturdy and has a spout that allows better pouring of drinks and prevents spilling them. It is used as a vessel when you’re muddling ingredients and mixing in some liquor or spirits.
Wine Key - This is a three-in-one tool based from a German innovation in the 1880s that consists of a knife to cut the foil of a wine bottle, a corkscrew to remove the cork from the bottle and a bottle opener to open some beer or carbonated drinks. It is preferred by sommeliers because it is easy to use, convenient and effective.
Speed opener - A flat stainless steel tool with two holes on each end that is intended for opening beer bottles and allowing the bartender to perform tricks and showcase his skills. It is small enough to be put in your pocket or even on a belt magnet.
Foil Cutter - When you’re opening a bottle of wine, you’ll get the job done easier and faster with a foil cutter. It has a blade that runs around the foil creating a slit when you rotate it.
Ice tongs/ scoop and bucket - Ice is crucial in drinks because they provide the refreshing factor and to keep everything clean and safe, you use an ice scoop or tongs to pick up ice from the bucket and transfer them to the glass or shaker. These three are made from stainless steel.
Muddler - Some drinks are better off with fresh ingredients and you extract the flavors and aroma of mint leaves or citrus with a muddler. These look like pestles and are intended for mashing. They vary in material such as wood, plastic or stainless steel. Some also have a rounded tip while others have ridges or teeth that better extraction.
Pour Spout - These are normally attached to bottles of liquors, syrup or juices that provide support for pouring and enables you to control how much you’re putting in the glass and it avoids spillage and wastage.
Citrus Squeezers - Sure, you can squeeze a lemon with your bare hands but it wouldn’t be so sanitary and your customers don’t want to see that. Using a citrus squeezer allows efficiency and cleanliness that extracts juice to the last drop. To learn more about squeezers, check this page.
Absinthe Spoon - A perforated spoon with unique and attractive designs that is intended for dissolving sugar in a glass of absinthe and is thought to counteract its bitterness. The spoon is flat and it is rested horizontally on the rim of the glass, with a sugar cube placed on top of the slotted part of the spoon. Absinthe is then poured over the sugar cube followed by iced water which will eventually dissolve the sugar.
Butler’s Friend Corkscrew - We’ve already discussed the wine key that features a corkscrew so what is this butler’s friend corkscrew(also known as Ah So corkscrew) for? It is actually for removing fragile vintage corks and its prongs ensure that no fragments of the cork will mix with the wine. You use it by inserting the prongs in between the cork and pull it with a twisting motion and the cork should be out smoothly.
Champagne/Wine Stopper - There will be an instance that a bottle of wine or champagne won’t be finished and to preserve its flavor and aroma, there is a need for champagne/wine stoppers which are attached to the bottle opening and tightly seals it.
Matches - Flaming drinks provide theatrics overall so you would need matches or a lighter for it. One example would be a scorpion bowl in which the middle is filled with alcohol, mostly rum, and is lit on fire.
Bar Towels - No one would like to see a messy counter and even if you have bar mats, there would still be traces of little spillings on your surface. To keep your area clean, you’ll need to wipe any unwanted liquids with bar towels. These are also helpful in wiping your glasses to keep them shiny and dry.
Can Opener - Some ingredients are stored in cans such as cream of coconut or pineapple slices, for a drink like the piña colada so naturally, you’ll be needing a can opener to open the cans safely and efficiently.
Funnel - A familiar kitchen tool that is also helpful in the bar, the funnel is a cone-shaped tool with a narrow stem at the tip of the cone that is used for channeling liquids like syrup into bottles. They can be of plastic or stainless steel and prevent you from creating a mess when transferring liquids.
Glass Racks - Where else would you store your glasses other than racks, right? These can be considered furniture in your bar with the purpose of storing and organizing glasses neatly. They can vary in size and material but most are made from durable wood. Most glasses with stems and bases like wine glasses or flute glasses are hung from the racks to save space and for easy access.
Glass Washer - If it’s a busy day at the bar, normally you would simultaneously clean up but you don’t want to stay there all the time just to wash glasses, right? So, this is where the glass washer comes in handy. The glass washer is an electrical equipment that has multiple brush heads or bristles that are submerged in water and rotate when turned on. The bristles ensure that even the toughest stains on the glasses would be removed and reach the bottom of the glass.
Ice maker - Drinks are so much better when they’re cold and one way to make this happen fast is by mixing them with ice. An ice maker is a reliable machine that produces ice in no time so you’ll have an endless supply and so your operation won’t be interrupted because you ran out of ice. It is one of the larger investments but it is definitely worth it and necessary.
Juicer - We’ve already established the citrus squeezers but there are other fruits that are not compatible with them such as mango or pineapple. Some customers prefer to have fresh fruit juice in their drinks and to save time and effort, a juicer helps in extracting fresh juice from a bigger fruit, especially when you need a large amount of juice.
Blender - Some of the more girly drinks require to be blended. The blender incorporates better all the ingredients into one drink compared to just mixing them with a shaker. If you want to save some money, a blender can also double as a juicer but the juice will be chunkier though so you need to strain it first.
Soda Gun - One of the cooler devices in a bar, this “gun” can dispense carbonated and non-carbonated drinks that usually have a combination of water, carbon dioxide and syrup directly into the glass with a push of a button. It is best for drinks that require to be topped with another beverage such as juices, soda and water. It is one of the most helpful equipment in the bar because it saves time and organizes your drinks well without compromising their quality. Soda guns can vary on the number of buttons they have, more buttons mean more beverages available.
Liquor shelves - If you have frequented a bar, you may notice that the liquors, spirits and mixers are displayed at the wall or the back and they are neatly stacked in shelves. This is another bar furniture that helps in organizing your drinks and for easy access and keeping the area clean at all times. Sometimes, shelves are adorned with LED lights to accentuate the precious alcohols.
Ice molds - These are containers made of silicone that are used to make ice that has unique shapes like the spherical ice for whisky.
Napkin and Straw Caddy - When a drink is ready to be served, it usually comes with a napkin and sometimes a straw or a stirrer. Having a caddy keeps these items organized and gives you easy access.
Clothespins - One of the trends in the cocktail world now is having clothespins clip garnishes like mint leaves, blossoms or lemon peels in the rim of the glass. It doesn’t really add any flavor to the drink because the garnishes are more likely hung out but it’s undeniable that they make the drink look adorable and pleasing, so points for the visual effect.
Fruit Tray - Don’t leave your fruits hanging around anywhere, after all, they’re one of the crucial ingredients in drinks so keep them in a nice fruit tray to secure and keep them in place.
Glass Rimmer - Ideas for glass rims are sprouting and you’ll need to keep up with them and to help you execute it quickly, you can use a glass rimmer. They are basically multiple shallow plates that have the ideal glass size and allows you to have your rimming ingredients ready beforehand. Common rims include salt and sugar and with the rimmer, it saves time to get a plate out and lay out sugar or salt every time someone orders a margarita.
Cap Catcher - To keep your bottle caps in place, a trusty cap catcher can save the day which are accessible and affordable.
How Do You Use Bar Accessories?
All the bar accessories listed above are really a no brainer since they don’t require you to have some special skill to do something with it because they are mostly for storing and garnishing. On the other hand, getting to know how the bar equipment needs some work because there is some technicality involved.
If you aspire to be a bartender, one of your responsibilities is to understand how your equipment works and how to maintain them. But, the most important skill a bartender must learn is how to use the bar tools since they are what’s mostly used.
Some bartenders have already mastered their craft and just tend to have fun with what they’re doing and at the same time impress some people. Some tools are understandable whereas others need some background to it. Bartenders undergo training so they can do their work efficiently and properly and one technique is to just know the purpose of the device first to fully understand it and apply the method easier.
What is Needed Behind a Bar?
When you go to a bar, you probably wonder what goes behind the bar. You can see the liquors, mixers and spirits displayed but some things are not visible from behind. For instance, there is actually a bar sink that’s usually situated under the counter where the bartender washes his hands and others that need washing. Along with this, there must be cleaning supplies stored to keep the area always clean. As always, sanitation is important in every eating or drinking establishment.
Another thing that helps maintain safety is rubber floor mats. Bartenders tend to move around a lot especially when grabbing liquors or getting tools to prevent them from slipping, they lay out rubber mats. Furthermore, you must have bins in place where you throw unwanted things like peelings, which should be placed in a discrete area to prevent contamination. And of course, most of your equipment will be located behind the bar especially the ice maker and the soda gun.
Lastly, the most important thing needed behind the bar is the bartender him/herself, because he/she basically executes everything to provide the best service to the customer.
Setting up a Home Bar
To get a bar fully equipped and functioning, a lot of tools and equipment are needed. Setting up a home bar can be easier but daunting at the same time if you don’t know how to pick the right tools and equipment. One equipment that every home bar owner will surely love is the Drinkworks Home Bar. This one equipment will make cocktails in a breeze, literally without breaking a sweat. Just plug it in and drop in the drink pod and you’re good to go.
However, if you want to mix your own cocktails, you need at least the basic tools. To serve amazing cocktails, you should know the right kind of glass. Try also these cocktail recipes to make a good start with your home bar.
Mixology is not just about creating drinks, but also providing a show to customers. Bartending requires skills and knowledge about how to handle the right tools and equipment. With practice and dedication, bartending will come easy and turn out to be a cool profession.