Essential Bar Tools

Don't be a fool, use the right tool!

“A well-stocked bar is like honey in the jar.”

- I think Winnie the Pooh said that.

Bar Tools and Accessories...

To make your life easier!

essential bar tools, boston shaker, julep strainer, jigger, hawthorne strainer
essential bar tools, boston shaker, julep strainer, jigger, hawthorne strainer

Use a quality jigger… Being in America, I like to have one with 1/2, 3/4, 1, 1-1/2, and 2-ounce designations for easy measuring. Having more than one also comes in handy. Many recipes from other countries are measured in milliliters (30 ml = 1 oz), so if you are not good at converting the measurements, then you may want to get a jigger with milliliter designations.

Strainers… A quality Hawthorne strainer and a fine strainer are both required tools. The Hawthorne strainer, in case you don’t know, is that round metal thing with the curved spring that you place on your shaker to strain your drink into the glass. The fine mesh strainer is used to prevent small ice chunks and/or fruit, seeds, and other non-liquids from getting into your finished cocktail.

Did You Know… When you strain a cocktail from the Hawthorne strainer through a second fine strainer, that is referred to as either “Double-Straining” or “Fine-Straining.”

Mixing glass and barspoon… Many drinks are stirred, not shaken, so get yourself a quality Mixing glass and barspoon. The barspoon is long and tends to have a fork on the opposite end. Besides stirring or stabbing a piece of fruit, it can be used to crack large ice cubes into smaller cubes. By the way, there is an art to stirring your cocktail with a barspoon. It's harder than it looks because you want to keep the front or top of the spoon pointed towards the center of the glass as you stir it around the glass. You will see what I mean when you try it the first time. It is like learning how to hula hoop, except with your fingers!

Pro Tip… Get yourself a Julep Strainer, which is a large, slotted spoon, sized to fit into your mixing glass to keep the ice out of your cocktail when pouring.

Did You Know… The Julep strainer got its name because it was originally used for Mint Juleps, so I am told. Before the straw was invented, to avoid getting a mouthful of crushed ice and mint, you would hold this strainer in the glass, blocking the ice and mint.

Shakers… Get a couple of quality Cobbler-style cocktail shakers and/or Boston shaker tins. The Cobbler Cocktail Shaker is the familiar three-piece shaker consisting of the main container, a lid with a built-in strainer, and a cap to cover the strainer holes while shaking. Cobbler shakers are the easiest to use and tend to be a little smaller, so they are best for beginners and making one drink at a time. Boston shaker tins come as two separate weighted, steel cups, one larger than the other. They form a tight seal when pressed together and chilled, but they can be tricky to separate after shaking. You must tap it in just the right spot, and it sometimes takes two or three few taps! Boston shakers are usually preferred by professionals because they are larger, more versatile, and easier to clean and stack.

Pro Tip… Do not settle for the cheapest shakers, the finish will flake off almost immediately and they will rust on you quickly. Also keep in mind that some Boston shaker sets include one metal container and one heavy glass container, which is nice, so that you can see what is going on in there. And you can make sure all your little liquid buddies are getting along in there, you don’t want to see any shenanigans! If so, break it up with a strong shake!

A set of bar tools, a bar mat, and bar accessories
A set of bar tools, a bar mat, and bar accessories

Behind The Bar...

Black spider and Ken Head not needed!

Get yourself a bar mat… They are very inexpensive, come in all sizes, you can even customize them with logos or wording. But they are great, not just because they look cool, but because they keep your items from sliding or slipping while you are pouring or cutting fruit. And if you spill anything they can absorb an entire glass of liquid. Also make sure you have a good clean cutting board - you will be cutting a lot of fruit!

Pro Tip… Make sure your cutting board doesn't slip, you could cut a finger off! Test it out, if it easily slides when you push it, try placing a damp paper towel underneath it. That should keep it in place!

Speaking of fruit… You will of course need a juicer, and again, do not skimp - you will be using this all the time! You should get a fruit peeler for your garnishes, but I usually end up just using a paring knife. Speaking of which, you should also have a couple of sharp paring knives for cutting your fruit. You will also want to get a zester and a channel knife (sometimes combined as one tool), used to scrape the zest or cut a twist from the citrus fruit.

Let’s Get Ready to Muddle… (Soon to be trademarked and quite possibly the name of my next book.) You will need a muddler, which is used for gently mashing fruits and herbs. Think Mojitos and all the little pieces of lime and mint at the bottom of the glass! Muddling helps release the juices and aromatic oils to bind with the alcohol, adding more flavor. The best muddlers have a comfortable handle and are long enough to reach the bottom of a tall glass or cocktail shaker.

Accessorize… You also need something to spear fruits for your garnishes, which unless of course you just want to randomly throw them willy-nilly, into your drink. Can you imagine how uncivilized that would be? My God man, have you no shame? Have you no decency? I say, get yourself a set of metal and wooden cocktail spears. I like to have a few sets in varied sizes and styles. A shorter fancy metal spear for a cherry in a Manhattan, let’s say. And a longer, tropical style wooden spear for attaching multiple pieces of fruit in a Tiki drink. You get the idea! You can even go crazy and get themed accessories for holidays and parties.

Odds & Ends… An ice bucket, a metal scoop, tongs, and an ice pick also come in handy - but not required. When purchasing an ice bucket, look for an insulated model so the ice lasts longer. Obviously, you will need a bottle opener, corkscrew, and a blender. I also keep a book of matches, a butane torch, and assorted reusable, metal straws handy.

Speaking of straws... Oh no, I feel a public service announcement coming on, yep, here it is... Please don't buy plastic straws, they just suck, pun intended! If you don't know why they are so bad just google it. You will be shocked by the damage they cause. And most reusable straws come with their own cleaning brush to keep the insides from getting yucky!

Speaking of yucky... Meet Butters, my stinky, old cat. This photo of us was taken some time around 2021. I'm the one getting what little hair I have left licked. He likes to do this at 3:00 am and then again at 4:00 am just for fun. He's funny that way.

Butters the cat licking ScottyG
Butters the cat licking ScottyG

And his favorite cocktail, in case you were wondering? A Moscow Mew, of course!