You’re going to need the correct bar tools, whether you’re going behind the bar or wanting to make a drink at home. Here’s our suggestion for what tools you need to get your bar kit started!
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If you’ve ever applied to work behind the bar as a bartender at a restaurant, dive bar, or lounge, most workplaces provide all the key tools for you to keep at the workspace. This is to ensure that everything looks on-brand or uninformed at the workplace. Also, because most places don’t want bartenders to not come prepared to complete an order. So it’s just better for owners to cover the costs of tools. So that everyone will have the tools when needed.
Although, there are a few bars that may want you to invest in your own tools. There could be many reasons. Perhaps an individual bartender prefers a more weighted tin. Maybe, someone has a color preference to easily identify which tools belong to him/her. Or sometimes, it’s the choice of bar management that you’d have your own. Either way, it’s always important to be prepared for anything or any drink ticket that comes your way!
Let’s say you’re just building your at-home bar to impress company when you throw your monthly dinner party. It’s always fun to have things ready!
So take a look at the list below for what we believe is necessary for your bar tool kit.
First things first: Tool Placement
Let’s talk about placement. It’s important to make sure your tools are easily accessible and within arms reach.
Some bartenders like to have their tools in a particular order. This could be because one hand is more dominant than the other but as long as most tools are in the same placement, this will help to keep movement swift and effortless. You’ll also want to make sure that if another bartender or manager needs to step in while you take a bathroom or smoke break, that everything is easy for them to find as well.
Importantly, it’s key that you can see everything so you aren’t making any unnecessary movements or digging around. The goal is to look like a damn-near professional, even if you aren’t! Another reason why this is important is that your guest/customer may start engaging in conversation with the bartender, which is another important skill in itself to keep the party engaged and going strong. A well-skilled bartender should be able to whip up a balanced cocktail while keeping the energy to ensure the tips keeps comin’!
There are many types of shakers nowadays, and which one you choose can come down to two things, where you are located or personal preference. Depending on the complexity of the drinks you’ll be preparing, you’ll want to have at least two shakers at hand.
Most American joints would prefer a Boston shaker which is a two-part shaker. Usually a metal 28 ounce tin with a 16-pint glass or a smaller tin about 18 ounces.
Tip: To crack it open, just do a hard tap on the side where the two pieces combine and you’ll be able to wiggle the top off. Also, very careful doing this with a pint glass top.
The other advantage of the Boston shaker is its size. Since it’s larger than the other, you’ll be able to shake the contents inside better to ensure everything is mixed versus the shorter Cobbler shaker.
Another advantage is that the Boston Shaker can be used with one hand, unlike the other two shakers. This means, if needed, you could prepare two separate drinks if you have a busier crowd or more than one guest to get drinks out quicker. Multitasking is another important element of being a bartender but we’ll get to skills another post!
Cobbler Shaker (three-piece shaker)
There’s a reason why this shaker is a popular choice, it’s 3 part system. The 3 parts consist of: a metal tin, cap, and built-in strainer. Also, the build-in cap is 1 oz so a jigger isn’t necessary. This is great for bartending novice or at home bartenders that just want to get the job done so they can go straight into drinking cocktails right away!
Although, there are some cons to this shaker. First off, it’s hard to clean and hard to crack open as ingredients and ice can freeze up quickly. Secondly, it’s smaller so it’s going to take a lot of shaking to get the ingredients mixed up properly. Lastly, the straining holes are larger so some contents like fruit bits or ice chips can fall into the drink. Not the biggest challenge, but definitely good to keep in mind!
A combination of the two, the Parisian shaker has the beautiful elegant shape of the Cobbler shaker without the extra pieces making it a bit easier to crack it open. And like the Boston Shaker, there isn’t a strainer or cap. While the Parisian has been around for centuries, it is a bit more expensive and not as easy to find in most American Spirit or Home Decor stores.
As you may or may not know, but the strainers is a key tool in crafting drinks. If needed, you can gently separate a Boston strainer over the serving glass but this will take some practice in case any unnecessary ice or particles gets into the cocktail being served or the worst case scenario, the whole tin just busting open and getting everyone around wet and upset. Yikes!
There are a few types of strainers to choose from to get the best control. Some can be used alone and some can be used together.
This wired-rimmed strainer can come with or without a handle and is the most popular choice to get a drink from tin to serving glass. Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure whichever Hawthorne strainer you use, that it fits well into the tin. nothing worst than a strainer popping off from the tin!
A Julep Strainer looks like a colander if it was a large spoon. Simply, the Julep Strainer fits the mixing glass better than a Hawthorne Strainer. As the Hawthorne Strainer fits the mixing tin better than the Julep Strainer.
Fine Mesh Strainer
If the clarity of the drink is important, you’ll want to use a fine mesh strainer paired with the hawthorne strainer for a double strain.
There are many arguements whether the jigger is classified as professional or not (let me tell you, it is!) The reason being is that most nightclubs and bars use speed pourers. A speed pourer is a spout that goes on top of the bottles and gives the liquid aka the alcohol a slow and steady stream from the top so that the bartender can count out the measurements.
While this is useful in a busy setting, when creating cocktails that need perfect balance, a jigger will deliver the consistency every time unless the counting which can be messed up with human error. But for the most part, we’ll say it’s an important element to have with you behind the bar to keep liquor costs on point and your customer from gagging on an unbalanced drink or worse yet, complaining that there isn’t enough alcohol. A jigger will win just about every time.
Like the strainers, shakers, and mixing glasses, there are many styles and measurements. We prefer a dual-sided jigger with a fill to 2oz with a 1 oz side. Some jiggers come with lines inside that will measure out a .75 oz and a .5oz line. If anything, you’ll want to keep 1 or two maybe even four jiggers at hand to keep things as precise as possible!
Whichever recipes you do commonly, the jigger you choose should help you so you’re doing less eyeballing!
Mixing glasses are an elegant yet functional piece that’s necessary for stirred drinks like an old fashioned, Martinis, Manhattans, basically any drink that’s booze-forward so that you don’t over dilute shaking with ice. It’s also a beautiful piece to have on the bar/table top although if it’s not a necessity must have right away. If anything, some bartenders will you use a 16 ounce pint glass instead if a customer prefers a stirred drink.
There are a variety of bar stools to choose from. While we prefer the simple style with the bean at the end, some bar spoons come with forks at the end. There are also different lengths but we think to start with, just get one that’s sits the most comfortable in your hand.
A beer opener can be simple as a keychain opener or a bar key. You’ll want to have this at hand in case someone just wants a nice brew over a mixed drink. Trust us, it happens lol!
This is similar to having a beer opener. Even if you aren’t a huge wine drinker, someone will request wine at your bar. Or perhaps bring a bottle over to the house party. The wine key doesn’t have to be fancy but you’ll want to keep one around.
Muddlers are great for smash and mixing herbs and fruit to bring out the oils and aromatics into a drink. These herbs can be something like for a Strawberry Basil Margarita or mint for a Mojito, or Caipirinhas. The muddler will bring out the oils to get a light essence from these plants without bruising. Although, too much crushing can bring out the bitterness or turn the ingredient into a messy pulp. A mistake most new bartenders make. Also another key tip. to muddle before adding ice. Since crushing and muddling with ice can over dilute a cocktail.
Muddlers can come in different sizes, most will be made to fit inside a shaker or glass. You’ll also find muddlers in three different materials: wood, plastic, or stainless steel. If you’re muddling into a glass mixer or pint, you’ll want to use wood or plastic over stainless steel so you don’t cause any accidents.
Another thing to look out for is the bottom of your muddler. If it’s sharp and will tear into the fruits or if it’s flat which is great to bring sugars down, if you’re using real sugar.
Will you need a citrus juicer in your bar tool kit while you’re working on the job? Probably not. But a citrus juicer will save you so much time and frustration. Especially when you start preparing your own fresh juices and syrups at home.
CITRUS PEELER OR PARING KNIFE
Since some citrus peels are smaller or larger. But having the visuals of a fresh element in a cocktail brings harmony to the final look. Some of these citrus peelers and knives will require some practice and safety precautions. But once mastered, they’ll only elevate your cocktail presentation!
Ice Trays and Ice Bucket
There will be times where having an ice bucket is going to save the party. Its because ice is a crucial part of any drink. So having ice that is accessible is key! The ice bucket can range from any size to even ice bucket tubs, which we have! More than likely there will be a stationary ice tub at your workplace. the place where having an ice bucket is the most useful, remote bartending. if you’re doing any remote bartending for a private party. you’ll want an ice bucket in your bar tool kit!
Also, the kind of ice can be something to consider. Most of the time, the ice chips you’ll find at a standard restaurant will do better than the strange large crescent-shaped ice you’ll find in a standard ice dispenser from the freezer in an average American home. Nowadays, there are plenty of ice molds from crushed ice to the ice sphere to create whichever shape that works the best for the cocktails you’ll be preparing.
Cocktail picks are mainly for holding garnishes together. We use them often in our drink presentation. There’s are a few varieties of styles. So go with whichever you think fits your vibe. Or opt for plain black ones for simplicity.
This is specific for home bartenders. There’s a nostalgic feeling that comes out of sipping from a straw. So have some in your kit! Even if it’s a reusable metal straw.
When it comes to the art of a great cocktail, you want great taste along with visuals. If you’re drinking is pretty and visually appealing, then you’re doing your job correctly! Yes, an umbrella in a drink may be tacky to some. But great tiki drinks deserve some pizazz. So having some drink umbrellas at hand if your garnishes aren’t delivering!
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