A mixologist’s tools of the trade, bar tools are the essential pieces of equipment used to craft cocktails. Almost every cocktail must be shaken, many need to be strained and all must have their ingredients measured for proper proportions. Many classic cocktails need to be stirred and others may require muddled ingredients. This is where bar tools come into play. At the least, you will need basic bar tools in order to properly make a majority of all the cocktails out there. The following is a list of basic bar tools with pictures and descriptions:
A cocktail shaker is the most important bar tool in any mixologist’s arsenal. Primarily used to build and mix cocktails, a typical shaker consists of two or three separate pieces. A two-piece shaker consists of a small top that fits into a larger bottom and requires a separate strainer. Otherwise known as a Boston Shaker, this type of shaker is most commonly used by bars and professional bartenders due to its practicality and easiness to clean. A Parisian Shaker (picture above) is another type of two-piece shaker which also consists of a small top that fits into a larger bottom. However, the top of a Parisian Shaker is smaller than that of a Boston Shaker and is typically designed with aesthetic appeal in mind. A three-piece shaker consists of a small top with a strainer built in, a larger bottom and a cap for the strainer top. An all-in-one solution, this type of shaker is known as a Cobbler Shaker.
Shakers can come in all different shapes and sizes. A standard shaker can hold approximately 12 - 20 fluid ounces of liquid. To shake your cocktail properly, first make sure the top is on and secured. Then hold it with two hands, give it a few short shakes and count to five. You don’t need to do anything crazy. Use your finger or hand while shaking to keep the top secure. The last thing you want is the embarrassment of spraying a cocktail all over yourself, your kitchen and your guests. Trust us, we’ve done it before.
A cocktail strainer is just as important as a shaker, unless you’re using a Cobbler Shaker with a strainer built in. The primary use of a strainer is to keep the ice in the shaker or mixing glass while pouring a cocktail into its glass. There are three different types of cocktail strainers: hawthorne strainer (pictured above), julep strainer, and fine strainer. A hawthorne strainer has a coil that clicks into place and is primarily used with a Boston Shaker. A julep strainer has no coil, is convexly shaped and is usually used with a mixing glass. A fine strainer is used in addition to a hawthorne or julep strainer with the purpose of filtering out unwanted sediments or ice crystals that the other two strainers can’t. A fine strainer consists of metal mesh net at the end of a handle.
While the julep strainer was once the most common strainer used by bartenders, the hawthorne strainer has since taken over the top spot because of how well it fits into a Boston Shaker bottom. To strain your cocktail properly, secure the strainer in your shaker or mixing glass. Then, use your finger to hold it in place while you pour your cocktail into a glass. When using a fine strainer in conjunction with another strainer, hold the fine strainer above the glass you’d like to pour your cocktail into. Then, using the hawthorne or julep strainer, pour your cocktail through the fine strainer into the glass. This is also referred to as double straining.
A vital tool for crafting cocktails, a cocktail jigger is a small utensil used to measure proper amounts of cocktail ingredients. When crafting a cocktail, using incorrect proportions can quite literally change the taste, aesthetic look and overall profile of the cocktail. With that being said, the need for a jigger can’t be overstated. Jiggers are typically double sided and provide measurement markings for 2 ounces, 1 ½ oz, 1 oz and ½ oz. Not much need for directions on this one. Just measure however much is required for your recipe by using the jigger’s markings and pour it on into your shaker or mixing glass.
While it’s not exactly sacrilegious to shake all of your cocktails, many classic cocktails are specifically meant to be stirred. Actually, James Bond’s preference for his Martini “shaken not stirred” goes against traditional convention. This is because shaking a cocktail will make that cocktail appear cloudy (and sometimes even foamy) when you pour it into a glass. Stirring, on the other hand, preserves the cocktail’s transparency and consistency. A bar spoon, or stirrer, is typically anywhere from 10 to 13 inches long. It has a spoon on the end of a long thin shaft that can also be used to remove unwanted sediments, add a garnish or add a small amount of an ingredient to a cocktail. A bar spoon can be used with either a mixing glass or shaker bottom. To stir your cocktail properly, fill up your shaker or mixing glass half-way with ice and use the bar spoon to gently stir the contents 20 times before straining. Add a little flair to your bartending by spinning the bar spoon around in your fingers – a crowd pleaser when done smoothly.
Mainly a secondary bar tool, a muddler is used to crush fruit, herbs or other ingredients in order to infuse their flavors and aromas into the cocktail. A muddler can be wooden, plastic or metal. The tool typically consists of a shaft with a jagged or flat end. Having a muddler in your arsenal is necessary if you plan on making Old Fashioneds, Mojitos, or similar cocktails. However, you can muddle any fruit or ingredient you’d like to add some extra flavor to whatever you’re drinking. For example: Tequila with a muddled lime, or Vodka with a muddled orange. To muddle properly, place the ingredient you want to muddle in the bottom of your shaker or mixing glass along with the other ingredients in the cocktail. Then, gently but firmly (you don’t need to slam it) push and twist the jagged or flat end into the ingredient repeatedly until it is crushed up and mixed in with the other contents. Finally, shake/stir and strain. Here is where you may want to use a fine strainer.