Essential Bar Tools for Better Bartending
Being a successful bartender requires both skill and showmanship — both of which improve greatly by having the necessary bar tools to get the job done.
From jiggers and shakers to spouts, spoons and bottle openers, getting the restaurant bar tools and supplies best designed for your bar, and your staff, will increase efficiency, quality and customer happiness — all adds to your bottom line!
Here’s a primer for what bartending tools you should have stocked for your bar:
For mixing drinks
Jiggers: Simply using a shot glass as a measuring tool is slow and inefficient. Using a jigger, which provides half-ounce measurements up to 2.5 oz, allows for significantly more precision, especially for cocktail recipes with differing amounts of spirits.
One-sided jiggers are available, but double-sided jiggers add a little bit more speed (and look cooler pouring in front of guests). Choosing a Japanese, classic, or rim bell style is personal preference, as is going with finishes such as stainless steel, gun-metal black, copper or gold plating.
Muddlers: Muddlers allow you to mash fruit, vegetables or herbs to enhance the flavour of whatever drink you’re making. Choose from a classic wooden muddler with a flat head, a stainless steel or plastic muddler with a meat-tenderizer style head or a metal shaft with a nylon tenderizer head.
Just remember: it needs to have a little weight so you don’t have to work too hard to muddle your ingredients!
Shakers: The key vessel for mixing cocktails, a 3-piece cobbler shaker (which has a built in strainer and small shaker) is popular for making cocktails at home, while a 2-piece Boston shaker tin (simply a big tin and smaller tin) is preferred by professionals as it is quicker for drink making, but requires more skill to use and a separate strainer.
While measured glass shakers exist, for durability purposes, stainless steel or copper plated shakers are best.
Mixing glasses: For booze-only cocktails, you don’t want to shake them as that breaks down the ice too much and over dilutes the drink, so you’ll want to stir it.
You can stir in a shaker tin, but a mixing glass or pitcher adds a touch of class. Ranging in sizes up to a 700 mL capacity, there are a number of different etched finishes to choose from, with some pitchers even coming in glass, stainless steel or copper finish.
Strainers: A cocktail strainer is a must to keep unwanted chunks of ice, muddled items and seeds out of your finished product.
A Hawthorne strainer is most popular, with coil springs at the top that allows for flexibility in the speed you pour out of the shaker, while also being fine enough to preserve foams (compared to a mesh strainer).
Julep strainers keep ice in the shaker while pouring but aren’t as fine as a Hawthorne, while Kilpatrick strainers actually combine all three styles in one.
Spoons: Required for stirring cocktails and adding small measurements of items (such as sugar), bar spoons range from 25-40 cm long.
Spoons can have a knob or a small ice hammer at the end, while the tip can either be smooth or fork-like. For drinks that need churning — swizzle cocktails — you can also use the aptly-named Swizzle Stick, which has propellor-like blades instead of a spoon at the end.
For prep and garnish
Knives: For cutting garnishes, not only before service but on-the-fly as well. Massive chef’s knives aren’t necessary — compact paring knives (which take up minimal space) are preferred to cut wherever space is available.
It’s good to have a mix of straight-edge and serrated blades, for cutting through different textured items (depending on your stock).
Peelers: Garnishes put the finishing touch on a drink. While a regular vegetable peeler can suffice, for added precision (especially for something like a lemon twist in a martini), you should have at least one citrus zester on hand as well.
Cutting boards: Keep it light, simple and durable. You don’t need anything with grooves, rather something that you can easily bring out when needed and is dishwasher safe.
Garnish trays: A simple plastic condiment bar (also called bar caddy, condiment caddy) keeps pre-made garnishes and pre-cut cocktail ingredients in one tidy place with a range of three to eight separate sections.. These are generally kept out of immediate view of guests, so functionality is more important than the look.
Rimmers: Having at least one rimming tray is also a must, to quickly and easily rim glasses with salt, sugar or whatever spice mix your cocktail requires! A rimming tree has two to four sections that swing out for your customized combo of rimming ingredients..
Juicers: Nothing beats the flavour of fresh citrus juice in a cocktail, so having a hand juicer allows you to quickly get the juice out of a lemon or lime — and get more juice than simply squeezing with your hand.
If your venue pushes out a lot of fresh juice, there are higher-grade hand juicers (or electric) that can become an option as well to tackle your needs pre-service.
Bar mats: Made from thick and heavy rubber, bar mats can be thin and narrow to go in your drink making area, protecting your glass and shakers from slipping while usually sitting a half-inch deep to catch any spillage.
You can also find larger, square mats, which are ideal for stacking currently reserve glasses and is the optimal spot for drying just came out of the dishwasher.
Rubber mats are also easy to pick up and clean, as they are generally dishwasher safe.
Pour spouts: Using pour spouts, also called pourers, adds precision (and reduces spillage) by regulating the speed and volume in which spirits come out of a bottle. There are full plastic spouts available but metal spouts, with a rubber base that snugly fits into the neck of a bottle, are the most durable and reliable spouts.
There are also spouts available that regulate volume, which will stop pouring once a desired amount (0.75 oz, 0.5 oz. 1 oz.) has passed through the spout in one turn, and resets when the bottle is tipped back up.
Scoops: Used for scooping your ice from the well into a glass or shaker, stick to something small (5 - 12 oz.) and light for best efficiency.
Metal or plastic scoops are available; if you’re going to leave the scoop in the well, opt for plastic (but don’t lose it!), or go with metal if you have a holder to store it.
Openers: A wine opener is a must for, well, basically everyone. You can use a classic waiter’s corkscrew, a winged corkscrew or even a T-style corkscrew but the fastest and most efficient option is a double-hinged corkscrew — with provides two points of leverage for removing stubborn corks.
For opening non twist-off bottles there a few options. A simple bottle opener like a flat opener (also known as a bar blade) is typically the most economical and is easy for bartenders and waitstaff to carry in their aprons. Because it is flat, it can also go in a back or side pocket without snagging on the material.. However, a more elaborate style which has a wide, easy grip at one end and a bottle opener at the other, is the quickest and most efficient tool for bartenders — and allows them to show off some flair, too!
Whether you’re working at a quiet pub, serving house wine and bottled beer at a family restaurant or pumping out high-end drinks at a volume cocktail bar, it’s imperative you have the right bartending tools.
Written by Jared Hochman