Part Two: Tools
A bartenders tools are as essential as the techniques they utilizes to create the perfect cocktail for their guest. The following is a list of equipment even the home bartender can acquire to complete their bar set up. These are the essential items, and all of them are easy to find online or at local restaurant supply stores.
Jiggers - Measuring your ingredients is one of the most important parts of craft cocktailing. I prefer a 1 to 2 ounce jigger, but always have a backup of 1 to 1.5 ounce, and .75 to .5 ounce jiggers on hand. Some bartenders prefer the small plastic measuring cups for their measuring, and that's fine too. At least they're measuring. There are all kinds of jiggers you can purchase either online or in a local restaurant supply store. I've never had an issue with the squat hourglass shaped jiggers you find behind every bar, and I'll continue to use those as long as they maintain their reliability. My preference, however, is for the Japanese-style Jigger, which is taller, more slender, and gives me better control of my measure and pour. They take some getting used to initially, and are more likely to get knocked over as their center of gravity is much higher than a traditional jigger, but once you’ve mastered the Japanese jigger it’s hard to return to using the traditional styles. The Japanese style typically come in a 2:1 ounce measurements with ½, ¾ and 1½ ounce measurements etched into the inside of the cup.
|jiggers and Koriko tins|
Shakers - Bartenders all have preferences for Shakers as well. My own preference is for Boston shakers, a large metal shaker with a smaller "cheater tin" shaker. If making more than two cocktails at once, I will skip the "cheater tin" and use a pint glass to shake my cocktail. Cocktails are built in the smaller tin, then capped with the larger tin and shaken vigorously. The other shaker many bartenders use is the three-piece cocktail shaker. It has a large tin just like the Boston Shaker, a cap with a strainer built in and another cap on top of that, which can double as a measuring jigger, to seal the entire unit. If you'd prefer not to deal with jiggers, strainers and shakers all separately, this is the shaker for you. I prefer a little of the showmanship that accompanies the strainer and jigger measuring, and therefore, once again, recommend the two-tin Boston shaker. From a bar perspective, it's also a lot easier to replace the Boston tins, whereas if you lose a top cap on a cocktail shaker you have to buy a whole new unit. Then there's the issue with getting the cap off when it's frozen (read: glued) onto the cap. Do yourself a favor and spend the extra money on a Koriko Shaker from Japan. It will, honestly make all the difference in your mastery of “the shake”.
Mixing Glass – Where ‘shakers’ are most obviously for shaking, not all of your cocktails will require a shake to mix them. That’s where the mixing glass comes in. A mixing glass is designed for any stirred drinks. A mixing glass can be anything from a beautiful blown glass work of art to a pint glass to a professional mixing glass such as offered by Japanese producer Yarai or Tony Abou-Ganim’s ‘Modern Mixologist’ line. The pint glasses are convenient because they can double as the second piece to your Boston Shaker and some bartenders prefer using the pint glass to the smaller ‘cheater’ tin as it allows the guest an unobstructed view of their cocktail mixing in the shakers. When it comes to straight stirring, most bartenders will agree that a professional mixing glass, which was designed specifically for the sole purpose of stirring cocktails, is the preferred instrument. The professional glasses allow for plenty of room for ice, an even full circle stir of the drink, and even room to build two cocktails at once in one pitcher. Not to mention they just plain look cooler, more professional and sleek.
Strainers - There are three kinds of strainers that are indispensable to the craft; Hawthorne strainer, Julep strainer, and the fine mesh tea strainers. The Hawthorne is the most popular and best known, found behind even the most derelict abandoned bar across the U.S. While it's primary, most obvious purpose is to strain cocktails from the mixing tin to the serving glass, it can also double as an absinthe spoon, and the spring is often removed and used to emulsify eggs in any cocktail calling for such. Julep strainers are used for cocktails stirred with large cubes and mixing spirits only. A julep strainer could be used to prepare cocktails such as Bittered Sling, Sazerac, Martini, and, of course, a Julep. It basically has the same shape as a Hawthorne strainer but is missing the spring, has smaller holes for liquid to pour through giving it more surface area to retain ice and detritus like mint leaves. The third strainer mentioned is the Fine Mesh Tea Strainer, which is used for double straining a cocktail. We'll talk about double straining later in "Techniques". Tea Strainers, which are used for hard shaken cocktails, come in many different sizes. You want to make sure you don't get one that is too small or it will fill too quickly with ice shavings and citrus pieces overflowing into your cocktail. Too big and it will be unwieldy. You want something roughly the same size in diameter as your Hawthorne and Julep Strainers.
Bar Spoon - A bar spoon is a long, thin handled spoon that is used for stirring cocktails. Most are twisted along the handle to give the bar spoons bartender greater control as he stirs the drink. Some well-made bar spoons have come on the e-market recently that have thin, smooth handles, and I must admit that I prefer these newer style bar spoons to the more classic traditional twisted handled variety. Though both work very well, the smooth handled bar spoon is just a little sleeker. Don't be dismayed, however, if all you can find are the twisted handles. As I said, they work great, do their job admirably, and what I use 90% of the time.
|muddlers, mixing glasses, julep strainers and bar spoons|
Muddler - I recommend a wooden muddler for all muddling. Barb ended muddlers tend to do too much damage to the product being muddled. A muddlers purpose is not to break up the ingredients, but to extract the flavor from oils and juice of the ingredients. A barbed muddler has it's use, such as in the Faust Pact by Fred Sarkis, where you want to get all the spicy jalapeno flavor out of the pepper, and also use the muddler to keep the pulped pepper from going into the glass. I highly recommend a Pug! Muddler, which you can buy online at wnjones.com. These muddlers are a little expensive, but are handcrafted by woodworker Chris Gallagher and designed with the craft bartender in mind.
Hand Held Juicers - There are basically three types of handheld juicers one each for lemon, lime and orange. The lime is the smallest and should be colored green. Next size is the lemon, which will be colored yellow. And the largest sized handheld juicer is the orange juicer. If you can only get one juicer to start out with, get the lemon yellow juicer. It's easy enough to juice limes in a lemon juice. Harder is fitting an orange into the lemon juicer, but it can be done if you quarter the oranges and squeeze the individual cuts into the juicer. Besides, all of your oranges and lemons should be pre-juiced before the shift? I highly recommend draping a cloth over the juicer while squeezing. They do tend to spray a little juice out the corners as you press the handles together. There is nothing more embarrassing than squirting a customer in the eye with a stream of lime juice while you’re making their cocktails for them. Recently Tony Abou-Ganim has released a juicer to the market under his label "Modern Mixologist". If I had only one juicer to buy for the rest of my life, this would be it. A little more expensive again, but it's durable, the paint won't peel and chip into your cocktails (which is a peril often found in the color coded juicers), and it's all around the best hand-held juicer I've ever used.
Electric or Manual Juicer and Extractor – First off; know the difference between a juicer and an extractor. A juicer can be electric or manual and is designed to squeeze only the juices out of fruit… like citruses or pomegranate. An extractor is used to centrifugally reduce your fruits or vegetables into whatever juice is available in the fibers. An extractor is always electrically operated and would be used for produce such as bananas, pineapple, carrots, spinach or ginger. Part of the bartender’s daily duties is pre-juicing. As mentioned above, I recommend juicing lemons daily with the juicer. If I have leftover lemon juice at the end of my shift, I will use it to make sours mix by adding an equal amount of sugar to my volume of lemon juice. I juice oranges and grapefruits 2-3 times a week, which will really depend on how many of your menu cocktails have both juices in them. With any citrus juice, they will last longer if you can keep them refrigerated or on ice during your shift. A manual juicer is also a great way to juice pomegranate or kiwi or anything with an inedible skin but a juicy core. With other fruit and vegetables the electric extractor comes into play. I use an electric extractor always for ginger to make my ginger syrup, but it is also useful for such items as peaches, grapes, leafy greens or vegetables. Some items, such as ginger, are better when peeled before being used. Pits and seeds should, obviously, always be discarded before adding items to an extractor.
Shaving Tools - I've included a number of tools into the "Shaving Tools" category. They all perform the same basic task at varying ratios. Some are even interchangeable. These tools all started out as kitchen utensils that have been put to good use behind the bar. Peeler, Zester, Microplane, and Nutmeg Grater are all tools used to shave small useful pieces off fruit, nuts, spices or just about anything. I use a big wide swathe of peel for my twists, using a Y-shaped peeler. Some bartenders prefer a thinner long twist peel as a garnish, and in this case you'd want to have a zester. A zester, as well as a microplane, can both serve the purpose of zesting fruit for an attractive, edible garnish to your cocktails. A microplane can also be used for making shavings of anything from chocolate to cinnamon to spicy Tabasco Slim Jim garnishes. Nutmeg Grater is very similar, as well, to a microplane and indispensable for drinks such as Toddy’s and numerous punches. It's primary purpose is... you guessed it... grating nutmeg. Of course other nuts and hard spices can also be grated using this tool.
Knife - A good knife is indispensable. Knives are needed for cutting fruit, herbs and vegetables, peeling larger swathes of fruit peel for flaming fruit oils, and opening bottles with tricky packaging. Get a good knife that will be used solely for your bar prep and keep it ever sharp. The Korin brand can be purchased at major department stores and are relatively inexpensive. Behind the bar it’s important to have a smaller sharp knife to avoid any long strokes. In the limited space a bartender has to operate, you want to condense your movements as much as possible when handling sharp objects.Wine Key - A "double-hinged" wine key is the only corkscrew I will use. The double-hinge allows you to pull a wine cork straight up, out of the bottleneck, saving you from the embarrassment and subsequent extra cleanup of a broken cork. PA Wine & Spirits stores sell these, as do most restaurant supply stores. You will need a wine key obviously for wine based drinks, but also for "Beertails" since a bottle opener comes standard on every wine key.
Ice Bag – The standard for an ice bag is the Lewis Bag usually under $10 if found online. In a pinch you can use that Crown Royal bag inventory that has built up. The purpose of the ice bag is to use to crush ice with accompanying wooden mallet. It’s important not to fill the ice bag when using, otherwise the force of the cracking ice under the mallets onslaught will force itself through the seams of the bag and you will end up sewing the bag back together once a week. Fill the bag a ¼ way with fresh ice each time to avoid constant tailoring of your supplies. The ice bag makes nice, if not inconsistent, crushed ice for your cocktails such as swizzles or juleps. There is also a certain theatric to crushing ice for a guest with a giant oversized mallet… if the guest does not mind the clamor. For $20 you can forego the Ice Bag if you have a smaller more intimate space that would prefer to avoid the crashing mallet sound, and purchase a portable hand crank ice crusher which will do as good a job and produce more uniform pebbles of ice.
Ice Cube Trays – Obviously most bars will have an ice machine that produces ice for your cocktails. In most cases that ice will be pretty sketchy as far as what it produces as the final product. As bartenders, we make do. Some of the better bars invest in a Hoshizaki ice machine, which provides beautiful cubes for mixing and shaking. Others have an entire bar ice program where an employee dedicates his time to creating perfect cubes from large blocks of ice. At The Aviary in Chicago there is one employee who works all day prepping the ice for the two bars Aviary and The Office. At Bar Marco we had Giuseppe “Gypsy” Capolupo who would regularly break down large slabs of ice using a designated chainsaw and hot plate. If you don’t work at Aviary, or have a Giuseppe, you might want to invest in ice cube trays for presentation of your cocktails. I recommend Tovolo brand trays, both ‘King’ and ‘Perfect’ size. They provide a sufficient cube, which you can prepare ahead of time and store in a large container in your freezer when ready for use. It is imperative that you use clean, purified water for your ice cubes. Remember: dilution from the cubes is an integral component of many cocktail. Just as you want to use the best spirits possible for your drinks, you should also want the melted ice to improve, not detract from the cocktail.
|a number of different bottles and misters|
Syrup, Bitters Bottles, Misters and Tinctures – You’ll want a few of these glass vessels to facilitate perfect pours, dashes and drops for your cocktails. For syrups and juices I recommend a 16oz. olive oil dispenser bottle that you can add a typical liquor pour spout to. They are far more attractive than the plastic bar fruit juice dispensers that many bars carry. You should have a bottle each for lime, lemon, orange, grapefruit juices and simple, demerara, ginger, grenadine, orgeat, falernum and rich syrups. As you build your cocktail menu you’ll want to add more syrups and juices to this initial line-up. Also some spirits such as Cherry Heering can find a home in a bar top pour bottle. There are a number of ‘bitters bottles’ available online. I prefer the bell shaped variety that are hold 3 liquid ounces and usually come with a handy ‘dash’ spout. Again, these offer a more attractive display for your bar top when compared to the original packaging that most bitters come in, which tend to get stained and look a little worn after some time behind the bar. Bitters bottles will be used to dispense dashes of Angostura, Peychaud’s and orange bitters as well as absinthe. Many bars, such as Death & Co. in New York City, will make their own bitters by adding a few popular brands together until they’ve reached the perfect balance of flavor that they are looking for. Should you choose to do this, as I have, these bitters bottles become indispensible. Mister bottles and tinctures are also a great vessel for absinthe, as well as other items you just want a single drop of, for perfuming cocktails without adding too much extra flavor. I like to have misters with absinthe, Green Chartreuse, Rose and Orange Flower Water, Scotch, Crème De Violette and most of the aforementioned bitters. In this way I can use these products more decoratively, enhancing the presentation of the cocktail without overpowering it with any of those flavors.
|recycled liquor bottles for syrups and juices|
Vacu Vin – Sherry, Port, Vermouth, and Wine can all be important ingredients for cocktails. Therefore it is equally important to make sure they are at their most optimum quality as you would for any other component of your drinks. Here is where you will want a simple Vacu Vin pump and stopper to preserve the quality of all of your wine based elements. As soon as a bottle is opened, air immediately starts to affect these mixers slowly degrading the full flavors of your vermouth and wine. A Vacu Vin is a small hand-held pump that will attach to an accompanying stopper. When you pump the Vacu Vin it extracts the air from the open bottle of wine through the rubber stopper which “re-seals” the bottle, thus preserving your vermouths and wines longer. It’s equally important to keep your vermouths refrigerated whenever possible, as this will also help to preserve them longer.