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7 Essential Bar Tools Demystified

Can’t tell your ass from your Mexican elbow juicer? Don’t worry, we’re here to help! Here’s our guide to the bar tools on the market – we explain what they do, how they work, and whether you really need them.

1. Jiggers

Usefulness: 5/5

Types of Drinks: All drinks from neat whisky to complex cocktails and everything in-between

A jigger is used to measure liquid ingredients that make up a mixed drink. If you were making a beautiful pâtisserie dessert, would you just throw in random amounts of sugar and butter and think to yourself, “This will probably be fine”? Cocktail-making is no different. Use a jigger to ensure that your measures are precise – you’ll really be able to taste the difference.

Depending on which country you’re in, a jigger will have different measuring marks that tend to correlate with single and double measures for that country.

2. Cocktail Shakers

Usefulness: 5/5

Types of Drinks: Cocktails such as Daiquiris, Whisky Sours, and Cosmopolitans

Ah, the trusty cocktail shaker – an essential for any bar. There are a few different types of shaker out there. Most bartenders opt for the Boston shaker, which consists of a mixing glass and a shaking tin. You seal it by firmly tapping the glass into place, and you unseal it by giving it a tap on the side of the shaker, where the glass meets the tin. This takes some practice, but once you have the technique down, it’s the fastest and simplest way to shake. 

The Cobbler shaker, a three-piece concoction with a built-in strainer, is a favourite for many home bars – although not particularly popular among professionals, as it’s hard to open, ices up quickly, and the holes in the strainer aren’t particularly fine. Still, it’s simple to use, nice-looking, and easily available.

There’s also the slightly rarer French shaker, which is a truly beautiful beast. Its shape is somewhat reminiscent of the Cobbler, but with more verve and elegance to it. It’s also slightly easier to open than the Cobbler, and is missing the built-in strainer. The French shaker is style incarnate, but fairly expensive, and not always easy to find.

3. Strainers

Usefulness: 5/5

Types of Drinks: All cocktails you want a smooth finish on

If you’re using a Boston or French shaker, you’re going to need an extra piece of equipment if you want to strain your cocktails. Enter the Hawthorne strainer! This strainer is a favourite among bartenders, as it’s easy to use, simple to clean, and its springy coil fits most shakers. Once your cocktail has been shaken to perfection, place the Hawthorne strainer over the mouth of the shaker and pour your cocktail through. The strainer will retain ice and any other lumpy bits, leaving you with a glass full of pure, ice-cold cocktail. Perfection.

There’s also the Hawthorne strainer’s lesser-used cousin, the Julep strainer. Back in the day, the simpler Julep strainer was the bar tool of choice. It enjoyed vast popularity during the Gilded era, but these days is considered a little démodé. You’ll find some bartenders who swear by the Julep strainer, enjoying the extra challenge it brings, and others who like to use a Hawthorne shaker for the metal side of the Boston shaker and a Julep strainer for the glass side, but generally speaking, the Julep strainer has seen better days.

To top it off, there’s the fine strainer. For any cocktail recipe that tells you to double-strain your drink, you should use the fine strainer in combination with the Hawthorne or Julep strainer. This tightly-meshed strainer will catch any textural impurities that get through the others, leaving you with the smoothest drink imaginable.

4. Bar Spoon

Usefulness: 4/5

Types of Drinks: Cocktails made in Mixing glasses as well as those you wish to add layers or Maraschino cherries to

Not all cocktails are made to be shaken. When you shake a cocktail, the action of shaking aerates the liquid, and also cools and dilutes it faster as tiny pieces of ice break off and melt into the drink. This is wonderful for cocktails made using egg whites, dairy, or anything juicy and citrusy that needs to be light and frothy and chilly. 

For cocktails made using all spirits, it’s better to stir them. The spirits will retain their texture, and won’t be watered down. The bar spoon comes in handy for these moments. The long, twisted handle makes it easy to get down into the depths of any glass, and stir cocktails to just the right temperature without over-dilution.

Bar spoons are also incredibly useful for layering drinks; pour the spirit gently down the spoon and float it on top, with the tip of the spoon just touching the surface of the cocktail. This will achieve an attractive colour separation that is bound to impress!

5. Mixing Glass

Usefulness: 4/5

Types of Drinks: Cocktails such as Martinis, Bloody Marys, and Rob Roys

As we were saying, not all cocktails were made to be shaken. For cocktails that need to be stirred and filtered, the mixing glass is your tool of choice. Measure the ingredients into the mixing glass, fill with ice, and stir until the cocktail is chilled but not diluted. Strain into your glass, et voilà. You can use a regular large Tumbler instead of a mixing glass but you may find it to still be too small, especially when you add ice. It is also harder to strain from regular glassware.

6. Juicer

Usefulness: 5/5

Types of Drinks: Cocktails where you need fresh lime juice, such as Daiquiris, Gimlets, and Margaritas

The Mexican elbow style of juicer is an incredible tool – it strains your limes as well as squeezing them, in an incredibly simple action. Slice your lime in half and place it cut-side down into the juicer. The lime positioning seems counterintuitive looking at the shape of the juicer, but this is how it works. Press down, and fill your cocktail with fresh, filtered lime juice – way better than the store bought variety!

7. Muddler

Usefulness: 3/5

Types of Drinks: Mojitos, Caipirinhas, Mint Juleps

For any cocktails involving ingredients like crushed limes, herbs and spices, or sugar cubes, enter the muddler. Buy a long-handled one that will let you get right down into the glass or shaker. A good muddler will let your herbs, spices and fruit release all of their aromatics, giving you a beautifully-nuanced cocktail full of bright, fresh flavours.

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