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Essential Bar Tools

What No Bartender Should Be Without


There are some basic tools needed to make cocktails that should be top priority when outfitting your home bar. Some of these items are already in the kitchen and the rest can be purchased at prices that fit any budget. With these basic essentials you can be mixing cocktails with ease that are sure to please.

Cocktail & Boston Shakers

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There are two basic types of shakers available on the market.
  • Cocktail or Traditional Shaker- A metal shaker with a tight-fitting top covering a strainer which fits onto a bar tin. Cocktail shakers are available in many stylish designs and are perfect for use in the home bar.
  • Boston Shaker- This shaker serves a dual purpose because it is comprised of a 16 ounce mixing glass and a larger, flat-bottomed bar tin. The glass can be used alone for stirring drinks over ice and the two pieces are used together for shaking ingredients with the tin fitting over the glass. The Boston Shaker is typically used by professional bartenders and requires the use of a strainer.

Basic Shaking Tips

Hawthorne Strainer

Hawthorne Cocktail Strainer
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For drinks that are shaken or stirred with ice and served neat or over new ice, a strainer is needed to separate not only the ice, but any fruits, herbs or other solid ingredients from the liquid. A strainer is necessary if you are using a Boston shaker because there is not one built in and this Hawthorne strainer is the most common style.

The Hawthorne Strainer is a flat-topped, perforated metal device with a continuous coil of wire around its perimeter, which helps keep the strainer in place. The short handle and either 2 or 4 "thumbs" that extend from the top and sides are designed to keep it in place and allow the bartender to use only one hand.

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Julep Strainer

Julep Strainer
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A julep strainer is perforated, made of stainless steel and in the shape of an over-sized soup spoon with holes. It is placed at an angle inside a mixing glass or bar tin while straining cocktails into the glass.
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Bar Jigger - Measuring in a Bar - Bar Tools
Photo Credit: © Shannon Graham

Jiggers are metal measuring devices that usually have two cones, one on either end. The larger cone typically holds 1 1/2 ounces while the smaller cone holds 3/4 or 1 ounce. The jigger is an essential, aesthetic piece of the bar set up that helps ensure precise measuring of liquids and creating consistent cocktails.

Many bartenders you'll see do not use jiggers for every drink and instead measure using memory, technique, and years of experience pouring a lot of drinks. Read the discussion... Do You Use a Jigger?

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Bar Spoon

Bar Spoon - Bar Tools
Photo Credit: © Shannon Graham

Different from the average spoon, a bar spoon typically has a long shaft (for reaching the bottom of tall glasses), a spiral handle (for easy twisting of the shaft) and a petite spoon bowl with holes (for floating liquors). This type of spoon is essential for stirring and layering drinks as well as tedious tasks like fishing cherries out of a jar. The first time you use a bar spoon you will never be without one in the bar, they're that essential.

Tips from the Professionals: Make your bar spoon a little easier to use and versatile by bending slightly it right before the neck so that there's a little extra curve than the manufacturer intended.

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Muddler - Bar Tools
Photo Credit: © Shannon Graham

A muddler is thick stick, made of either wood, stainless steel, or plastic, that is used to mash ingredients in the bottom of a glass. Often used to mix sugars, bitters, and to extract juices and oils from fruit and mint. Muddling is an essential step in making Old-fashioneds, Mojitos and Caipirinhas.

When buying a muddler choose a thicker one that has a diameter of about 1 1/2-2 inches at the widest point. These will give you more crushing and mixing power than the thinner muddlers.

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Speed Pourer

Speed Pourer
Photo Credit: © Colleen Graham
The speed pourer, or bottle pourer, is more of a luxury item for most home bartenders, but can be handy when hosting parties and offer the ability to pour liquor for the bottles very quickly and easily. Commercial bars and restaurants place these in the majority of their liquor bottles, especially they're well and most popular spirits.

In order to prolong the shelf life of your distilled spirits, it's best to replace the speed pourer with the original cap if you will not be using it for some time.

More speed pourer tips.

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Ice Accessories

Ice Bucket - Bar Tools
Photo Credit: © Shannon Graham
Ice is key to the bar and items like ice buckets, crushers, scoops and tongs are essential. Electric ice crushers work well, but to eliminate one more appliance you can get an insulated ice crushing bag, sometimes called a Lewis bag and whack it with your muddler to the consistency you desire. Talk about getting some frustration out!
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Electric Blender

Waring Professional Bar Blender
The blender is essential for preparing frozen drinks like Frozen Daiquiris and margaritas, and they are also used to crush ice and puree fruit. While most people use large blenders in the kitchen, smaller models are available for the home bar where space can be tight.

Before You Buy a Blender


Breville Citrus Press
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Most juicers will produce nearly the same results and range from the simple reamers to electric juicers. If you buy a juicer, use it and don't leave it sitting in the back of the cupboard. Fresh fruit or vegetable juice can make the best cocktails and is recommended over bottled juices whenever possible. Your cocktails will thank you for your effort.

Recommended Electric Juicers

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