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Bar Tools

Can I get a discussion for some good bar tools? Amazon seems all over the map. Help me stock my would be mixology bar from the ground up.
 
I firmly believe the best tools to have at a bar are personality and presentation, assuming you're serving guests anyway. :wink:

I'd recommend going to a kitchen store and looking into a Boston shaker. In my experience it's much better to try them out in the store because some of them are of extremely poor quality and you'd never know till you tried it for yourself. Plus it ties in nicely to the first two tools I mentioned; nothing looks cooler than pouring a cocktail through the gap between the two halves.
 
Bar Spoon: A long handled (10"-12") spoon great for fishing out olives and maraschino cherries and a must for stirring a drink when shaking is not called for (clear drinks like martini or manhattan). If you didn't have a shaker, you could always stir the drink very well. However, a shaker alone can not create a stirred drink.

Measuring cup or jiggers: Correct proportions are extremely important to produce a quality drink and do it consistently. Most world-class bartenders measure EVERY drink so they ensure consistency. If a guest likes a little more of a certain ingredient in their cocktail, then you will be certain - not guessing - that you gave them a little more than you did last time, and not a lot more.

Shaker: When a drink needs a shake (anything with fruit juice, cream, hard to meld ingredients) Definitely get a Boston; 2 pieces, a large stainless steel cup and a glass pint. Stay away from the 3-picece; they leak like a sieve and the built-in strainer just doesn't work.

Strainer: Don't even try the split-the-shaker-in-two-and-pour-out-the-cocktail, bit. While it may look cool behind a disco bar with the strobe lights going, it's also a sure-fire way to ka-ploop ice cubes in the cocktail and/or spill it all over the place. Not cool. use a Hawthorn strainer and you will look much classier and you won't be embarrassed in front of your guests.

Knife: A must for halving fruits for juicing and preparing twists and wedges for garnishes is a quality knife. It should be something you like and is comfortable. You don't need a special bar knife, a decent kitchen knife will work nicely. A lot of bartenders prefer a serrated edge, but that's personal preference. A channel knife is good for creating long, thin lemon twists, but I prefer a 1/2-dollar sized slice of rind with no pith as a garnish.

Juicer: You need someway to juice those lemons, limes, grapefruits, etc. Of course, if you are planning a large party, have juice prepared ahead of time so you aren't wasting time juicing when you should be serving cocktails.

Cocktail picks, straws and napkins: The finishing touch is what completes your perfect drink. Be it 3 olives on a classy pick, or 2 stir-straws in a gin & tonic, or just a cocktail napkin under your scotch, neat. Class.

Knowledge and Class: You don't need to memorize a hundred silly drinks like a Harvey Wallbanger or Sex On The Beach. You can always look up the recipe for something you don't know. Learn the proper way to make a martini, manhattan, whiskey sour, old-fashioned, a few classics. I've had bartenders that could f*** up a gin and tonic. Perform your duties with great care and poise and you are sure to create a quality drink and impress your guests with your professionism.
 
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Nice job Dane. But...I disagree about the need for a strainer on a boston shaker. A bit of practice and starting with whole ice cubes instead of slush will ensure a clean pour every time.
 
Luke, if drink is properly shaken - really hard, as hard as you can, for 15 to 20 seconds, there are going to be lots of ice shards in the drink. Using the "crack" will let them slip into the drink, a strainer will catch most of them. Actually, I know several barmen that pour the drink from a Hawthorn strainer, and through a fine mesh hand-collander to ensure that it is silky-smooth. As always, personal preference and YMMV and all that jazz.
 
Nice job Dane. But...I disagree about the need for a strainer on a boston shaker. A bit of practice and starting with whole ice cubes instead of slush will ensure a clean pour every time.

I agree. We only have a boston shaker and while it took a bit of practice, it's entirely possible to pour a drink without spilling.
 
To add on to what Dane suggested: don't forget a muddler. Proper use of a muddler is about 10x more important than the construction of the muddler itself. So no need to go nuts. The metal/plastic ones are probably better than the wood ones, which might absorb liquids over time.

This sucker makes a great multipurpose jigger. Pour spouts are nice too for showing off. Go for the ones that don't have the balls in them that "precicely" measure. You'll look cooler doing the classic "4-count" in your head, and it'll be just as accurate if you practice just a little.

Quality ice is absolutely essential. Use purified, boiled, or distilled water or better spend a couple bucks and buy a bag. Uncloudy ice can make your drink presentation go from "ho-hum" to top shelf.

I prefer the Hawthorn (springy coil) strainer to the Boston method personally. But I don't have shelf, sink, or dishwasher space for a ton of pint glasses either. Whichever you do, generally the shakers with the "built-in" strainers aren't very good for straining. Get one or the other. If you already have a "built-in" type shaker, most standard Hawthorn strainers work with just about every normal shaker bottom. Boston-style bottoms are sometimes a bit wider.

If you're building a home bar of any reasonable size, you are absolutely required to install a wall-mounted beer bottle opener with a cap catch bin below it.
 
I think the above covers the whole tool box quite well...nice job gentleman. You did forget a church key (IMHO, better than a wall mount) and a rabbit style wine bottle opener. If you are also going to go the whole 9-yards you might want a chamgagne sabre as well.
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I think though you dont really need much more than a good knife, a cutting board, a boston shaker and a bar spoon.

We are ones for overkill here, no?
 
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Thanks Danek! There is a lot of makers out there and reviews are all over the place on Amazon. I was looking at 3 piece shakers but it sure looks like a Boston is the way to go. The other stuff can be added on and a good order for party in a box from Amazon sounds like a plan. The next post is going to be the well stocked bar... :biggrin:
 
Dennis, I'm suspicious of any "kit". From my experience, most "complete kits", of any kind, are substandard quality and contain lots of unnecessary pieces. My suggestion is that you make a shopping list of your own and seek out individual quality items. Amazon is great, but you do need to sort through low quality to find the good stuff. I think you'd be happier with the results in avoiding a kit, and picking out individual items.
 
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A channel knife is good for creating long, thin lemon twists, but I prefer a 1/2-dollar sized slice of rind with no pith as a garnish.


I've been leaning that way too, lately (using a vegetable peeler)... I blame Morgenthaler. :lol:
 
I did some looking around yesterday at the links Danek gave - good stuff there. I had previously found the DrinkBoy website which is run by Robert Hess. The small screen network videos are fantastic, especially Hess' ones. He had a nice video on, of all things, bar tools. His recommendation is not to go the shopping list route for building a bar, but instead work one drink at a time. Find a drink, pick up the things you need to make that drink, find variations of it, make those to fully explore the drink (over time, of course... :p) and then move onto something different. Good suggestions and a very good resource.
 
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