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Bartending Tools of the Trade


Ca-shook. Ca-shook. Ca-shook.

It’s the cocktail connoisseur’s siren song, the mouth-watering music made when ice and spirits cha cha together in a silver shaker. Then the liquor tumbles out, through a strainer and into a chilled martini glass.

You could measure your gin, vermouth and ice in a Mason jar, give it a good shake and pour it through your pasta strainer. But that would be a mistake.

Proper bartending tools will yield a better cocktail. The right shaker will cool your drink quickly, a quality muddler will draw the most flavor from your ingredients. Good equipment enhances the bartender’s performance, home mixologist and pro alike.

“It’s a show,” explains Vee Dejean, social media coordinator for the New York Bartending School. “You need the right equipment.”

Gearing Up:

Boston Shaker: There are essentially two kinds of shakers, but the versatile Boston shaker is the bartender’s choice – think Tom Cruise in “Cocktail” shaking it up (though let’s forget his flying-glassware theatrics).

The two-piece device is simple: it’s basically a pint-glass mixing cup, and a larger metal container. The open end of the glass fits into the open end of the metal cup, forming a tight seal. This shaker requires a separate strainer to remove ice, herbs, peels and other goodies you don’t want to actually drink. The glass half is also used for mixing drinks using a stirrer.

Standard or Cobbler Shaker: This shaker comes with three pieces: a metal mixing container, a built-in strainer at the top, and a cap to cover the strainer. Some mixologists say this is the easier alternative for home use because the strainer is built in.  

Hawthorn Strainer: This strainer looks like a perforated metal lollipop with a coiled spring encircling the top. It nestles over the top of your Boston shaker glass as you deftly strain your shaken-not-stirred martini from the ice.

Bar Spoon: This svelte spoon needs to be long enough to reach the bottom of your mixing glass. The back of the spoon can also be used to layer drinks.

Muddler: A small wooden club 8 to 10 inches long with a rounded top that is used to crush mint, cherries and other fruits and herbs to extract their flavor. Experts recommend unvarnished, hardwood muddlers.

Jigger: This double-sided metal measuring cup resembles a lopsided hourglass. The smaller side can range from ½ to 1 ½ ounces, and the larger side from 1 ½ to 2 ounces.  

Juicer: A handheld reamer will suffice if you’re squeezing a handful of lemons. For juicier endeavors, go with a two-piece reamer in which the reamer sits on top of a bowl. This design has the advantage of catching and separating out the seeds.

Ice Tongs and Bucket: No one wants your paws all over their ice.

You also need some basic kitchen items, which shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re a cold cereal and Top Ramen sort of cook. Those tools include sharp knives, cutting boards, a corkscrew wine opener and possibly a blender. A citrus stripper is a nice bonus item for turning peels into bouncy spiral garnishes. 

Now grab your tools, and get to work because right now, it’s happy hour somewhere.    

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