Fancy a tasty Negroni after a long day at work? All you need is a good ol’ gin, sweet vermouth and bitters, right? Not quite, there’s something missing. Don’t forget the cocktail tools! It goes without saying that a cocktail mixing set with the necessary accessories to shake or stir plays an essential role in crafting an excellent cocktail.
Cocktail tools such as shakers, bar spoons, jiggers, mixing glasses and strainers not only help you mix up a bar quality cocktail, but they also add to the experience of making one.
Here are the seven most essential cocktail tools you need today.
The World’s Most Popular Cocktail Tool
Just like cocktails, there’s a variety of cocktail shakers to choose from. Cocktail shakers come in different materials, shapes and sizes. Since there are so many to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. But all you need to know is that there are four major types of cocktail shakers on the market, and everything else is simply a version of one of those four.
Meet the Boston Shaker, the Cobbler Shaker, the French Shaker, and the Tin-on-tin Shaker. While the last one is somewhat a version of the Boston Shaker, there is a difference in the material that the smaller cup is made of. And as any good bartender will tell you, the material plays an important role in the usage of the shaker.
Every advanced mixologist knows that choosing a cocktail shaker depends pretty much on the material, shape and volume.
The most common shaker used by bartenders worldwide is the Boston shaker. Made of two parts (or vessels) – the shaker tin and the mixing glass makes this cocktail shaker easy to use and clean. While the smaller vessel measures 16 oz, the bigger one contains up to 28 oz.
How to Use the Boston Shaker
Using the Boston shaker is super easy.
● Put the ingredients in the metal tin
● Place the mouth of the mixing glass in the mouth of the tin
● Tap and make a tight seal
● Place it on an angle and start shaking
There is no right or wrong way to shake a drink – as long as you do it with style.
Wondering how important it is to have a cocktail shaker? Short answer is, there’s no Espresso Martini without one. A shaker is the most essential cocktail accessory for making anything with cloudy ingredients.
The Importance of Measuring Ingredients
If you think you can make a good cocktail without following a recipe, think again. Every experienced bartender knows that consistency is key in cocktail making. So to all of you home bartenders on training wheels, remember that measuring the ingredients is rule number one for crafting a perfect cocktail.
There are many measuring cocktail tools in the bartending world. Starting with bar spoons and shot glasses, all the way up to various types of jiggers.
What is a Jigger?
If you are a cocktail fan, you have probably heard about jiggers. These little guys are measuring cups for alcohol, juices or any liquid ingredient you put in them. You can see these cocktail tools at any bar. And while all jiggers are made of stainless steel, there are two main types on the market:
● Single Jigger – The single jigger is widely known as a shot glass, and it is the most used measuring tool for cocktail making. In fact, it is the first cocktail tool ever used to measure the amount of alcohol needed in a cocktail.
● Double Jigger – The double cocktail jigger is hourglass-shaped with two different measures. Usually held between the index and middle finger, it offers a difference volume on either end when flipped.
If you want to kick-start your home bar, always check measurements by using a jigger when following a cocktail recipe. A standard double jigger measures 1.5 oz (45ml) and 0.75 oz (25ml) with the 2 oz (60ml) x 1 oz (30ml) also being popular. There are even jiggers, known as multi level jigger cups, that have up to six different measurements up to 75ml.
Finally, jiggers are affordable measuring devices and should be an essential part of a cocktail mixing set every promising bartender should have. For the most stylish pour, go for the streamline Japanese jigger.
The Tool with a Twist
Bar spoons are an essential part of stirring a cocktail. These cocktail accessories are characterised by their long, twisted handles, which help make the circular stirring motion smooth and steady. All bar spoons double for measuring, and are tall enough to reach the bottom of the largest tumbler. Their ends have decorative tips, which all serve a different purpose – to measure, stir, layer and/or muddle.
The all-familiar bar spoon originated in Europe in the 19th century, and today there are three basic types you should know about:
● American bar spoon – has a twisted handle with a plastic tip. This bar spoon measures 5ml.
● European bar spoon – has the signature twisted handle and flat muddler on the end to muddle ingredients such as sugar and fruit. It also layers cocktails and shots. This bar spoon measures 2.5ml.
● Japanese bar spoon – is the most elegant spoon, featuring a sleek, spiralled handle and a teardrop end, or pearl-shaped tip.
Perhaps the most important fact about bar spoons is that is an essential tool to make that perfect Negroni using the key technique of stirring.
What is the Purpose of the Twisted Handle on Bar Spoons?
There are two good reasons these essential cocktail tools have twisted handles:
● Layering alcohol – when layering your favourite cocktail, the twisted handle on the bar spoon serves to pour the liquor down in a steady flow until it starts floating on top of the drink.
● Perfect stirring – with a little practice, the spiralled handle makes it easy to stir in a circular motion.
The Cocktail Accessories that Spring into Action
Cocktail strainers are another necessary cocktail accessory used to make a smooth, cold drink. By placing the strainer over the mouth of a glass or a shaker, you allow the drink to pass through the tiny holes in the strainer, retaining the ice, fruits or other solid parts behind in the vessel.
There are three basic cocktail strainers:
● The Hawthorne strainer – this popular stainless steel cocktail tool has a flexible spring that fit tightly in the vessel and prongs that hold the strainer in place.
● The Julep strainer – the original cocktail strainer, the Julep features a bowl-shaped perforated cup and a long handle that it is typically held over the glass.
● Fine mesh strainer – as the name suggests, this cocktail strainer has a fine mesh that works perfectly to catch small shards of ice, fruits or other parts you don’t want in your cocktail. It is typically placed beneath the first strainer to ensure maximum filtration.
While all of these cocktail strainers are widely used worldwide, the most popular one for both home and professional bartending is the Hawthorne strainer.
What is Double Straining?
Sometimes one strainer won’t do such a good job filtering pieces of ice or fruit or mint leaves, and so another strainer comes in handy. This technique is called double straining, and it is mainly seen when using a Hawthorne strainer or a Julep strainer and a fine mesh strainer beneath it.
The Cocktail Tool that Chills
It goes without saying that you can’t make a good cocktail without ice. Ice plays an essential role in the overall flavour of the cocktail by adding water, texture, and dilution. It also chills the cocktail.
There are four types of ice that can be used in any cocktail, and they all have their own particular use.
● Ice Cubes
● Shaved Ice
● Cracked Ice
● Block Ice
And while most standard ice will do a great job, sometimes ice cubes in different shapes can make your cocktail a little more sophisticated or fun. For example, if you are making whisky or bourbon-based cocktails, use spherical ice; or alternatively use flower shaped ice in your tropical cocktails. To make these ice shapes, you will need to use special ice moulds.
The size of the ice cube plays an important role. The smaller the cube, the faster it melts. A standard ice cube is one inch by one inch. And cocktails like Negroni are best served strong and icy cold, which means large ice cubes are the best.
The Secret Tool of Every Good Bartender
The Mixing Glass
Mixing glasses are another essential cocktail tool for making cocktails. Nearly all the classic cocktails are stirred, not shaken. Old Fashioned, Dry Martini, and the Negroni are all made using a mixing glass.
Once all the ingredients and plenty of ice are in the mixing glass, the bartender simply applies his stirring technique using a long handled bar spoon. Using a mixing glass compared to a shaker allows for better control over dilution when mixing cocktails.
Mixing glasses come in different sizes and types. The most popular ones are:
● Traditional mixing glass – a 16 oz mixing glass often called the pint glass.
● Yarai mixing glass – heavy base and sturdy mixing glass with a signature diamond-cut design.
● Stemmed mixing glass – A 30 oz elegant mixing glass featuring seamless, stemmed design.
When looking for a mixing glass, you need to ask yourself a few questions. What is the vessel made of? How durable is the material? Which cocktails are you going to make more often? Do you prefer a fancy design or minimalistic style? Is it heat resistant and dishwasher safe? Answer these questions, and you will find your perfect mixing glass.
Now You’re Ready to Shake & Stir
So there you have all you need to know about cocktail tools and how to create your perfect cocktail mixing kit for home. That delicious, icy cold Negroni you have been dreaming of all day can be whipped up in no time using the best bar tools for the job.
Once you have the right tools and ingredients, making bar quality cocktails at home will never be a challenge.