Bar equipment - tools
Cocktail making is a wonderful ritual and, like the Japanese tea ceremony, benefits from the appropriate equipment.
The cocktail shaker
The shaker is the jewel in the crown of cocktail equipment. It's worth investing in one for the pleasure it brings to the ritual of cocktail making.
Thousand years ago, the South Americans discovered that hollowed-out gourd, reunited with its lid, made a very useful container for shaking things up. And the rest, as they say, is history. The modern shaker began to emerge in the mid 19th-century, after an innkeeper observed that if you put two tumblers together, open end to open end, and one tumbler is slightly smaller than the other, it creates a very effective seal and you can not only shake your ingredients but also make something of a show of doing it. Within no time at all, commercial shakers were being produced.
There are three types of shaker, but the two most popular are:
The cobbler Shaker
This is one's an absolute beauty and the most commonly used. It's elegantly shaped and comes with a built-in strainer.
The slight drawback is that it causes further dilution of the drink: when pouring the contents of the shaker into the glass, ice accumulates in a confined space, which causes a faster melting.
If you get one with a cap that's marked to serve as a measure, you won't need to use a separate jigger.
The Boston Shaker
This is more rudimentary in design but that 19th century innkeeper would be proud to see that it's very like his accidental discovery; it was the first type of shaker.
It consists of a metal bottom and a mixing glass and it has the advantage that the mixing glass can be used for mixing (obviously!), stirring, or muddling, with or without shaking afterwards.
When the ingredients and ice cubes are shaken in the shaker, the metal shrinks under the influence of cold, which makes the join with the glass hermetically sealed (but it never blocks).
You need a separate strainer for this one.
The third type, the French Shaker (Shaker continental), was created in Europe in early 10th-century. It is a cross between the two previous shakers: curvy, but in two metallic sections, and it needs a separate strainer.
To learn how to shake please read our article : how to prepare a cocktail.
It is used for mixing cocktails to be served "straight up", i.e. without ice. It is a tall glass with a pouring spout. Its capacity must be at least 15 fl oz (45 cl) to prepare a drink, and at least 20 fl oz (60 cl) to prepare two.
To learn how to use a mixing glass please read our article : how to prepare a cocktail.
Bartenders and cocktail aficionados use a cute little double-ended tool for measuring the ingredients of each recipe, called a jigger.
Although a jigger doesn't come in a standard size (depends on country), typically (and most usefully) it has a jigger-sized cone at one end – that's 1.5 fl oz (4.5 cl) – and a pony-sized cone at the other. A pony, or shot, is 1 fl oz (3 cl).
In France, a jigger capacity is 2cl and 4 cl.
If you don't have a jigger, you can of course use anything you have to hand that will measure a liquid volume.
Alternatively you can also use measuring spout pourer.
Caution : keep it in proportion
Whatever method you use to measure your ingredients, the important thing is to keep to the proportions specified in the recipe, or your cocktail simply won't be authentic. Only an experienced bartender can mix a cocktail by eye and get it perfect every time!
Muddling is a wonderful practice that involves placing, for example, mint leaves and sugar in a glass and giving it a good muddle!
The muddler is simply a wood cylinder with a gently rounded end, sometimes grooved, and the idea is to crush your muddling ingredients to release the aroma, or juice, or whatever other treasures they contain. You can use a wooden spoon instead, but somehow there's not the same magic.
To learn how to muddle please read our article : how to prepare a cocktail.
The strainer is used with a Boston shaker or a mixing glass and it's essential to have one to filter out stray bits of ice, citrus pulp, and anything else that would spoil the harmony of your cocktail. You'll need one of these whenever the recipe says "strain into the glass".
A proper bar spoon will make you feel like a real bartender – and it's a lovely thing to own anyway.
It has a very long handle, often elegantly turned, and a disc at one end to add vigor to your stirring.
The torsion of the handle facilitates grip, even when there is condensation in contact with ice.
The disc can most of time be used to muddle fresh mint leaves, but for more consistent ingredients you will have to use a real muddler.
You also use a bar spoon for making layered shots.
Learn more about making layered cocktails in reading this article: how to layer a cocktail.
This has a serrated edge for slicing citrus fruits, a split point for spearing citrus wedges or slices, and usually an integral bottle cap opener also. It's not essential, as no doubt you'll have a sharp kitchen knife that will do the job, but they are often included in a cocktail set.
And also borrowed from the kitchen...
This is really useful for mixing up frozen margaritas, daiquiris etc. You just throw in all the ingredients with a lot of crushed ice, and your cocktail is ready in seconds.
If you have one of these, you'll be able to make the most fantastic fruity cocktails. A Piña Colada with pineapple juice from a carton is okay, but made with freshly squeezed juice it's sensational.
This doesn't need to be all sophisticated – a wooden reamer or porcelain citrus juicer costs next to nothing and will do the job perfectly well.
It is important to be sure to press the edges of the fruit and not on top because when the white part between the bark and the fruit pulp is reached, it imparts a bitter taste to the squeezed juice.
Use this handy little tool to make long strips of zest with precision and regularity (practice makes perfect!), which you can curl into a twist or tie into a knot.
A swivel potato peeler is great for making long strands of citrus or apple peel with artistically ragged edges, to twist as a garnish.
Corkscrew, bottle opener, ice tongs, ice scoop, chopping board, grater, straws, mixing sticks, coasters.
The table below classifies utensils according to their usefulness for beginners, amateurs or professionals.
|Citrus channeler||•||Potato peeler||•||•|