ManMade Top Ten: Essential Bar Tools

created at: 05/03/2010

Unless you’re a millionaire*, or a seriously, seriously committed enthusiast, your home bar won’t ever rival the levels of underlit top-shelf spirits and specialized glassware of your local upscale martini bar. And to this, we say “good.” Making cocktails at home is totally different than heading out on the scene. And, thankfully, with a few key wares and tools, you can make quality cocktails that’ll make you think twice about whether or not you need to go out at all. And with that in mind, here’s a ten home bar essentials tools that, with some glassware, ice, and spirits, are really all you’ll need. AND, stay tuned, cause at the end of the month, we’re gonna give away this entire Top Ten, plus lots of extra goodies!
created at: 03/03/2010
1. Cocktail shaker.  In order to mix a drink, you’ve gotta have something in which to mix it. The object of choice here is the classic cocktail shaker. There are two styles: the common three-piece Cobbler shaker, which includes the capped strainer and a lid, and the Boston shaker, which is a two-piece set consisting of a metal beaker and a mixing glass. Our vote here is for the latter, as it’s certainly what the pros prefer, and offers much more versatility.

created at: 05/05/2010  

2. Cocktail Strainer. Cocktails need to be COLD, and therefore are nearly always mixed with ice. So, in order to separate the ice from the rest of the deliciousness, you’ve gotta strain it as you pour it into the serving glass. There are two types: a Hawthorne strainer, a flat circular piece with a metal spring that catches the ice while the liquids pour through, and a julep strainer, a perforated metal concave disk that fits at an angle.
3. Bar spoon. A long-handled spoon useful for stirring drinks in tall glasses or pitchers. The standard bowl size is 5ml, or a teaspoon. Most models also have a spiral alongside the handle for making curly twists and garnishes.

created at: 05/05/2010

4. Muddler. A mini-baseball bat, usually made from hardwood, that’s used to muddle, or crush, ingredients – like sugar or fresh herbs. There very inexpensive, and essential to cocktails like the Old-Fashioned, the mojito, the mint julep, and the caipirinha.

5. Measuring Tools. Cocktails are not made to get you messed up. They’re intended to be enjoyed, and that means they must be balanced. So, you’ve got to watch your proportions. The standard tool for measuring spirits and other materials is a double-sided jigger, which comes in various sizes, the most popular being a jigger (1 1/2 fl. oz) and a pony ( 1 oz.).  I find these dudes terribly messy to use, so I suggest a smalled angled measuring cup with a pour spout, as they give you some breathing room as you move from the counter to the glass. A straight-sided gradiated measuring cup will also come in handing for punches, pitchers, etc.

6. Zester/Channel knife combo Spirits love citrus, both the juice and the essential-oil filled zest, the flavorful colored part of the peel. To obtain these, a zester containing small circular blades is drawn across the surface. Look for a zester that also contains  a channel knife, which cuts thicker, long slices for twists.

created at: 05/05/2010

7. Waiter’s corkscrew. My mom and her friends give each other these fancy wine corkscrew sets that promise to be super easy to use and cost unbelivable amounts of money. Here’s the deal: you don’t need one. Never spend more than ten dollars. Promise me. Head to your local restaurant supply store or wine shop and pick up a double-hinged waiters corkscrew for $6.99. These dudes are magical: the contain a knife to cut the foil, a fool proof cork screw, and a two-level lever system that makes pulling a cork out with one hand a snap.

8. Citrus juicer/squeezer. Once you’ve used one of these, you’ll never go back. An enameled aluminum citrus juicer holds a lemon or lime half between its jaws an presses the dear life out of it…and into your drink! The hinged models are preferable to a reamer as they don’t rip up the flesh of the juice, and the keep any seeds inside. Plus, these things make fresh lemon- and limeade such a snap that you’ll no longer be able to stand the stuff from concentrate.

9. Paring knife and cutting board. You gotta get those garnishes into portions some how, and nothing’s better than a paring knife and a place to use it.

created at: 05/05/2010

10. Bar towels. When your messing with lots and lots of liquids, especially those that impair motor functions, a bit will end up outside the glass. Keep a damp and a dry towel handy. These also make a great place to stir drinks, as the added friction will help keep your mixing glass secure.

Don’t forget – we’re gonna give away everything on the list, plus A LOT more the last week of May. Stay tuned here.

*If there are any millionaires out there that read ManMade, I can be reached at