Bar Tools You Cannot Live Without!
Bar Tool Must-Haves
Having a home bar can be a dream come true… but if you’re not prepared for it, then having your first party with your home bar can quickly turn that dream into a nightmare. Too often people overlook some of the more useful accessories for their home bar, and end up having to scramble around looking for substitutes when they suddenly have need for that essential bar tool. If you find yourself having to make it through with what you can find, then while your party might be a success you’re most likely not going to enjoy it as much as you should.
Here are some of the must-have tools for your home bar, all of which are designed to make your bartending experiences much easier. Some might seem blatantly obvious, while others might have you wondering why you didn’t think to add them to your shopping list earlier.
Ever since that infamous martini was ordered “Shaken, not stirred,” people have had an obsession with shaken drinks. And while many would argue that the best martinis are never shaken, it’s an undeniable fact that there are a wide variety of other drinks which benefit from a shake before serving. Keep in mind that there are two types of shakers, the Boston shaker and the traditional shaker. The Boston variety requires an additional strainer, while the traditional shaker has a strainer built in. Regardless of the type that you choose, most bartenders will recommend that you purchase at least two… that way you won’t have to wash your shaker out every time you want to make a different type of drink.
A variety of fruity, mixed, and frozen drinks require a blender, but not just any blender will due. Some people think that they can take the cheap way out and buy a discount blender for their bar only to discover that their discount product doesn’t have the power that they need when making a number of different drinks. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy the most expensive blender on the market, but at least take the time to make sure that it has several different speed and power settings and that the blender’s engine is going to be able to hold up to the use that it gets. You’re much better off spending a little bit of extra money on a blender now than having to replace a blender with a burnt-out motor six months or a year down the road.
Citrus Peeler/Zester/Paring Knife
Chances are no matter what type of drinks you plan on making, eventually you’re going to have to deal with citrus in one form or another. You might need just a little bit of zest for garnish, or perhaps you’re in need of some fresh-squeezed juice in the drinks that you’re making. Regardless of what you need from the citrus and other fruits that you’re cutting up, make sure that you have the right tools for the job. A peeler or zester can be purchased for very little and can be easily replaced if necessary, but you should look for quality with any knives that you buy for your bar area. A good knife can maintain a sharp edge for a long time, and with proper care you’ll find that the little bit extra that you might spend on a knife now can mean the difference in how often you have to sharpen your knife later.
Ice Bucket - With Tongs
At the bar, ice is obviously a must. Unfortunately, ice trays can be a pain to work with and not everyone as room for a freezer with an ice maker in the bar area. The best way to deal with the ice issue is to use an insulated ice bucket that will keep your ice cold when you’re not using it and will have it easily accessible to you when you need it. Make sure that you have a pair of ice tongs to go with your bucket, both to save your hands from getting cold from repeatedly having to grab ice and to keep everything at the bar sanitary. Using plastic liners with your ice bucket can make cleanup easy, and will give you a convenient storage bag to keep your ice in should you have any left at the end of the night and want to put it back into the freezer.
Whether you’re serving your guests a perfectly aged wine or simply a few beers, you’re going to need some way to pull corks and open bottle caps. Choose a corkscrew made of quality metal parts (as plastic corkscrews can be prone to break when it’s most inconvenient) and make sure that you like the opening action that it features (whether it’s a “winged” version or simply a waiter’s corkscrew that screws in and then lets you work the cork free yourself.) The same goes for the bottle opener that you choose; it doesn’t have to be fancy, but make sure that it meets your needs and that it isn’t going to break while you’re trying to get someone’s drink open.
An essential device for your bar, you might not be familiar with exactly what a jigger is. It’s basically a measuring device for your drink ingredients, and most standard jiggers feature an opening on both ends so that you can use it to measure different amounts of liquid. The larger of the two ends generally measures 1.5 ounces and is referred to as a “jigger”, while the smaller of the two usually measures 1 ounce and is called a “pony.” It’s important to keep in mind that not all jiggers have the same capacity, however, so be sure to check and see exactly how much each end of yours holds before using it. When shopping for a jigger, you should keep an eye out for one that features a wide lip around the openings on both ends so that you will be able to pour your liquids more easily. Don’t be surprised if you don’t find a jigger with calibration marks on it, though; most are unlabeled (which is why it’s important to make sure that you know their capacity.)
When stocking a home bar, many people overlook the usefulness of a cutting board and end up ruining the finish of their bar over time because of it. A cutting board is essential when dealing with citrus, as it keeps their acidic juices off of your bar top while giving you a sanitary surface on which to do all of the cutting that you need. Ideally, you should keep two or three small cutting boards under the bar so that even if you had to use a cutting board earlier and you’re worried about sanitation issues then you’ll still have a backup that’s clean and ready to be used.
Though it seems to go without saying that you’d need glassware for your bar, many people don’t realize that the right glassware (or the lack thereof) can make or break the image of your home bar. At the same time, stocking up on sets of all of the types of glassware that are available will take time, money, and will end up causing you to have a lot of fancy glasses that will see little if any use. Choose the glassware that best fits the types of drinks that you plan on making the most often, as well as all-purpose glassware such as mugs, rocks glasses, and tumblers. You might also want to pick up a few fluted champagne glasses and other specialized glassware for special occasions, so long as you think that you might have a need for it at some point.
Sometimes the little things can make a huge difference, and that’s definitely the case when it comes to picks, stirrers, and bar spoons. A number of drinks require certain garnishes such as olives or cocktail onions, and having plastic or wooden picks on-hand to make them easy for drinkers to access can make a great impression on your guests. The same goes for stirrers, since many drinks will start to settle a bit if your guests are too busy talking to old and new friends to attend to their drinks properly. As for bar spoons, these will save you a lot of trouble trying to stir pitchers of drinks with a standard kitchen spoon. Buy at least two so that you can have one clean should you need to stir a different drink than what you were making previously.
Cocktail & Drink Recipe Books
Oddly enough, many home bar owners overlook the need for recipe books. Basing their knowledge of drink recipes on their own preferences, they may find that their guests ask for drinks that they’ve never heard of and that they have no reference to consult for the recipe. More importantly, though, recipe books can help both the home bartender and guests to find enjoyable drinks that they might otherwise never have considered trying. Once they purchase a recipe book or two, many people with home bars find themselves collecting them… and their guests generally enjoy the wider variety of options and tasty recommendations that their hosts make when they can’t decide what they want to try.
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