Nov
03
2011

The home bar: Part 2

—Christian

Last week we talked about the bar itself. In Part Two of the home bar series we look at the various tools of the trade. While you can definitely get by with a basic shaker, strainer and bar spoon, there are few more fun toys that will make your life easier and increase your potential repertoire. Take a look and outfit the bar to fit your needs.


Jiggers

Jigger

Slanted jigger

While I’ve seen people rant on blogs and message boards about how it’s a sign of weakness to see a bartender use a jigger, the flat truth is that when making a cocktail more complex than gin and tonic (do those mix?), you want to be pretty accurate with your measurements or else you’re going to end up with an imbalanced drink. Having nothing to do with Jay Z, the classic jigger is metal with a cup on either side (they come in various combinations of volume ranging from .5oz to 2oz). You can also get the slanted jigger with volume lines which is a little more versatile. (And just to note, a standard shot glass is just over 1.5oz when topped off.)


Shakers

Boston shaker

Cobbler shaker

French shaker

The standard issue is the Boston shaker. Essentially a pint glass and a larger, metal shaker cup. Just to note, the trick to getting this open after shaking is to get the glass flush with the metal facing towards you and then hit the side with the heel of your hand to pinch the metal and break the seal. These shakers require a strainer (see below).

The other popular option is the cobbler shaker. With a metal shaker, metal top, built-in strainer and a cap. These work great except they’re almost impossible to get apart after you’ve mixed a drink. I’m most familiar with these from fancy places that shake your martini at the table.

The final common option is the French shaker. Essentially a Boston shaker, just with a large metal cap and a metal shaker. These shakers also require a strainer. Which brings us to the next bar tool on the list.


Strainers

Hawthorne strainer

Julep strainer

Fine strainer

Unlike shakers, which more or less all serve the same function in different forms, strainers are a little more particular in what they offer. The most common and versatile is the Hawthorne strainer (you’ve obviously seen these before). The spring around the outer edge allows you press down for a finer strain or leave it more open to allow some bits of ice and muddled things to pour through.

The Julep strainer is solid metal cup with holes and handle. Particularly effective for muddled citrus and herbs, the small holes prevent non-liquid from getting in the drink.

Lastly we have the fine strainer, which is more commonly seen in the kitchen. This is the last bastion of straining, often used in conjunction with a Hawthore or a Julep strainer, this will ensure that nothing but liquid makes its way into your glass.


Juicers

Manual juicer

Citrus juicer

Reamer

Hand juicer

There are variety of options for juicers of lemons, limes and oranges at your disposal. I think the ideal is a manual juicer (the kind that uses a handle to apply pressure). But these can be a pretty serious investment and take up a fair amount of space. If you don’t want to break the bank and or need something that will fit in a drawer you’ve got the fairly standard citrus juicer; the even more basic reamer; or, if you need to move fast, hand juicers, that allow for quick juicing on the fly. Be warned, though, the handles on cheaper versions of these can break pretty easily if you have large fruit, big hands and a strong grip. I’m just sayin’…


Other tools

Bar spoon

Muddler

Peeler

Free pour

Bar spoon
Pretty standard, although they do come in different lengths. You can get them anywhere that sells cocktail stuff.

Muddler
As Prof Nepove will tell you, there are actually a wide variety of different muddler styles. But really you only need the classic design, resembling a miniature baseball bat. (If you’re intereseted, check out Mister Mojito’s wide selection here.)

Peelers
You’ll want a potato peeler for getting full rinds. And a twist peeler for, well, twists.

Free pour
Great if you’re going to be mixing a lot of drinks at one time. These regulate the flow of alcohol so that it pours out in a steady stream. With a little practice you can even learn the timing for an ounce pour, rendering basic mixed drinks a breeze.

Cutting board and sharp knife
I am someone who lost two weeks of his life to Cutco. But the one valuable thing I took away from the experience is that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one.

Small, refillable bottles
I did not know this before the class, but simple syrup (and most others) only stays fresh for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator before needing to be remade. As such, you’ll want to have a number of bottles on hand to store syrups in and you’ll need to rotate them out on a pretty regular basis. (To note, yes, you can buy bottled syrups that will last longer, but that’s because they’ve been pumped full of preservatives. In the case of simple syrup especially, it’s so easy to make, just do a new batch ever week or two and you’ll have fresh on hand at all times.)

At this point you have everything you need to actually start making drinks. It’s time to stock up on ingredients. And by “ingredients” I primarily mean booze. Over the next few weeks I’ll take you through the essentials and the nice to haves of any home bar. Because while, yes, you can get by with a total of five bottles, it’s more fun and you can impress your friends/romantic conquests all the easier if you make them a drink they’ve never tried before. And that will require options, friend. So check back next week as we start with the clears: vodka and gin.

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