Power Tools

Shake and mix like a pro with this starter list of essential bar gear

Essential tools include jiggers, barspoons, muddlers and strainers—and these days they come in a variety of finishes such as stainless steel, rose gold and gunmetal. Fifth & Vermouth photo

Ask a pro bartender for their must-haves, and the answer might be practical: bar mops (a cheap pack of these thin, absorbent white towels is smart, even for home) and pens. However, the essentials below look more aspirational on your home bar cart: always chic in stainless steel, they’re especially envy-inspiring in on-point finishes from gold and rose gold to gunmetal and matte black. (For a roundup of additional tools for the advanced bartending pro, read here.)

The basics include a mixing glass, shaker, jigger, bar spoon, Hawthorne strainer and fine-mesh strainer, shown here in on-trend rose gold. Fifth & Vermouth photo


Beginner: A two-piece shaker (sometimes known as a Boston shaker) consisting of glass and metal halves will give you the most mileage. Make stirred drinks in the glass, or pop it onto the metal piece tfor shaken drinks.

Pro: Three-piece cobbler shakers (the ones with a nipple-like top and built-in strainer), especially in smaller one-drink sizes, are newly hip thanks to the Japanese school of bartending—which we also have to thank for those cool, cross-etched Yarai mixing glasses stirred-drink aficionados might want. Boston-style shakers composed of two metal pieces, especially when they’re weighted for no-spill stability, are next-level useful.


Beginner: A conical two-sided measuring jigger (either 0.75 oz and 1.5 oz, or 0.5 oz and 1 oz) sets the bar high. If you drink in metric seek out a Euro model marked in centilitres—a 2 cL and 4cL combo is most common.

Pro: A rounded bell jigger looks a little like a tiny Stanley Cup, and you can get them with retro-looking handles for quick flipping.


Beginner: The spring-loaded, round Hawthorne strainer will snug into most sizes of shaker and keep the solids nicely out of your drink.

Pro: A round or scallop-edged julep strainer doesn’t have a coil, and is  technically the proper style to use with a mixing glass when making stirred drinks.

For the true cocktail nerd, the Gary “Gaz” Regan Negroni stirrer is a must. Cocktail Kingdom Canada photo

Bar spoon

Beginner: A few bucks will score you a stainless-steel, plastic-tipped spoon with a twisted handle for speedy stirring. These are typically about 10 inches long.

Pro: Take showy extra-long spoons—perhaps with a muddler, a fork-shaped trident or a weighted teardrop on the end—for a spin. Negroni fans can order a Gary “Gaz” Regan stirrer named for the late bartending legend, famous for stirring drinks with his finger.

Pouring spouts

Beginner: Basic plastic spouts slow the volume coming out of the spirits bottle, and reduce spillage.

Pro: Metered spouts can dispense an approximately quarter- or half-ounce with each tip of the bottle; some have hinged caps so they can (theoretically) stay in your bottles without welcoming a fruit-fly colony.

Ice moulds

Beginner: Raise your ice game with a silicone tray that makes half a dozen two-inch-square king cubes, and either individual moulds or a tray for large spheres. One-inch cube trays are a reasonable facsimile of the Kold-Draft cubes many serious bars use.

Pro: For perfectly clear ice, spend some time on alcademics.com or buy an insulated mould system (such as Metrokane, Eparé or Dexas).

Channel knife

Beginner: This odd-looking tool makes quick work of carving long, thin spirals of citrus-peel garnish.

Pro: Some models have additional little finger-like graters at the tip, for fine-zesting citrus.

Citrus juicer

Beginner: If you have a conical citrus reamer that fits over its own bowl or a measuring cup, you’re all set.

Pro: Heavy, two-handled metal presses—in a couple of sizes, to handle limes, lemons and oranges—live behind most bars.

Ice crusher

Beginner: Use the “crushed ice” button on your blender, newbie.

Pro: A sturdy canvas Lewis bag and a mallet—and the cool technique for swinging it around to eliminate excess moisture—is what an ice nerd craves.

Kitchen basics

Beginner: You probably have a corkscrew, a swivel peeler (like you’d use for vegetables), a paring knife and cutting board, a funnel, a fine sieve or tea strainer, a lighter (if you want to learn to flame citrus peels) plus a blender, all useful for making drinks.

Pro: If you have an iSi canister or similar device typically used for whipping cream, you can turn dry white wine or sherry into an deliciously vermouth-like bevvy infused with herbs, botanicals and citrus. You can infuse liquids with a vacuum sealer and sous-vide immersion circulator, too. A little atomizer filled with dry vermouth or absinthe coats your Martini or Sazerac glasses the fancy way.

Beyond the basics? Read our round up of “dream bar” tools here.

—by Charlene Rooke

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