Bartending tools of the trade

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Here are the basic tools you need to be a great bartender.

Bartending tools of the trade

Have shaker will travel!  There is an artistry and science to bartending that many attempt to master and few ever do.  Of course, having the right tools is the first step to becoming a master barkeep and, fortunately, none of these tools are that expensive.

So, if you think you have what it takes, here is what you need to arm yourself with.


If you were on a dessert island and could only save one piece of bartending equipment, a jigger should be it.  You can open bottles with a knife or your teeth and you can use a hollowed out anything to be a glass or shaker.  Only a jigger is irreplaceable.

What is a jigger?  A jigger is tool that looks like the inside of an hourglass, but is basically two small metal containers joined at their bottoms.  One of the containers holds an ounce of liquid, the other holds one-half of an ounce.  With those two containers, you can accurately measure any drink recipe (few recipes call for one-fourth of an ounce and if they do, you can probably eyeball that.)

Some companies try to sell bottle tops that supposedly will control the flow of liquid so that one ounce comes out in a one-second pour.  Don’t trust these inventions.  Different liquids pour at different speeds and the tops themselves change shape (minutely) over time and will eventually return grossly inaccurate pours.

Shaker and strainer

The second most important piece of equipment a bartender can own is a shaker.  Most cocktails (excepting those that are blended with soda) should be poured first into a shaker, either shaken or stirred, and then poured into a glass.  Also, since your shaker should have a top, you might as well get a shaker that has a strainer.  You will need one for straining out seeds, lime wedges, and other things you add to a shaker, but don’t want ending up in your final drink.

Corkscrew and bottle openers

If you are not content to open bottles with your teeth, have a good corkscrew and a beer bottle opener.  These two devices will allow you to open any pesky bottles that come your way.

Optional equipment

With those five items, you are set.  In a bar, you’ll need a towel and coasters, but those are not critical to a bartender’s arsenal.

You can also buy a spoon made from a non-reactive substance (for instance, plastic) for stirring drinks.  More caustic liquids can react with metal spoons during stirring which will affect the flavor of the drink.  It is optional, but recommended if you are serious about bartending.