To be a successful bartender, you’ll need more than just good people skills… you’ll need firstly to master the basic products and the right tools, and for those of you just exploring the world behind the bar, here’s an outline of the basic tools.
The Basic Tools
Like a dentist with his pick and a plumber with his wrench, to ensure smooth operations behind the bar, you’ll need an array of the right tools. But there’s no need to panic, the bar tools are fairly basic and easy to use.
So whether you need to mix, serve or store, for a home bar or as a professional, the tools are basically the same. These basics include the wine opener, a cocktail shaker, some sort of measuring glass, and a strainer.
The best wine opener is whatever gets the job done, and a little experience with the varieties available will find what suits you best. Some might prefer the Winged Corkscrew, named so because it has wings, which when pushed down, leverage the cork up.
I’ve never had any problems with it, but for rapid opening and especially on bottles with long corks, the corkscrew might not dig in enough to fully pull the cork all the way out.
For simplicity and versatility, the Waiter’s Wine Opener has a sharp blade for cutting cap wrappers, a corkscrew (also known as the worm), and a bottle cap opener for beers and sodas. This tool is most popular and usually the best priced, but too much wear and tear can weaken and then eventually break the worm.
For quick opening with no risk of breaking the cork, the Ahso is called for. This two pronged device has blades which are worked in between the bottle and the cork, and then with a twist and a pull, the cork comes right out of the bottle's neck without ever having been pierced.
The priciest solution is the Table Top Wine Opener, a heavy duty wine opener used to uncork industrial sized wine bottles. This kind of wine opener is more frequently used at banquets, when lots of bottles need to be opened quickly.
A cheaper alternative that works on a similar principle is a wine opener called the Rabbit, which can open wine bottles in under three seconds and is portable.
Whichever one you settle on for your style, it’s a good idea to get some practice with them all, so when the time arises, you’ll handle them like a pro.
The flashiest piece of gear in the bartender arsenal is the shaker, and there are basically two types of shakers that rule the roost.
Featured most frequently in movies, the Boston Shaker is the one most frequently used by professional bartenders.
Consisting of a mixing glass and a stainless steel core that overlaps the glass, you can see the contents of the shaker and there is no problem with the two halves sticking together.
A more old-fashioned option is the Standard shaker, made up three or more parts, such as a strainer cap and a lid, and this is the type most commonly found in the home bar, made in a variety of materials, shapes and designs.
There are literally dozens of types of strainers on the market, but the most useful one is known as the Hawthorn, a flat, spoon-shaped utensil with a spring coil around its head, which fits perfectly into the mouth of the shaker or most bar glasses when the need comes to strain cocktails.
The Barman’s Tools and Glasses
Rounding out the barman’s arsenal is a compliment of tools, which you can see in the image below.
Bar spoon: A long stemmed spoon for stirring cocktails.
Blender: Ice, fruit and more come under the blade at high speeds, and there are many commercial or home blender options on the market, ranging from just a few dollars to hundreds of dollars.
One basic rule to keep in mind regardless of the blender you choose is to always put the liquids in the blender before switching it on. This will extend the life of your blade, especially when blending ice. Some blenders are especially designed for crushing ice, so check the specifications before buying.
Coasters and bar napkins: Coasters are a classy way of preventing moisture rings from forming on the bar or table tops, and napkins keep your customer’s fingers dry and soak up condensation on the glass. Get in the habit of using them frequently and subtly.
Ice buckets: These come in a variety of sizes, but it’s better to get one that’s large enough to hold a lot, than to be stuck with one too small, so keep that in mind when shopping for one.
Ice scoop or tongs: A must for every ice bucket, as you should never use your hands or the glass to scoop up the ice, the first is unhygienic and the second can chip the glass.
Jigger: This small measuring cup can be either glass, plastic or metal and usually has a cup on each end of various sizes, in metric or standard units of measure.
Knife and cutting board: A small, sharpened paring knife is necessary to cut fruit and garnishes, and since you should never cut on the bartop or metal counter, a cutting board is need too. Plastic boards are easier to clean and don’t warp or rot when frequently wet, like in a bar environment.
Large pitcher: Good for mixing up batches of mixed drinks or simply to have on hand for when someone wants water.
Muddler: This small wooden bat or pestle is used to crush fruit or herbs, such as you’ll need to do when making a Cuba Libre, grinding the mint leaves to get the mint juices out of the leaves.
Pouring spout or Pourer: There are many types available, from electronically radio controlled micro-chipped ones for inventory control to ones with plastic balls which kick into the spout when the reservoir of one shot finishes pouring out. Some also come with a lidded spout, to prevent insects from entering or the alcohol from evaporating.
Stirrers and straws: Something for the customer to stir and sip with.
Large cups, tins, trays or bowls: Used to sort and store your garnishes, such as cherries, olives, onions, etc.
(1) Bar Spoon, (2) Blender, (3) Tongs, (4) Ice Scoop, (5) Ice Bucket, (6) Jigger or Measuring glass, (7) Knife and Cutting Board, (8) Muddler, (9) Pitcher.
The right glass for the right drink makes all the difference in presentation. Nothing is worse than getting your champagne in a beer mug or your brandy in a white wine glass.
Presentation is everything and people expect their drinks to be served in the right glasses, especially when forking out money for their libations. The problem of the wrong glass arises because most people and many bars don’t stock up on the right glasses. So what are the right glasses? Read on and learn my friend.
Shot glass: A fixture in every western saloon, the shot glass can also be used as a measuring tool, making it the must have glass for every bar.
Cocktail or Martini glass: Elegant and civilized, this glass is not just for Martinis… Manhattans, Stingers, and many other classic libations look just at home, and you can find them in a variety of sizes.
White wine glass: Learn early on the difference in these most basic of bar glasses, because the wine lovers you serve will never forgive being served in the wrong one. White wine is served in a smaller glass, although they are available in sizes up to 10 ounces. Smaller is better for white wine.
Red wine glass: Also available in a variety of sizes, for red wines, the bowl is wider than that of the white wine glass, allowing more surface area for the wine to breathe.
Champagne glass: This flute shaped glass is tapered to keep the bubbles from escaping, and makes a lovely clinking sound when toasting.
Rocks glass: The old-fashioned bar glass is the work horse of any bar, used for serving up alcohol straight or with a mixer in a range of sizes from 5 to 10 ounces.
Highball glass: Also known as the Collins glass, or in antiquity as the Palour glass, these type of glasses are the most useful for serving cocktails and come in a range of sizes from 8 to 12 ounces.
Cordial glass: In addition to serving cordials, in a pinch you can also use it for serving straight-up drinks without ice.
Snifter: Available in a wide range of sizes, Brandy and Cognac is traditionally served in these short-stemmed large-bowled glasses which are designed to be cupped in the hand to transfer body heat to the contents.
For entertaining at home, you won’t need such a large selection of glasses, basically just two types of wine glasses (white and red) which can both be used for every type of cocktail, beer or wine, and some Rock glasses to easily round out your collection and can serve as every day glasses.
And regardless of which glass you do decide to serve your drink offerings in, just remember that the perfect garnish is a warm smile!