Heavy Duty Hardware!
The following items I have purchased over the years to help me create some of the drinks I feature on my instagram as well as at the bars I have worked and created menus for. By no means are these absolutely necessary, just suggestions that can help you design better cocktails at home.
Vitamix A2300 Ascent Series Smart Blender 64 oz.
Okay so this isn’t your everyday run of the mill blender, in fact this isn’t the blender for a beginner. What this blender is, is a work horse. I first purchased my Vitamix on a whim, I had enough of the other blender I had at home and I was beginning to really do some serious research and development at home. Best decision ever. This blender is powerful, responsive, and can really do the work you need it to. It is important to remember that the motor does produce heat so you should be mindful of the ingredients you’re working with and whether they’re heat sensitive. If you work quickly the temperature difference should be negligible. I rip water and sugar in the blender to make basic syrups and set it and work on other projects while this does the work for me. This is an expensive blender, but this is the last blender you will ever need. Click on image to get yours.
Cuisinart SG-10 Electric Spice-and-Nut Grinder
I am not a fan of Cuisinart, but when it comes to Grinders I make an exception for this one. First I should start by telling you about the cons, this grinder tends to get hot and make whatever spices you’re working with slightly humid. Compared to other grinders this issue isn’t as egregious as others, and if you work in small bursts you can manage the temperature well. Everything else are pros, for a small piece of machinery it’s really powerful. It works through nutmeg like a dream and clean up is quite easy. Now if you have yourself a Vitamix like the one above, you can use that, but personally I rather keep those blade as sharp as possible at all times and rather invest in something designed to take on tough jobs like grinding spices and nuts. And honestly, fresh ground spices make a world of difference. Also, let’s not forget this is killer at grinding coffee, and if you haven’t been grinding your coffee in the morning you’re seriously missing out. Click on the image to start having fresh ground spices and coffee.
Foodsaver FSFSSL2244-00 V2244 Machine for Food Preservation
Want to make Oleo Sacchrum? You need a vac sealer to speed up the process and free your hands to work on other projects. Vac sealers like the Foodsaver above are the counter top little brother to the commercial machines, and although it lacks power and speed, it makes up for ease of use and never needing to change oil (commercial vac machines require oil changes). I have used this vac sealer for everything from syrup infusions to fermentation. If you are curious to explore those techniques definitely pick one up. Click on the image above to get experimenting!
My Bartending Bag
The following items are exactly what I carry with me to work every shift. I have had these tools for years and although some come and go in the rotation the following is the core tools I feel are essential to make my night run smoothly. I will also list the tools that I have used that make their way into the rotation for special events, competitions or new menu drops. This list serves as a guide for a working bartool set up.
Hershel Settlement Backpack
Backpacks come in all forms, and you can get fancy backpacks or cheap ones, but you definitely want to pick up a backpack that will last you a lifetime and can take the abuse of commuting, slashes of liquid, getting tossed behind the bar and simply lugging around your gear. You also should find yourself a backpack that’s comfortable and being stylish doesn’t hurt. Here I suggest Hershel Supply Settlement Backpack, it’s tough, I’ve had mine for 5 years now and it has survived some serious hard work. You don’t have to use Herhsel, but it will keep you organized to carry a backpack.
Cocktail Kingdom Barware Roll-Up
Since the first release of the Barware Roll Up by Cocktail Kingdom years ago, the market has seen an influx of new designs and providers. Many actually copy this exact design. This is the bar tool roll up I use and recommend, It’s suited just right for the gear I carry. The Barware Roll Up now comes with tools to built your kit. Check it out!
Wusthof Classic Paring Knife
You need a knife. Nothing is worse than needing a knife and having to run to the kitchen and get the weird dull knife everyone neglects, so you can cut limes and look down to see you’ve butchered them into a messy uneven shamble. You need a knife. There are a lot of knives online, many are super expensive, and many are quite cheap. I’ll put it to you this way, you need something reliable and that will hold an edge between sharpenings. Wusthof is a brand I trust wholly, although currently I am using a japanese knife, I first started with this classic Wusthof paring knife, and for many years it never let me down.
Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peeler
These peelers have both saved my life and ruined it. Let me explain. Kuhn Rikon peelers come out of the package sharp as all hell, ready to get your peels clean and into a drink, but look up for a second or lose focus for a moment and whoops, there goes your finger tip. So yes, these are worth it, plus they’re cheap enough to be easily replaced. Just be careful you don’t lose your finger. Kuhn Rikon also makes a stainless steel peeler which is more environmentally friendly, you know since you don’t have to throw out the cheaper versions. My work around with the plastic ones is to always rinse them after use and make sure I wipe the blades with a damp towel to remove any debis, this should maintain the longevity of your peeler!
Weighted Shaking Tins
I carry three pairs of Shaking Tins in my bag at all time, during service I use two and the third is there for back up in case things get a little dicey and I need more space to work. I have been using Cocktail Kingdom’s Shaking Tins for a while now and honestly they feel great to work with. I don’t have huge hands and these fit comfortably. I have worked with different style of shakers and different makers, but by far these are the most reliable and sturdy. You can get these in rose gold, gold and brass, but frankly if you plan to use these tins often, just get them in stainless steel, the coating doesn’t last and I for one really dislike the appearance of chipped paint on my tools.
Mixing Glass / Mixing Tin
There’s different ways to approach mixing glasses. You can get yourself a beautiful Mixing Glass and use it without any difficulty, but the downside is the thermal exchange is high so you drink will take a little longer to cool unless you keep the glass frozen. Mixing Tins are great conductors of heat so they will cool down real fast, but they lack the look that glass has. I’ve used both and I love them for differently applications. If you don’t want to use either, you can always use the small shaker half and mix you drink in there, downside is that you don’t have the wide base to work on like the mixing glass/tin. My personal preference is a mixing tin, because you can avoid one major disaster; glass breakage. Of course there is a sleeve to protect your mixing glass. If you’re making drinks at home for friends and family then go all out and get yourself a mixing glass, after all, it does look beautiful.
Get yourself a bar spoon, I have three bar spoons in my bag right now. Bar spoons can be a helpful tool to not only stir your drinks, but also to measure out a teaspoon (approximate) and to gently muddle fruit and herbs. I am particularly fond of the Teardrop barspoon, there are other designs which all have a unique function. From a trident to grab olives and cherries, to a shoehorn to snuggle your ice into your glass. Stirring requires a little effort to get it just right, and it does take a little bit of time to get that rhythm, if you don’t want to spring for the spoon just yet you can always use a chopstick or metal straw, it’ll get the job done at home!
Jiggers are important. Let me say it again, Jiggers are important. To be precise, you need tools to aide in that precision. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about speed pouring, but that requires a level of mastery that seldom find and even then, you’re still human. So just use a jigger, it’ll make your life easier. So I have a few Jiggers I use at home and at work. I’m fond of the japanese style jiggers, 2oz. / 1oz. markings, and 3/4 oz. 1/2 oz. markings, but I also have become a big fan of jiggers in ml. Metric is where it’s at. I use 60 ml / 30 ml, and 50 ml / 25 ml. If you wanna get fancy we can talk about double jiggering, but for now I’ll just tell you that I recommend getting two large jiggers and one smaller jigger, it should do everything you need, it’s exactly what I carry with me to work.
Why am I telling you to get Measuring Spoons? Measuring a tsp. of liquid is sometimes annoying to eye ball, although very close about half a 1/4 oz, do you really wanna be that imprecise? I don’t. Get the spoons, make you life easier. Also, you’ve now opened up a new set of measurements which means new ideas to test out! All you need is one set.
Fine Mesh strainer
No ice shards! No ice shards! Nothing ruins a drink like ice shards. Okay, maybe not ruin but, a drink has this velvet body once you’ve double strained a shaken drink. I admit, ocassionally I don’t mind ice shards in something like a margarita but, trust me, your guests will appreciate the brightness of your drink once you’ve double strained it. Usually, I would tell you to get yourself the Cocktail Kingdom brand and for at home it’ll be great, but if you’re behind the stick frequently then you need something a little more heavy duty and I’ve found that Bar Fly makes theirs slightly more weighty and thus far has yet to break. At all times I have three fine mesh strainers in my tool kit.
Okay so here’s the deal. Cocktail Kingdom has an amazing Hawthone Strainer, and I have a lot of them, but Bar Fly also has a similar Hawthorne Strainer which so happens to be slightly smaller and slightly more dense which I admire. Whichever you chose they will be your biggest champions. Maybe get one of each and mix it up. I currently carry two Hawthorne Strainers in my bag. Hawthorne Stainers are essential, and if you know how to “close the gate” you can control flow and actually use the eyelets to double pour!
Personally I carry just one Julep Strainer, but it’s more of a hybid strainer. Its designated as a Hawthorne Strainer but in practice I’ve found that it’s best suited to be used as a Julep Strainer for stirred drinks. This strainer by Bar Fly also happens to look really cool and sits right on the lip of your mixing glass or mixing tin. In my opinion much better than using a Traditional Julep Strainer like the one you can find by Cocktail Kingdom.
Small Cutting Board
The amount of times I’ve gone to work a private event or guest shift and not had access to a cutting board are too many to count. Sure you can use the back of a service tray, or even a wooden surface but, that’s not sanitary and we wanna make great drinks right! Great drinks start with working clean. Get yourself a Small Cutting Board to tuck away in your tool bag. Plastic is best, there are rubber cutting mats that are amazing! but for the purposes of simple at home bar set up or something to take on the go to work, a small plastic cutting board will do the trick. Plus they’re so much easier to clean, just toss in a dishwasher and you’re done.
Three Prong Ice Pick
A Three Prong Ice Pick is just right for breaking down block ice. I’ve used other ice picks to various degrees of success but the most comfortable and easiest to use has been the Three Prong Ice Pick. There is the standard single needle and the five prong, but I feel there is better control with this design. A word of caution, these are very dangerous and you can hurt yourself very quickly, when using an ice pick be sure to take your time, and never take your eyes away from what you’re doing. There are Cut Resistant knife gloves available online if you feel the need.
I always have a Microplane with me. From zesting citrus or working on cinnamon this is perfect for those tasks.
You could use a Microplane, you could use a cheese grater, but those are designed much more differently than Nutmeg Graters. Nutmeg Graters are specifically designed to pull away from the nutmeg to create a fine powder, like the teeth of a tartigrade. This tool is a great addition to any bar set up. I shouldn’t forget to mention that it comes with neat storage for a piece of whole nutmeg. May your punch bowl be forever flowing!
For a long time people were making fun of bartenders for using tweezers to garnish their drinks, and admittedly I was one of those people. Until I picked up a pair, and it’s made my life easier. Especially in today’s climate we have to make certain we are safe and sanitary at all times. Plus it does look cool to have Offset Tweezers.