Like any craft, bartending requires certain tools to do the job right. There are plenty of cool gadgets and delicate tools like smoke infusers or garnish tweezers that a bartender can use to elevate their craft. But there are some tools that you just flat out need behind the bar, otherwise you're screwed and service will suffer.
We'll set aside atomizers for misting drinks and focus instead on the most important bar tools that are absolute necessities behind the bar.
The right tools build success
Can you imagine Michaelangelo without a chisel? The Wright brothers without a propeller? Jon Taffer without anger? All masters use tools to help them achieve success. Behind the bar, it's no different.
If you're a bartender, then you should know that without the right tools, a bar shift can become chaos. Being toolless will make your job 10x more difficult. And why would you want to do that to yourself? It's not smart.
1. Cocktail Jiggers: An essential tool for the measured bartender
The cocktail resurgence brought more than craft ice cubes and bartenders with pizza slice tattoos. It has also helped make the jigger a common sight on bar rails across the U.S. While unsexy, the jigger is essential for any bartender worth their margarita salt.
A tool for measuring ingredient portions in cocktails and drinks, the jigger is more than just practical. It also looks great behind the bar. Balanced and metallic, the hourglass-like shape of a jigger just looks great.
When wielded well by a bartender mixing a 5-touch cocktail, a jigger looks like an extension of the hand, presenting a cool display of technical precision that looks more difficult than it is.
The jigger is important for a few reasons other than look:
- Reduces over pouring
- Cuts back on waste and mistakes behind the bar
- Maintains consistency across drinks despite bartender
- Assists with balanced cocktails
- Keeps service running smooth
2. Bar Towels: An essential tool for the tidy bartender
Another unsexy but essential tool behind the bar: The bar towel. Sure it's just laundry. But when you're behind the bar and you tuck the bartowel in your belt loop, it's game on.
It's like Thanos putting that final stone into the Infinity Gauntlet. You're in control. The universe is yours to dominate when you've got your bar towel in tow. Just don't forget to toss it in the linen bin before you clock out otherwise you'll be wearing a tail to your after hours drinking spot.
It's important to have a hefty stack of bar towels strategically placed around the bar. It keeps things clean. It helps you dry your hands. If a drink spills and you quickly pull your bar towel out to mop up it up, you'll be a hero to customer and co-worker alike. Need to make a whiskey smash? Toss some ice in a clean towel and smash it with the bottom of a cocktail shaker to make crushed ice.
They say that cleanliness is next to godliness. Even Jesus had important linen cloth. Keeping bar towels well stocked behind the bar should be considered sacrosanct.
3. Patience: An essential tool for the mindful bartender
Working a bar is flat out stressful. It's a specific, acute type of stress brought on the demands of time. You must be quick. You must be able to multitask. You must accept interruption. You must work efficiently. And you're subject to the whims of a sometimes inconsiderate and demanding (intoxicated) public.
Bartendinf is a bit like juggling with molotov cocktails. If you slip up, the whole thing can go up in flames.
This is why patience is key when behind the bar. Your attitude can dictate how well you work and how a shift goes. If you're impatient–with guests, wco-workers, or yourself–then you'll continually be frustrated behind the bar. This will hurt service. It will hurt your tips. And it will hurt your job prospects in an industry that relies on recommendations and networking.
Be patient. Unlike other bar tools, this is one you'll have to forge yourself. But patience can be practiced and learned.
4. Bar Spoon: An essential tool for the stir crazy bartender
Okay, back to physical tools. The bar spoon, like the jigger, has come back into fashion behind bars with the revival of classic cocktails like old fashioneds and European imports like the negroni.
It's important to have a bar spoon on hand so you can properly make spirit-centric drinks. You don't want to look like an outer-borough rube when a big city slicker orders a manhattan from you.
But the bar spoon is helpful for more than just cocktails. A bar spoon can help you avoid sticky situations by scooping soaked cherries from their sticky bath to garnish that manhattan or avoid serving drinks with martini fingers by pulling olives from their brine for you. Or you can scoop out an ice cube or two if you over ice a drink.
They also look pretty cool. I once brought my own cocktail spoon into a dive bar when just starting to work there. A veteran bartender called it a wizard spoon and I still cherish the complement despite it being thrown out as an insult.
5. Fine Strainer: An essential tool for the essential bartender
Finally on our list of the most essential bar tools is the fine strainer. The companion of well crafted shaken martini, the fine strainer sits alongside the jigger and bar spoon in the holy trinity of modern bartending tools.
Using a strainer adds a touch of care and craft to cocktail making. From sifting ice shards out of a shaken martini, or giving a lift to the foam of an egg white cocktail, a fine strainer adds elegance to most any recipe.
It can also be used to strain out wine or whiskey when a cork breaks into a bottle. The mesh strainer might also be used by a crafty bartender as a large spoon if needing to stock a garnish tray full of olives or dive into a can of bourbon soaked cherries.