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Sure, great spirits and fresh citrus are essential when crafting an excellent cocktail. But don’t discredit bar tools as a crucial part of the cocktail equation. A good shaker, bar spoon, jigger and strainer will make stirring and shaking up a cocktail a breeze.
Who better to recommend the best additions to your bar arsenal than a group of bartenders who have put the following tools to the test over decades of experience behind the stick. From double-sided jiggers to heavy-duty juicers, our industry experts have widdled down their favorites to trick out your home bar and make crafting cocktails much easier. Here are their top picks for the best bar tools to seek out right now.
Best Overall: Cocktail Kingdom Essentials Kit
“My favorite brand for bar tools is Cocktail Kingdom,” advises Ellen Talbot, the lead bartender at Nashville’s Fable Lounge. “They make a gorgeous starter set that includes most tools one would need to make any cocktail they like!”
A perfect gift for the new bartender, this set is packed with everything you need to make classic stirred and shaken cocktails: a seamless 500ml mixing glass, a 33.5cm-long swizzle bar spoon, a double-sided stainless steel jigger, a strainer, and a set of bartender-loved Koriko weighted shaking tins. This kit is a great jumping off point for setting up a bar. Start with these tools, and build on to your arsenal by adding zesters, paring knives, and glassware. Talbot highly recommends Cocktail Kingdom for all her bar tools. “Their specialty tools are absolutely crafted to perfection and they have some fun novelty items too.”
Best Juicer: Sunkist J-1 Commercial Citrus Juicer
“Technically speaking, manually pressing juices with an old-fashioned countertop model is the cleanest, purest way to go, as there is no excess friction or creation of heat in the gentle pressing process. However, increasingly complex cocktail menus and ingredients tend to make squeezing juice to order in this manner really impractical and inefficient,” describes Kyle Kelley of Bia in New York’s Hudson Valley.
“I would say, despite the price tag, to go ahead and buy yourself a Sunkist J-1 Commercial grade citrus juicer. It's incredibly efficient, ergonomic, and damn near indestructible. I have used one almost daily for 8 years with no issues whatsoever. The electric commercial juicer easily pulls fresh juice from oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit: just insert halved citrus into the dome and hit go. “It’s expensive, but cheaper juicers I have used in the past have broken down within months of getting them.”
Best Jigger: HIC Stainless Steel Japanese Jigger
“The Japanese style jigger is so handy while bartending,” describes Juan Fernández, the beverage director at The Ballantyne in Charlotte, N.C. “It has one side that is at capacity two-ounces, then a smaller side at capacity one-ounce. It also has marked lines inside the jigger that go from ½ ounce, ¾ ounce, & even 1.5 ounces. It truly saves so much time and hassle while making cocktails.”
Victor Bautista, the bar manager of Concord Hill in Brooklyn agrees. “I think a jigger, which is a small measuring cup, is a great gift if you are new to making cocktails. They provide an accurate alcohol and other liquid ingredient measurement and it is the easiest way to follow a recipe.”
Read Next: The Best Gifts for a Bartender
Best Strainer: Cocktail Kingdom Koriko Hawthorne Strainer
“My Koriko Hawthorne Strainer is my favorite bar tool,” says Amber Pollock, of Backward Distilling Company in Casper, Wyoming. “Mainly because it has super tight coils to prevent ice pieces from slipping through, plus it fits securely on my tins, and it lasts forever!”
A great strainer easily separates solid from liquid, making sure your shaken or stirred cocktails are chilled to perfection, minus an avalanche of ice cubes or the remnants of your mint muddle. Hawthorne strainers are the most common on the market, with a flat, perforated face and a coil that bends to allow the strainer to fit over glasswares or shakers of any size. The tight coils are adept at straining out egg white, citrus pulp, herbs, and ice cubes.
Best Shaker: Cocktail Kingdom Koriko Shaker
“Koriko’s Weighted Shaking Tins changed my life when I started bartending,” describes Blair Bowman, the general manager of Khora in Cincinnati. “Being able to easily separate my tins on a busy Friday really saved me a few times!” The two tins (large and small) are made with weighted stainless steel, and fit inside each other for a tight, natural seal while shaking. Pick from classic silver or opt for more conversational rose gold, gold or black.
Piero Procida, the food and beverage director at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills seconds this. “Any tools from Cocktail Kingdom have the highest quality and they are the only brand out there that I think looks incredibly sharp and valuable in front of friends or guests. My all-time favorite happens to be the most basic items required to bartend: Koriko shakers. Just incredibly durable and still maintain a good look even with years of use.”
Read Next: Best Cocktail Shakers
Best Mixing Glass: Mofado Crystal Cocktail Mixing Glass
“I recommend a nice stirring glass as a gift because certain specialty and classic cocktails should be stirred and not shaken!” says Gina Buck, a bartender at Brooklyn’s Concord Hill. “A great stirring glass like this one will help elevate your cocktail and make sure that it doesn’t become too watered down.” A mixing glass lets you control the rate of dilution while maintaining the texture of a cocktail. While you can use a pint glass to stir, “These glasses, especially when made of crystal, can be very elegant and look great on a home bar too!” says Buck.
This crystal mixing glass holds 18-ounces of liquid, perfect for making up to three or four cocktails at a time. The elegant cut-crystal design is made from 100% hand-blown, lead-free crystal, with a pour spout for easy straining and serving.
Read Next: The Best Cocktail Glasses
Best Knives: Opinel Kitchen Knives Set
A great knife is just an asset behind the bar as it is in the kitchen. And Opinel has been setting the standard for high-quality knives for over a century. This set includes one of three essential kitchen knives from the cult-status brand: a pantry knife, for peeling and chopping vegetables and fruit, and a vegetable knife with a curved blade and a serrated back edge for scraping clean vegetables.
Also included in the set is a vegetable peeler and a serrated knife: the perfect tool for slicing through citrus peels to make consistently perfect garnishes. All knives are made with stainless steel, rust-proof blades, but pick your choice of handle: there’s a natural beechwood, olive wood, or colored hornbeam wood.
Best Muddlers: Fletchers Mill Muddler
A handy muddler will allow you to mash and crush your way to Caipirinhas, Mojitos, Juleps and more, helping to integrate flavors of spices, herbs, and citrus into a range of cocktails. But poorly-made muddlers can have a range of flaws: painted, stained, or lacquered muddlers can chip, sending shards of muddler into your drink. That’s why bartenders favor a simple wood muddler.
The ergonomically-shaped handle of the Fletchers Mill Muddler is crafted by hand from American hardwood for effortless muddling. At 11-inches long, there is no risk of bruising your knuckles on the side of a tall glass, shaker, or strainer.
Best Peeler: Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler 3-Pack
A great peeler is one of those tools that isn’t top of mind, but if you don’t have one, it will really slow down your service. After all, peelers are a necessity for quickly peeling oranges, lemons, and limes for garnishes. These lightweight peelers pull perfectly straight strips off fruits and vegetables with ease.
This set includes three different types of peelers, perfect for every garnish or size of citrus. Regardless of whether you are left or right-handed, this peeler fits snuggly in any hand. At the end of each blade is a potato eye remover for all your cooking needs. The peelers are made with super-sharp carbon steel blades that stay sharp longer—particularly useful as the acids from citrus peels will quickly break down poor-quality blades. That said, these peelers need to be hand washed.
Read Next: The Best Bar Sets
Best Bottles: Crew Bottle Company
“I just discovered Crew Bottle Company,” explains Chelsea Napper, the bar director at Yūgen in Chicago. “The bottles have the ability to have the bottoms screwed off for easy cleaning, easy infusions, and I love the reusability mostly.” Crew Bottles’ reusable bottles are excellent for storing citrus juice and homemade syrups, either in a professional bar setting or at home.
Dishwasher-friendly, the bottles screw apart for super-easy cleaning at the end of the night. A textured polymer base (that comes in a full range of colors) protects the glass from tough surfaces and increases durability and resilience, particularly in extreme temperatures like chilly fridges or hot dishwashers. “They’re perfect for home bars to create a few syrups or shrubs for all of your favorite cocktails,” says Napper.
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Kate Dingwall is a spirits and wine writer and working sommelier. Her biggest pet peeve is a dull bar knife.