Last year we brought you a two-part series on how to update your home bar, with part one concerning spirits and part two hitting on the topic of important tools and gadgets that you need to make your home bar a fully functioning one. This year, we gave you whole new set of spirits to stock your bar with, but the tools of the bar is an element that doesn't change as often, so we're back with a refresher course on the essentials! These are the tools that any and all bartenders need, whether you're mixing up classic cocktails on a nightly basis, or just enjoying a glass of wine or a beer after work. Check out our favorite tools and gadgets and let us know of any new ones that you have at home!
When it comes to bar tools, it can get a little tricky to define what exactly is needed. What makes a tool a bar tool? The answer to this question can vary based on the types of drinks you hope to serve to your guests. For the most part, these tools are interchangeable based on what you plan on serving. While you may wax nostalgic for the wine key that you’ve had since college, perhaps it’s time to kick it up a notch with something a little more modern. With that, let’s kick it off with the tools for beer and wine service.
Wall-Mounted Bottle Opener: These bottle openers are a revelation to any and all bartenders. If you are a frequent bar-goer like myself, you know that the basic tool you’ll see coming out of most bartenders’ waistbands is a metal bottle opener. You may even have one that hangs off of your keys for easy bottle opening. However, with a wall-mounted bottle opener, the chances of losing that portable bottle opener move to zero. Just nail it into your wall or part of the bar and you have a bottle opener at the ready.
Portable Electric Wine Bottle Opener: Perhaps you’re accustomed to the old-school wine key, where you screw in the corkscrew and then pull the cork out without it breaking in the neck of the bottle and without hurting yourself in the process. With this electric opener, you can open a bottle of wine with ease. It may seem a little fancy for your home bar, but when you aren’t pulling out cork after cork for a party at your house, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that you went electric.
Wine Glass Cleaning Brushes: Unlike your typical water glass, a wine glass has a very defined shape that can make cleaning in the sink with a standard sponge or in a dishwasher much more difficult. With brushes that are specially shaped to get in those awkwardly shaped glasses, the problem is solved!
Portable Wine Cooler: A very popular item on the market right now is the wine refrigerator, which keeps wine at a specific temperature at all times. This is a great product to have, but the fridges are often a bit on the pricey side. How can you achieve the same goal without breaking the bank? A portable wine cooler will keep your bottle chilled without ice and without having to buy a mini-fridge.
Now that we’ve tackled beer and wine, the fun can really start. As delicious as they are when in the glass and ready to drink, cocktails can take a lot of preparation. A stir and shake here, a fizz there, these are elements that will make your cocktails really pop, and that poppage won't occur without the right gadgets.
Cocktail Shaker: A cocktail can’t be shaken without something to shake it in, so a stainless steel cocktail shaker is the first tool that needs to be added to the home bar. There are different styles of shaking you can go with. The mixing glass and pint glass method requires a strainer, or you can get the three-piece shaker that has a metal top with a strainer inside. Your style is your style but I prefer the three-piece shaker, mostly because I find less spillage during shaking. Plus, I don’t need to buy a special strainer for it unless I’m doing a double strain.
Jigger: The jigger versus free pour argument has been going on in the cocktail world for quite some time, with half the crowd believing the jigger is necessary for portion control in a drink and the other half saying that the free pour is perfectly legitimate. Either way you slice it, a jigger is a nice thing to have if you are insistent on consistency each time you make a drink.
Portion Pourers: Just like the argument between jiggers and free pour, there’s a similar argument between free pour and measured pour, which starts before the spirit even reaches the glass. If you do want to measure out your pour without having a jigger as a middle man, get yourself an electronic pourer, which measures the amount of liquid in each pour. After that amount has been released from the bottle, the pourer will automatically close so you cannot pour out anymore until you turn the bottle right side up again.
Muddler: Any fan of drinks which require you to "muddle" fruits or herbs absolutely needs a muddler in his home bar. A regular spoon just won’t do. Get yourself a heavy-duty wooden muddler that will stand up to the acidity of the different fruits you use as well as all the alcohol. There are plastic ones available too, but I don’t find them to be nearly as sturdy.
Cocktail Glass Rimmer: Hope to serve margaritas at your next party? You’ll need to rim the glasses with salt. Nothing is more annoying than having to use your saucers as salt plates. The solution? Get yourself a cocktail glass rimmer, preferably one that has more than one rimmer so you can have a variety of options for glass-rimming. This cuts down on dish clean up and is an incredibly efficient way to perfectly rim your glass each time.
I hope you’ve learned a lot from this two-part series and that your home bar will be well-equipped for the next party you host. Have any other suggestions for updating your home bar? Let us know in the comments section. Cheers!
— Sara Kay, The Spir.it