Tools of the trade

December 25, 2015 10:00 AM

As with most areas of interest considered a craft, the tools of the trade can often separate a professional from a novice. While there are many substitutes or alternatives that can be used in a pinch, having the right bar tools will make creating cocktails from recipe or scratch not only easier, but more fun. In the past, many of the easily available cocktails tools were quite poor, but also quite industrial. Modern variations have become not only easier to use, but much more pleasing to the eye. And with the gift giving season upon us, they can make an elevated host gift at your next cocktail or dinner party. Perhaps you’ll find something to add to your wish list. Here is my list of essentials. Feel free to collect them all.

The jigger

While a tablespoon measure can double for half an ounce in a pinch, a good jigger is a cocktail enthusiast’s right hand for ensuring proper balance in any cocktail. This jigger, made in Japan, is wonderfully efficient, measuring precise amounts all in one beautifully crafted item.

The mixing glass

Although technically a pint glass can do the trick, a proper mixing glass doubles as a work of art on any cart or cabinet. This mixing glass is striking and assigning it to mix only Martinis creates a special occasion every time it is used.

The spoon

A teaspoon, a straw, your finger, the cocktail spoon is perhaps the least necessary tool, but the truth is that anyone who owns a great cocktail spoon is immediately considered serious about their drink. And that’s ok with me. To use, place the long part of the spoon between your middle and ring finger and stir. This can take some practice but is like dancing around your cocktail once mastered.

The ice cube tray

The rise of the old-fashioned cocktail is partly to blame for the rise of the art of fine ice. Or is it the other way around? Either way, most of us can agree that a large chunk of ice is a nice touch. While your freezer is unlikely to produce “fine” ice, an ice cube tray that produces large cubes will at least keep your Negroni colder longer and with less dilution. 

The citrus extractor

While liquor has no expiration date, the one item in your cocktail that absolutely must be fresh is citrus. Long ago were the days of your Grandmother’s citrus reamer where elbow grease was praised. Today, pick up a citrus press and squeeze about half an ounce of juice from every lime half in seconds. Pick up the medium sized yellow presses intended for lemons. They’ll fit the average lemon but also squeeze limes perfectly.

The book

There are thousands of cocktail books these days and a few that are essential. My favorite of late is called “The Bar Book”, by Jeffrey Mergenthaler of Portland. Perhaps for the slightly geekier and definitely up to speed for talented working bartenders, it is a fine read for a home enthusiast and anyone wanting to know specifically why and how. The book includes recipes but also tips and tricks for creating a perfectly balanced cocktail. 

About the Author

Hillary Choo is an award-winning mixologist, brand ambassador and former bartender. Hillary has received multiple recognitions, most recently Top Ten Mixologists in Miami by The Miami New Times in 2013 and Bartender of the Year Miami by Eater. Hillary is Portfolio Ambassador Miami for Bacardi USA. Follow Instagram at HillaryChoo. @ohillaryo