Pretty in drink
Leave the whites to the chefs-the mixologist is the food world's fashion icon of the moment. Here's what it takes to be a cocktail geek...or just look like one.
Wed Mar 19 2008
Toby Maloney, the beverage director at Rusty Knot, shows off his bag of bartender tools.
Photograph: Beth Levendis
This file-like utensil is used to easily extract zest, the essential-oil-packed peel, from a range of citrus fruits.
These two peelers have very different applications—number 2 is used to cut wide swatches of pithless citrus zest for twists. Number 5, meanwhile, is primarily for coring fruits.
Maloney took these five spoon-straw hybrids from Milk and Honey when he worked there in 2000. "They're a touchstone," he says. " I still carry them with me."
Maloney uses this Henckel blade to cut garnishes, including "horse's necks"—long, narrow spirals sliced from a whole lemon.
See number 2.
Like much of Maloney's gear, this Wusthof channel knife is intended for citrus. Dragging the instrument over the surface of an orange or lemon will produce a rope of zest fortified with a small amount of pith.
Maloney prefers a flat bottle opener (called a "flattie"), explaining that thicker versions of the tool can rip the head off of a beer bottle if it's opened too rapidly in a fast-paced bar setting. The ring on the opposite end of the opener helps him find and remove it easily from his pocket.
Though the two-piece "Boston" shaker is the standard among serious bartenders (three-piece "cobbler" shakers, usually outfitted with inefficient top-pouring strainers, are considered amateur), most agree that it's difficult to find a good one on the market. As a result, shakers like the ones seen here are improvised: Maloney uses two tin canisters (the larger ones are Wincow brand, the smaller ones are Johnson & Row), as opposed to the standard tin-and-glass combination, because of their more manageable weight.
The two basic straining tools are the scoop-shaped julep strainer (12), often used for stirred cocktails, and the Hawthorne (9), distinguishable by its coil. Maloney advises to look for Hawthornes with extremely tight coils to "mitigate your gate," or control the amount of ice that gets through the strainer.
As a unit of measurement, a jigger refers to 1.5 fluid ounces, and as such, the standard format of this hourglass-shaped tool, used to precisely measure the amount of liquor in a drink, features a 1-ounce cone on one side and a 1.5-ounce cone on the other. Maloney's, however, is a less traditional 2- and 1-ounce version that offers more measurement flexibility (and, with any luck, a more potent tipple).
Mortar and pestle
Home-blended bitters are to the cocktail maven what special salts are to the exacting foodie. Maloney uses this metal mortar and pestle (11) to grind herbs and spices into homebrewed concoctions. The droppers (16) contain his potions—fall, winter, spring and summer blends, as well as a spicy "hellfire" mix based on a recipe from Charles H. Baker, author of The Gentleman's Companion.
See number 9.
The thickness of this bar spoon makes it three times heavier than a standard version—a helpful feature when cracking ice. The spiraled handle is designed to spin smoothly between a barkeep's fingers when stirring a drink.
Maloney uses these plastic funnels to decant sugar, salt, alcohol or other liquids between containers.
"This is for personal use," Maloney says of this small flask loaded with Matusalem rum, a spirit made in the Dominican Republic by Cuban producers.
See number 11.