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Talk to the Bartender: Tools
Image: Shutterstock / Time Out

15 absolutely essential bar tools, according to bartenders

Jigger? Check! Shaker? Got it. Here's what you need to be a mix master behind the bar

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen

Tools don't make the bartender, but there's no denying that they make life a hell of a lot easier. Whether you're a bartending novice or a total pro, the best bar tools can help you mix, squeeze, strain and pour your way to better cocktails. We tapped some of the world's best bartenders to weigh in on the gadgets they can't live without – and they delivered with a wishlist of essential bar tools plus a few fancy splurges. From jiggers and shakers to juicers and a brûlée torch, these are the bar tools bartenders reach for again and again.

Some quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Thirsty for more insider insight from the world’s best bartenders? You’re in the right place. Talk to the Bartender! is a limited-edition weekly series that taps into the minds of drink pros around the globe. The conversation changes often, and we'll chat with bartenders about everything from underrated cocktails and must-have bottles to top drinking cities.

Essential bar tools

Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Jigger

‘No shade to bartenders who free pour – I can do it, and I am spot-on with my counts – but why add that to your plate? I love using a jigger because it keeps me consistent, even when I am off. Using a jigger ensures that no matter who makes your cocktail, it’s the same every time.’—Keyatta Mincey-Parker, founder of A Sip of Paradise

‘Just like in the patisserie, measuring is key. Sometimes the balance of a drink is a very fine line, and while you can improvise by turning marmalade bottles into cocktail shakers, a jigger is more difficult to do without.’—Tess Posthumus, co-owner of Flying Dutchmen Cocktails  in Amsterdam

Citrus press
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2. Citrus press

‘The citrus press is essential for me. That’s because I will not make a cocktail without fresh citrus juice – none of that store-bought stuff for me. The best cocktails are the ones with fresh ingredients.’—Camille Wilson, founder of The Cocktail Snob

Pen and paper
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3. Pen and paper

‘Every time I put something into a glass for the first time to make a new cocktail, I’ll write it down. Otherwise, I’ll forget it and therefore I can’t keep making consistent drinks. Always record what you do when coming up with new drinks – that’s my policy.’—John Nugent, co-founder of The Diplomat and beverage director of Kyle & Bain in Hong Kong

Hand towel
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Hand towel

‘It keeps your hands, bar top and tables dry as a bone – and it’s a routine start to your shift: You place that towel over your shoulder and you have arrived. One time, I was leant over the bar talking to a patron and an aggravated customer peeled my towel off my shoulder and attempted to strangle someone next to him who pushed in line. The power of a hand towel is a hell of a thing.’—Sabrina Medcalf, general manager of The Duke in Sydney

Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Muddler

‘The muddler is such a wonderful bartending tool. It helps extract the finest flavors and gives us all the pleasure of experiencing the cocktail in so many ways. Plus, it’s not an easy tool to substitute for, making it an important one for me.’—Yangdup Lama, co-owner of Sidecar in New Delhi

Wine opener
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6. Wine opener

‘It can often save your life. I once opened the door of my house with one so I didn't have to sleep outside.’—Yanaida Prado, head bartender for Negresco Hotels in Barcelona

‘My wine key is like my right arm. I use it for so much – opening boxes, pulling that pesky sharp foil off of whisky bottles and cutting blue tape.’—Liz Pearce, lead mixologist of Aba in Chicago

Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Shaker

‘I started my bartending career as a flair bartender, and I still remember trying to use plastic cups because the Boston shakers or flair tins were very rare in the Philippines. The shaker was my first investment as a bartender, and up until now, nothing beats a properly shaken drink – especially when I feel like flipping those tins for flair.’—Adrian Besa, bar manager at MO Bar in Singapore

Bar spoon
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Bar spoon

‘Besides using it to stir your drink, a bar spoon also helps you to stir while fine-straining something into another container and allows you to taste every drink you’re mixing before shaking. It’s even a measuring tool for the customers who ask for less of this or that.’—Yinying Leow, principal bartender of Live Twice in Singapore

‘Without a doubt, it's the bar tool I use the most and the one with most versatility. Depending on its design, a bar spoon can be used to to taste, stir, measure, layer, break ice and macerate – among other things.’—Paulo Gomes, owner and bartender of Monkey Mash and The Red Frog in Lisbon

Hawthorne strainer
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Hawthorne strainer

‘We bartenders can be precious about how to strain drinks depending on what we’re building, but investing in a well-designed Hawthorne strainer with an extra tight coil will generally keep ice chips and debris out of your drinks in one fell swoop.’—Marta Ess, bartender at Dear Friend in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

10. Blender

‘There are a lot of necessities that you absolutely need – like a jigger, shaker, spoon and knife – but if you’ve got all of those, then I'd have to go with a blender. The blender allows me to make quick homemade simple syrups using fresh fruit and herbs that really take cocktails to another creative level.’—Jonathan Kahn, beverage director at Time Out Market Chicago

Brûlée torch
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Brûlée torch

‘I know I'm going to be made fun of, but I’ve gotten a little too attached to my kitchen brûlée torch. I just love adding smoky flavors to cocktails.’—Sam Treadway, co-owner and bar manager of Backbar in Boston

Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Knife

‘A proper, sharp knife is essential. You could make a cocktail without a shaker or a mixing glass, but how do you squeeze a lemon or cut an orange slice without a knife? It’s vital!’—Carlos Aguinsky, co-owner of Tres Monos in Buenos Aires

Spirit pourer
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. Spirit pourer

‘Why? Versatility. You can put a speed pourer on anything and you’ve got yourself a party. Having someone pour something tasty into your mouth while they dance on top of the bar is classic hospitality… isn’t it?’—Austin Power, owner of Accidental Bar in NYC

14. Coravin

‘This handy tool allows you to enjoy a glass of wine without opening the bottle by pushing a needle through the cork and pumping argon gas in to replace the wine. This keeps the wine fresh for longer so you can enjoy a bottle for up to four to six weeks – if you can make the bottle last that long.’—Henna Zinzuwadia, sommelier at Akoko in London

Large-format ice
Photograph: Shutterstock

15. Large-format ice

‘The larger and denser the pieces of ice that a bartender uses while shaking their cocktail, the slower the dilution rate of the cocktail will be, which allows a bartender to shake their drink longer. Shaking a cocktail not only chills, dilutes and incorporates a cocktail, it also aerates your cocktail. While large ice scientifically makes a better-tasting cocktail, let’s be honest, it also makes for a better looking cocktail, which cannot be understated.’—CJ Catalano, beverage manager at Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles

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