The best bar tools
Outfit your home bar with this master's-level hooch.
Mon Mar 8 2010
Once a cocktail shaker and a bottle of Angostura would do for the respectable home bar. Now, there are rare bitters and meticulously engineered spoons to aspire to. We have Greg Boehm to thank for that. The publisher moonlights as the country’s most respected peddler of barware at his site, cocktailkingdom.com. He hand-picked much of the inventory from Japan, where the art of mixing drinks has been a national pastime for decades. “These tools are made with precision in mind; there’s less room for error,” he says. Boehm, 40, first gained notice in drink circles for his 2,800-strong library of vintage cocktail books—he also publishes reproductions. We asked him to guide us through his favorite merch.
The Jerry Thomas Bitters ($15.95)—“taken from an 1860s formula,” says Boehm— are a great match for the recipes in the Bon Vivant’s Companion. The other bottle contains Boker’s bitters ($21.95). Use them in classic drinks like a Manhattan.
Yarai bitters bottle
This crystal bitters dispenser ($39.95) is as functional as it is elegant. “When you decant into a bottle like this, you are getting a very accurate and consistent measurement,” Boehm explains.
Stemmed mixing glass
Based on a design by legendary Japanese bartender Kazuo Uyeda, this glass ($79.95) is ideal for keeping stirred drinks cold. “The stem allows you to not touch the glass and warm [its contents] with your hand,” says Boehm.
Trident bar spoon
This bar-spoon/garnish-pick hybrid ($16.95) is “a Japanese bartending icon,” says Boehm. The coiled handle allows for a strong grip, and the bent base helps get beneath the ice when stirring, resulting in a colder, more evenly mixed drink.
This sweetening agent, thickened with gum arabic, gives drinks a silky texture. “Gomme syrup really hearkens back to the golden age of cocktails, in the 1890s,” says Boehm. Unlike its cousin, simple syrup, making gomme from scratch is difficult to accomplish in a home kitchen. Try this version ($16.95) from Scrappy’s, a Seattle producer.
Pitchfork ice pick
This handsome pick ($18.95) is used for carving ice. Freezer-tray cubes may do for your Coke, but for cocktails, larger pieces are key—they melt slowly and don’t overdilute the drink. To create carvable blocks of ice, fill a large plastic vessel with water, then freeze and unmold it. Score the block with a chef’s knife and knock away large chunks.
Boehm has reprinted about 15 vintage cocktail books, but these three are a good starting point. He recomends Jerry Thomas’s 1862 edition of Bartender’s Guide: How to Mix Drinks: A Bon Vivant’s Companion ($29.95), Recipes for Mixed Drinks by Hugo R. Ensslin ($19.95) and World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them ($19.95) by William Boothby.
The Meehan bar-tools roll-up
Designed by Jim Meehan of PDT, this leather sack ($150)—for spoons, ice picks, etc.—is to bar geeks what a knife bag is to chefs. “If a slot’s empty, you know something’s missing,” says Boehm.