From Novice to Expert: The Essential Tools Every Bartender Needs

From Novice to Expert: The Essential Tools Every Bartender Needs


If you’ve ever wondered what tools does a bartender need to create those delightful, craft cocktails, then your answer can be found right here. Below is a quick rundown of the essential bar tools:

  1. Cocktail Shaker
  2. Strainer
  3. Jigger
  4. Bar Spoon
  5. Muddler

Bartending isn't just about mixing drinks; it's an art form that requires skill, precision, and the right tools. Whether you're a novice setting up a home bar or an expert mixologist working in a bustling pub, having the proper equipment is crucial.

Using quality bar tools ensures consistency, improves efficiency, and elevates the overall drinking experience for your guests. As Keyatta Mincey-Parker, founder of A Sip of Paradise, wisely says, "I love using a jigger because it keeps me consistent, even when I am off."

This article will guide you from being a novice to an expert, highlighting all the essential tools every bartender should have in their kit. Stay tuned to learn about the various types of shakers, strainers, jiggers, and more, so you can create the perfect cocktail every time.

essential bartender tools infographic - what tools does a bartender need infographic brainstorm-4-items

What Tools Does a Bartender Need?

Cocktail Shakers

A cocktail shaker is a bartender’s best friend. It mixes and chills the drink, creating that perfect blend of flavors. There are several types of shakers to choose from:

  • Boston Shaker: Consists of a metal tin and a mixing glass. It's versatile and offers more control. Many professional bartenders prefer it for its durability and ease of use.
  • Cobbler Shaker: A three-piece shaker with a built-in strainer and cap. It's more user-friendly for beginners but can sometimes get stuck when cold.
  • Parisian Shaker: Similar to the Cobbler but without the built-in strainer. It’s sleek and stylish, often chosen for its aesthetic appeal.
  • Tin-on-Tin Shaker: Uses two metal tins instead of a tin and glass. It’s durable and great for rapid cooling.

Cocktail shakers - what tools does a bartender need


Strainers are essential for ensuring your cocktail is smooth and free from unwanted ice or pulp. Here are the main types:

  • Hawthorn Strainer: Features a metal disk with a spring coil, perfect for straining shaken drinks. It’s adaptable to different glass sizes.
  • Julep Strainer: Looks like a large slotted spoon and is used for stirred cocktails. It holds back ice while allowing the liquid to pour out smoothly.
  • Fine Mesh Strainer: Used alongside a Hawthorn strainer to catch tiny particles, ensuring a silky texture.

Hawthorn strainer - what tools does a bartender need

Measuring Jiggers

Precision is key in cocktail making. Jiggers help measure out spirits and mixers accurately.

  • Stainless Steel Jiggers: Durable and easy to clean. They come in various sizes, usually double-ended with different measurements on each side.
  • Double-ended Jiggers: Offer flexibility with multiple measurement options, ensuring you get the exact amount every time.

Measuring jiggers - what tools does a bartender need

Bar Spoons

Bar spoons are essential for stirring cocktails that require a delicate touch. They come in different styles:

  • Japanese Bar Spoon: Features a long, slim stem with a teardrop-shaped tip for added weight. The other end has a fork for picking garnishes.
  • American Bar Spoon: Has a spoon at one end and a red rubber tip at the other. The twisted handle aids in smooth stirring.
  • European Bar Spoon: Comes with a twisted stem, a spoon at one end, and a disc at the other for muddling.

Bar spoons - what tools does a bartender need


Muddlers are used to mash fruits, herbs, and spices, releasing their flavors into the drink.

  • Wooden Muddlers: Classic and gentle on delicate ingredients, reducing the risk of unwanted flavors. However, they require more care to keep clean.
  • Stainless Steel Muddlers: Durable and easy to clean but can be harsher on ingredients.

Muddlers - what tools does a bartender need

With these tools in your arsenal, you’re well on your way to mastering the art of bartending. Next, let’s explore the essential glassware every bartender needs.

Essential Glassware for Every Bartender

When it comes to bartending, the glass you serve a drink in can be just as important as the drink itself. Let’s break down the must-have glassware for any bartender.

Collins Glass

Collins Glasses are tall and slender, typically holding 10–14 oz of liquid. They’re perfect for long drinks mixed with soda or tonic, like a Tom Collins or Mojito. Their shape helps keep the drink well-mixed and visually appealing.

Collins Glass - what tools does a bartender need

Highball Glass

Highball Glasses are similar to Collins glasses but a bit shorter, holding 8–12 oz. They’re versatile and used for a variety of cocktails like iced tea, Tequila Sunrise, or Rum and Coke.

Highball Glass - what tools does a bartender need

Coupe Glass

The Coupe Glass has a stem and a shallow, broad bowl. It’s ideal for serving cocktails like daiquiris and aviation. It can also double as a champagne glass.

Coupe Glass - what tools does a bartender need

Rocks Glass

Also known as a lowball glass, the Rocks Glass is short and sturdy, holding 6–10 oz of liquid. It’s perfect for serving whiskey neat or cocktails with a few ice cubes, like an Old Fashioned.

Rocks Glass - what tools does a bartender need

Margarita Glass

The Margarita Glass is iconic with its wide, double-curved bowl. It’s specifically designed for margaritas and shrimp cocktails, giving a festive touch to your drinks.

Margarita Glass - what tools does a bartender need

Martini Glass

Featuring a V-shaped bowl, the Martini Glass is essential for serving martinis and other straight-up cocktails like Manhattans. Its design keeps the drink cold without ice.

Martini Glass - what tools does a bartender need

Shot Glass

Shot Glasses are small and sturdy, typically holding 1–1.5 oz of liquid. They’re essential for serving spirits straight up or for measuring ingredients in cocktails.

Shot Glass - what tools does a bartender need

Flute Glass

The Flute Glass is slim and elegant, holding 6–10 oz. It’s perfect for champagne and mimosas, preserving the bubbles and enhancing the drinking experience.

Flute Glass - what tools does a bartender need

Having the right glassware not only enhances the presentation but also the flavor and aroma of your drinks. Next, let’s dive into some advanced bartending tools for the expert mixologist.

Advanced Bartending Tools for the Expert Mixologist

As you advance in your bartending journey, having the right tools can take your skills to the next level. Here, we'll explore some advanced bartending tools that can help you create visually stunning and flavorful cocktails.

Ice Buckets and Tools

Ice Buckets are essential for keeping ice close at hand. They come in various sizes and materials, but a good ice bucket should be durable and easy to clean. For example, an insulated ice bucket keeps ice from melting too quickly, ensuring you have a steady supply for your drinks.

Ice Bucket - what tools does a bartender need

Ice Picks are used to break large blocks of ice into smaller, manageable pieces. This tool is crucial for crafting cocktails that require different ice sizes. For instance, a BarConic® Ice Pick can help you achieve the perfect consistency for a Mint Julep or a classic Old Fashioned.

Flavor Enhancers

Zesters and Peelers

Zesters and Peelers are indispensable for adding a touch of citrus zest to your cocktails, enhancing both flavor and presentation.

  • Microplane: Perfect for finely grating citrus zest. It's easy to use and creates a fine dusting of zest that can be sprinkled on top of cocktails like a Dry Martini or Cosmopolitan.
  • Channel Knife: This tool helps you create long, beautiful twists of citrus peel. These twists are not just for decoration; they also add a burst of essential oils to your drinks. A channel knife is essential for cocktails like the Negroni or Sazerac.

Zester and Peeler - what tools does a bartender need

Salt Rimmers

Salt Rimmers are used to add a flavorful and decorative rim to your glasses. This simple addition can elevate the drinking experience.

  • Salt Rimmer: Perfect for margaritas, ensuring an even coating of salt around the glass rim. This adds a burst of flavor with each sip.
  • Sugar Rimmer: Ideal for cocktails like the Lemon Drop Martini, providing a sweet contrast to the drink's acidity. Look for a rimmer with multi-trays to switch between different flavors easily.

Salt Rimmer - what tools does a bartender need

Bloody Mary Seasonings and Margarita Mixes

Bloody Mary Seasonings and Margarita Mixes are convenient ways to add complex flavors to your cocktails without the need for multiple ingredients.

  • Bloody Mary Seasonings: These seasonings often include a blend of spices, salt, and other flavorings. They can elevate a standard Bloody Mary to a gourmet experience.
  • Margarita Mixes: High-quality mixes can save you time while still delivering a delicious cocktail. These mixes often contain natural ingredients and can be a great base for experimenting with different flavors.

Bloody Mary Seasonings and Margarita Mixes - what tools does a bartender need

By incorporating these advanced tools and flavor enhancers into your bar setup, you'll be able to create more intricate and impressive cocktails. These tools help you control every aspect of your drink, from temperature to presentation, ensuring a top-notch experience for your patrons.

Building Your Home Bar: A Starter Kit

Setting up a home bar can be both fun and rewarding. To get started, you'll need a few essential tools that every bartender relies on. Here’s a quick guide to the basics:

Cocktail Shaker

A cocktail shaker is a must-have for mixing drinks. There are two main types:

  • Boston Shaker: Consists of a metal tin and a mixing glass. It's versatile and preferred by professionals.
  • Cobbler Shaker: Includes a tin, strainer, and cap. It’s user-friendly and great for beginners.

Boston Shaker - what tools does a bartender need


Strainers ensure your cocktails are smooth, free of ice shards and fruit pulp. The two main types are:

  • Hawthorne Strainer: Fits snugly over a Boston shaker and has a metal coil to catch solids.
  • Fine Mesh Strainer: Catches even the tiniest particles for a perfectly clear drink.

Hawthorne Strainer - what tools does a bartender need


A jigger is essential for accurate measurements. It’s a double-ended tool that measures different amounts of liquid:

  • Stainless Steel Jigger: Durable and easy to clean.
  • Double-Ended Jigger: Offers multiple measurement options, usually from ¼ ounce to 1½ ounces.

Bar Spoon

A bar spoon is used for stirring cocktails. Its long handle makes it easy to mix ingredients smoothly:

  • Japanese Bar Spoon: Features a twisted handle for better control.
  • American Bar Spoon: Often has a weighted end for balance.

Bar Spoon - what tools does a bartender need


A muddler is used to crush fruits, herbs, and spices, releasing their flavors into your cocktail:

  • Wooden Muddler: Classic and effective, but requires careful cleaning.
  • Stainless Steel Muddler: Durable and easier to clean.

Wooden Muddler - what tools does a bartender need


The right glassware can elevate your cocktail experience. Here are some essentials:

  • Collins Glass: Tall and narrow, perfect for mixed drinks like a Tom Collins.
  • Highball Glass: Similar to a Collins glass but shorter, ideal for cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Rocks Glass: Short and wide, great for spirits served on the rocks.
  • Martini Glass: Iconic for martinis and other spirit-forward cocktails.
  • Shot Glass: Essential for measuring and serving small quantities of spirits.

Glassware - what tools does a bartender need

By starting with these basic tools, you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of mixology at home. Each tool has its unique purpose, helping you create a variety of cocktails with ease and precision.

Next, we’ll address some frequently asked questions about bartending tools.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bartending Tools

What's the difference between a Boston shaker and a Cobbler shaker?

Boston Shaker: This is the go-to for professional bartenders. It consists of two parts: a metal tin and a glass (or smaller metal tin). To use it, place your ingredients in the metal tin, add ice, and seal it with the glass at an angle. Shake vigorously. To open, tap the side to break the seal. It's fast, holds more liquid, and allows you to see what you're mixing if you use a glass.

Cobbler Shaker: This is more user-friendly for beginners. It’s a three-piece shaker with a built-in strainer and a cap. Simply add your ingredients and ice to the main body, place the lid with the strainer on top, and cap it. Shake well, then remove the cap to pour. It's convenient but sometimes hard to open after shaking.

Key Differences: The Boston shaker is faster and can handle more liquid, making it ideal for busy settings. The Cobbler shaker, with its built-in strainer, is more convenient but can be tricky to open.

How do I choose the right jigger for precise measurements?

Standard Jigger: This classic double-sided measuring tool has different capacities on each end, usually ranging from ¼ oz to 2 oz. It's perfect for precise measurements.

OXO Steel Angled Measuring Jigger: This jigger has a unique angled surface that lets you read measurements from above, which can be more user-friendly. It often includes multiple measurement lines for flexibility.

Considerations: - Precision: Look for jiggers with clear, accurate markings. - Versatility: Multi-line jiggers are great for various recipes. - Ease of Use: Angled jiggers like the OXO model can be easier to use and read.

Using a jigger ensures that no matter who makes your cocktail, it’s the same every time. “I love using a jigger because it keeps me consistent, even when I am off,” says Keyatta Mincey-Parker, founder of A Sip of Paradise.

Can I use regular kitchen spoons instead of bar spoons?

Bar Spoons: These are longer, slimmer, and specifically designed for stirring drinks. They often have a twisted handle that helps create more momentum with less effort when stirring. Some bar spoons also come with additional features, like a fork for garnishes or a flat end for muddling.

Regular Kitchen Spoons: While you can use them in a pinch, they are usually too short and thick, making it harder to stir drinks effectively. They also lack the twisted handle, which helps mix ingredients evenly without splashing.

Why Use Bar Spoons?: Bar spoons offer better control and are designed to reach the bottom of tall glasses, making them essential for proper mixing and layering of cocktails. “Just like in the patisserie, measuring is key,” says Tess Posthumus, co-owner of Flying Dutchmen Cocktails in Amsterdam. source

With these FAQs, you're now better equipped to understand and choose the right bartending tools for your needs. Next, we'll explore the advanced tools that can elevate your mixology game to the next level.


Practice Makes Perfect

The key to becoming a skilled bartender is consistent practice. With regular use, tools like shakers, muddlers, and jiggers become extensions of your hands. The best bartenders are those who have honed their skills through repetition. Even the most experienced mixologists started with the basics.

“Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.” - Malcolm Gladwell

Experimentation is Key

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Use your tools to create new and unique drinks. Play around with different ingredients and techniques. For example, try using a fine mesh strainer to achieve a smoother texture in your cocktails, or a smoking cloche to add a dramatic flair and smoky flavor to your drinks. The more you experiment, the more you'll discover what works and what doesn’t, honing your skills along the way.

Socialmix: Your Partner in Mixology

At socialmix, we understand the importance of having the right bartending tools and equipment. Our curated collection is designed to enhance your bartending experience, making it easier to create memorable drinks. From classic shakers to elegant glassware, we have everything you need to elevate your craft.

Investing in quality tools is an investment in your future as a bartender. It’s about creating a space that’s efficient, welcoming, and equipped to serve up unforgettable moments—one drink at a time.

Bartender Tools - what tools does a bartender need

Cheers to new beginnings, and cheers to socialmix. Let's make every gathering a testament to the art of mixology and the joy of connection.

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