Well, here we are, stuck at home again. I guess it’s back to making drinks at home again, huh?
Well, since we’ve already covered what sorts of spirits, liqueurs, and syrups you should have in your home bar, let us now talk about the sort of tools you need to recreate your favourite cocktails at home.
Now, before we get into the sorts of bar tools that are out there, it should be pointed out that you don’t HAVE to get these tools for your home, as there are plenty of utensils in your kitchen that can be used for the same purpose. For instance, a cookie jar can be used as a cocktail shaker, baking measuring spoons can replace jiggers, a chopstick can stir a drink just as well as a fancy bar spoon... well, you get the picture.
However, while these replacements will get your drink made, they don’t offer the same experience as using some proper bar tools.
The 4 Barmen, a Malaysian startup that specialises in making good quality and affordable bar tools.“We feel that having the right tools will give you more joy and better results in what you are making, ” says Nathan Pinto, co-founder of
“Sure, you can mix cocktails using a water jug at home, however, with a proper cocktail shaker, you have better control when mixing and shaking drinks with finesse.
“Working with ‘make-do’ tools will get the job done, but using proper tools, the whole experience will be exceptionally better and becomes more fun. The results also taste and look better, ” Pinto adds.
The 4 Barmen was formed when the four founders – who are cocktail enthusiasts, but not professional bartenders – realised that the options for bar tools in the Malaysian market were limited. Hence, they decided to take matters into their own hands and set up a store offering high quality bar tools and glassware at a reasonable price, with more elegant finishes, in order to inspire Malaysians to create more cocktails at home. Their store includes three levels of Starter kits suitable for home bartenders, depending on the skill level of the user.
The primary function of a shaker is to mix, chill, aerate, and dilute a cocktail. There are two main types of shakers that are commonly used in bars – the Cobbler and the Boston.
The main difference between the two is obviously the shape and size. Also known as a three-piece shaker, the Cobbler is the one that looks like a little metal bottle, while the larger Boston shaker is commonly made up of two large vessels, usually made of metal, though some are a combination of metal and glass vessels.
“A Cobbler shaker generally fits one or two drinks depending on volume, while a Boston can accommodate three to four, ” Chong says.
“The Boston shaker is also more efficient in making drinks that have solid items like fruit, herbs and spices as well as well drinks that call for cream or dairy. The space in the shaker eases the frothing capability.”
According to him, the Boston shaker is also more versatile as open vessels are easier and faster to clean, so a Boston Shaker wins on hygiene.
The cobbler shaker, on the other hand, has an in-built strainer at the top and so is favourable for cocktails that don't call for any fresh herbs, purees or pulp.
With a distinctive hourglass shape, the jigger is a bartenders' measuring tool.
“Just like baking, accuracy is required to create balanced cocktails by respecting the proportions a recipe calls for. It's far faster and more efficient than using a scale, though a scale would win at point accuracy, ” says Chong.
A mixing glass is used to stir a cocktail rather than shake it, as this allows you to maintain better control over the amount of dilution, and also maintain the texture and viscosity of the drink better.
Sure, you can just use a normal glass or a jar to mix drinks, but many bartenders tend to use specially crafted mixing glasses. This is not just for the aesthetics – some professional mixing glasses, like the Yarai mixing glass (named after the Japanese diamond pattern etched on the outside) are made with a heavy base, uses thicker glass, has a spout at the top for easy pouring, and the pattern at the side makes it easier to hold while using.
A spoon is just a spoon, right? Well, not when it’s a bar spoon. “While its primary function is for stirring cocktails, It can also be used to measure smaller quantities instead of using a jigger, as a bar spoon usually measures three to four millilitres of liquid, ” says Chong.
A bar spoon can also be used for layering spirits on top of one another, either by pouring the spirit over the underside of the spoon, or by using the spiral stem.
Some bar spoons also either come with a fork on the other end (which can be used for skewering garnishes or squeezing citrus directly from fruit wedges), or a muddler. Which brings us to...
The muddler is used to crush fruits, herbs or spices to extract its flavour properties. The size of the muddler doesn't matter, though a larger one usually requires less effort.
Bartenders commonly use two types of strainers – Hawthorne strainers and conventional mesh strainers.
A Hawthorne strainer is usually paired with a Boston shaker to hold muddled items and ice, as the ice shouldn't be reused once a drink is made. It commonly comes with prongs that sit at the lip of the shaker.
"A Hawthorne Strainer with no prongs serves the same purpose but is very useful for bartenders to use the ‘throw’ technique," says Chong. "The throw technique allows for a slower dilution rate than shaking and more aeration than stirring yielding a different end result to a cocktail."
According to Chong, most of the time, a normal mesh strainer would be sufficient for straining your drinks, but there are times when you need to ‘fine strain’ it as well.
Fine straining means using both a Hawthorne Strainer AND a mesh strainer together in order to effectively remove any smaller particles that a Hawthorne can't hold back. It is also used to ensure a nice smooth froth/foam should the cocktail need it.
A bar blade is a bottle opener that's meant for high volume bars where bottled drinks like beer are served a lot, according to Chong.
“Its length usually causes the blade protrude from a bartender's pocket for easy access and with a long blade it creates a better fulcrum making it easier to open the caps. The long blade also allows bartenders to do tricks/flair in hopes to earn some tips!” he says.
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Michael Cheang used to shake cocktails using a plastic cookie jar. Now he has a proper shaker and is not afraid to use it. Follow him on Facebook (fb.com/mytipsyturvy), Instagram (@MyTipsyTurvy) or Twitter (@MichaelCheang).