We are looking for advice on the top five or six bar tools for someone first setting up a home bar with limited resources but an appreciation for wine and cocktails enjoyed at home. I imagine a corkscrew will be on that list – do you recommend a particular style or brand?
A healthy respect for properly made cocktails and a healthy respect for minimalism – refreshing. Bar gadgets abound. All you really need are a few items in your toolkit.
Waiter’s friend corkscrew: This is the compact model with a pivoting thread in the middle of the handle and swinging lever at one end. Screw the thread into the cork, pivot the handle so that the lever rests on the tip of the bottle neck and pull. It takes some mastering, but it’s the professional’s corkscrew and very affordable.
Cocktail shaker: Get the common three-piece type with a base, an upper portion that acts as a strainer and a cap. Many professionals favour a “Boston shaker,” the two-piece model with a steel base and glass top portion. It’s easy to disassemble with a simple tap of the palm (the three-piece model is more tightly fitted and can be a bit of a pain when you want to unjam the strainer from the base). But with a Boston shaker you need one of those fancy-looking strainers to trap the ice when pouring, and that’s an additional expense as well as more kitchen clutter.
Juicer: Just a simple manual thingy – not an electric model – the one that looks like a saucer with a conical centre portion that bites into a halved citrus fruit. Fresh juice is vital for old classics you’ll want to make over and over, such as the sidecar (brandy, Triple Sec and lemon).
Measure: A simple shot glass will do, but I like the metal model that looks like an hourglass – two cones joined at their tips. One side gives you 1 1/2 ounces while the other measures one ounce.
Bar spoon: Basically a teaspoon with a much longer handle. This lets you gently stir the spirit at the bottom of a tall highball glass to combine with the soda.
Muddler: The classic model resembles a baseball bat, only much smaller. You’ll want one if you like to mash fresh herbs to release oils, as in a mint-flavoured mojito. But you could get by with a bar spoon by mashing the herbs against the side of the glass.
As for the rest, don’t worry. A citrus zester is nice, but a paring knife will do. If you’ve got a decent kitchen grater, you won’t need a special little nutmeg grater for eggnog. Blenders are for overly sweet summer drinks, and such fare suffers from a dubious reputation among many self-respecting barkeeps nowadays. Egg separators are for frothy drinks such as the pisco sour – and for people who cannot decant the white away from the yolk using a cracked eggshell.