Tag Archives: bar

Building Your Humble Home Bar [Part I: Tools]

So you’re ready to take the plunge. You’re going to mix drinks at home. You already make a mean Jack & Coke, but you’re ready to take things up a notch. You’re going to mix cocktails. At home. And you’re going to do it well.

Nothing’s written in stone, and you can get by with improvisation, but these are the basic tools a bartender uses, whether he/she is mixing at home or behind the stick, for money.

1. Jigger. Used for measuring pours of alcohol and mixers. Never seen one before? That’s because you’ve been drinking at clubs and sports bars, my friend. These things ensure accuracy and can be used quickly after a bit of practice. I prefer 1 and 2 oz. cones, though jiggers come in a variety of sizes. Don’t fret if yours doesn’t have demarcated 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 oz. lines. Measure out these volumes with measuring spoons/cups, pour into your jigger and note the lines.

2. Mixing glass. 16 oz. pint glasses work best. This cheap one I grabbed at the discount store has flat edges, making stirring with a bar spoon a bit difficult. Shoot for a round edged, plain ol’ pint glass.

3. Boston Shaker. The king of utility, this guy is faster and more versatile than the three-part cobbler shakers, plus it looks tougher during usage. There’s a bit of a learning curve, so practice with ice and water. Lightly tap to form/break the seal, and make sure you’re exerting enough force to keep the mixing glass firmly enclosed by the shaker. I use a 28 oz. shaker.

4. Bar spoon. This pretentious-looking spoon is quite versatile thanks to its narrow head and twisted shaft (useful for twirling in crushed ice drinks, etc.), and is used primarily for stirring booze, mixers and ice in the mixing glass. Although cheap, these aren’t a must–a long chopstick is the fastest stirrer out there.

5. Juicer. This utilitarian device works for both lemons and limes, but you have a variety of options here, from squeezing with your hands to heavy-duty manual or electric juicers. Just make sure you strain your fruit juice, unless you or your guests really like pulp.

6. Muddler. This wooden muddler is cheap and effective, though a sturdy spoon or a flat-handled bar spoon works too.

7. Conical strainer. Used for straining juices, muddled concoctions, etc. Strainers come in a variety of sizes but this one looks pretty and fits over even the smallest glassware. When straining higher volumes of juices, infusions, etc., use a larger cooking strainer.

8. Fruit peeler. Used for peeling twists, this charming little guy gives you lots of control but can be subbed out for a pairing knife.

9. Julep strainer. This strainer is traditionally used in tandem with a mixing glass in stirred drinks. The Hawthorne strainer fits your mixing glass just fine, but unlike the Hawthorne, this guy doubles as an ice scoop. Muhaha.

10. Hawthorne strainer. Named after the inventor, not the author. This amazing tool just works, and they start cheap.

11. Pairing knife. Any somewhat sharp knife will do, large or small–you just might have to adjust your technique. Used for cutting twists and for slicing fruit.

12. Waiter’s corkscrew. From popping beer bottles to cutting packaging to unscrewing corks, this guy does it all.

This basic list of barware will bring you a long way. You’ll notice these supplies rest atop a bar mat, a worthwhile expenditure that allows for faster mixing by absorbing spills in the heat of the moment, hence postponing cleanup. Also not pictured here is a cutting board, which you’ll need unless you like chopping fruit in the palm of your hand. In which case you’ll also need a first aid kit.

Stay tuned for Part II: Bottles !!


Why We Give Higher Scores to Cocktail Bars [Editorial: OneDrinkAhead.com]

My editorial on the added value of cocktail bars was released on OneDrinkAhead.com. Read it!

“Tired of hearing the words “speakeasy” and “mixologist”? Prohibition ended eighty years ago and you’re a goddamn bartender, so get over yourself! Right? Downtown Manhattan is more rife than ever with these signless, impossible-to-find drinking dens that require Homeland Security clearance levels to enter, and they charge $15 for cocktails containing ingredients you’ve never heard of. And as a result, cocktails at any generic bar with TVs and the word “Tavern” in it cost $12 (Manhattan’s infamous Cocktail Inflation) and contain “home-made” syrups and infused liquors. Why all the fancy names and added ingredients? A well-timed g&t on a hot day is one thing, but this whole cocktail craze has gone too far…


Well, if you really felt that way, chances are you wouldn’t be reading this website. We’ve had our consciousnesses raised by cocktails and what a good cocktail program at a good bar brings to the table, and there’s a reason we seek out mixology focused bars, especially for this website.

Here at ODA we’re all about value, and it’s an idea that isn’t always self-evident. How can we rave about Apotheke, a bar whose cocktails start at $15, in one breath and mention “value” in the next while maintaining any kind of clout? It’s because we know what goes into making those drinks, which are closer to cuisine than they are to quaffables. First off, they’re being made by full-time, lifelong bartenders who washed dishes and barbacked for years in order to get to where they are. Second, those drinks contain a minimum of two ounces of booze, likely more, between base spirit/s, mixers and additives, and likely six to eight ingredients, the syrups, purees and juices laboriously prepared by hand the night before or hours before service by diligent barbacks. Third, there’s a great deal of creativity that goes into each drink, most taking shape after dozens of attempts and tweaks, and the ingenuity that goes into a cocktail program two or three dozen drinks deep like the one at Apotheke is mind-boggling. And fourth (and most importantly), they taste delicious and, perhaps best of all, they get the job done, i.e. three or four of APK’s libations and you’ll be having a rough morning after indeed. Considering that $45 worth of cocktails will set you free of your troubles for a night, that may, in reality, be cheap for a high tolerance drinker when compared to beers and shots (ever paid $8 for a draft beer or $12 for a Patron shot? Of course you have) or how much overpriced wine you can drink while only winding up with a headache. How much did you pay for a glass of that Foghorn Bog Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand? $13? Guess how much the restaurant paid for the bottle? You don’t want to know.

And it’s not just about value, either. The logistics and expertise that go into mixology are much greater than those of wine or beer bars. Our regular readers will know that wine bars are pretty much on the bottom of our pecking order. Highly marked up grape juice with a few slices of cheese and some hard-to-pronounce ham for $50 a head? We’ll stop by Astor Place or Trader Joe’s real quick and throw a small house party for the same price. And though draft beer is delicious and nearly impossible to do at home, the only real logistics go into storing the kegs, keeping them cool and maintaining the taps. $10 after tip for a Guinness? All the bartender did was pull a fucking knob toward his/her face, walk away, come back and do it one more time and serve the damn thing. See where I’m going?

Like it or not, cocktails have been an integral part of the American drinking experience for over one and a half centuries, and punch goes back long before the good ol’ red, white and blue. Ever since mankind discovered the glorious art of distillation, he’s been adding shit to that bathtub moonshine to make it more palatable. If you don’t like it, pay the same price for a neat or rocks pour of your liquor of choice. You’re likely going to end up with less booze, and that’s a shame. Believe you me, here at ODA we drink our fair share of neat spirits, especially brown ones, and we’re huge fans of dive bars. But when it comes to the art of critique, we consider the ambition and execution of a concept when scoring bars, and it’s tough to give that elusive 9.5 or 10 to a bar with no kitchen where the music’s too loud, the drunk female bartenders wish they were somewhere else doing what they actually want to be doing and the most creative thing on the “menu” is the ironically named beer + shot combo.

We embrace the art of the cocktail, and we elevate the proper cocktail bar to a special position. We do so unabashedly. But the bar is very high, and we’ll continue to separate the wheat from the chaff, no matter who’s running the cocktail program or what inflated egos might be hurt in the process (did you read our review of Silver Lining?).

And by doing so we’ll continue to keep you One Drink Ahead.”

source: [OneDrinkAhead.com]

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