7 Crucial Tools Every Successful Bartender Must Have

by : Jeremy Sherk

"A man is only as good as his tools" is a phrase I'm sure you've heard before and it applies to bartending as much as anything else. You'll only ever be as good as your tools, so make sure you're not without them. The quality of your tools can make or break your experience behind the bar so it's important you take this lesson seriously.

There are countless bartending tools out there. Will you use them all? No. But there are certain tools that every bartender must have. In this first lesson, we'll be taking a look at those "must-have" tools so pay close attention.

Wine Opener/Corkscrew, Bottle Opener:the best, most versatile wine opener is known as the "waiter's wine opener." It'll always do the job, even on the most difficult and the most stubborn corks. Compare this to many others out there that often break the cork or have you struggling in front of the customer to get the damn thing open.

A waiter's wine opener includes a corkscrew (worm), a sharp blade to cut the seal of the wine and also a bottle opener device if you're desperate for one.
I recommend a "two-level" lever on your opener as well, that's what I personally use. Mine has never failed me in opening a bottle of wine.

Cocktail Shaker: this is the stainless steel thingy you see bartenders pour ingredients into for a martini or shooter and shake vigorously. This is a must-have for all bartenders. A good rule of thumb for cocktails is, the colder it is, the better it tastes.

Why else would bartenders concoct a drink by pouring pre-chilled ingredients into a shaker with ice, shaking like crazy and then serving it in a chilled glass? Because you want every part of the process to be "chilling" to prevent any "warming" of the cocktail.

There are two types of shakers out there:

* Standard Shaker-This is a three-piece stainless steel shaker that has the strainer built into it. I find the Standard Shaker is not as common among professional, working bartenders.

It consists of the shaker tin, lid with strainer and cap. Perhaps it's more complicated design with smaller parts discourages working bartenders from using this more often.

* Boston Shaker-From my experience, the Boston Shaker is actually more standard among professional bartenders. This one is simply a shaker tin with a separate mixing glass that's slightly smaller in size. It's a two-piece device that you simply seal together to shake the cocktail.

The tendency is seal it as tight as you can and proceed to shake, although this is not necessary as you can often seal it too tight, and then not be able to open it when you're done shaking and ready to pour the concoction. If you're ever in this situation, use the edge of the bar and clip the overlapping metal lip (which will always be on the outside, as the glass is always smaller and fits inside) against the edge of the bar.

You can also twist them apart, that will often break the seal too. But avoid all that by fitting them together nice and snug instead of as tight as you can. You can purchase shaker sets in all types of different sizes and styles, but they pretty much fall into one of the two types listed above.

Strainer-Again, you'll find many different types of strainers on the market. But the only kind I've ever used and would want to use is the Hawthorn Strainer. You know, it's that real funny looking stainless steel thing with the handle and the spring coil.

The purpose behind the spring coil on the strainer is so you can fit it into all types of different shaped glasses. So it's a very versatile tool. I should mention that when using a shaker I often do not use a strainer.

I use the Boston Shaker and simply crack a tiny opening in the seal between the two and pour out the concoction "cracked egg" style. If you're more of a visual learner like me, Tom Cruise does this when pouring his "Turquoise Blue" Martini for Gina Gershon in the two floor NYC nightclub in the movie Cocktail.

Coasters-Not every bar uses coasters. But it's a good thing to have. They'll prevent a lot of unnecessary wet spots or "rings" on the bar from moisture off the side of the glass.

I've worked in slower, classier places where using them is mandatory. I've also worked in higher volume nightclubs where you don't use coasters because you're wiping the bar down every five minutes anyway, so why bother?

Bar Towel (Rag)-A fresh, clean set of bar towels is something every bartender needs. In high volume places, the bar is constantly needing a wipe down from spilt drinks, drink rings, sticky shooter glasses, etc. I like to have a minimum of four, strategically placed wet bar towels in my working area at all times.

Jigger/Measuring Glass-If you work in a bar that allows free pouring, you won't be needing this handy tool. But in most regions of North America free pouring is illegal and you're required to use some sort of measuring device, whether it's an automatic or manual device all depends on where you work.

While I'm not a believer in the automatic devices you see nowadays, using a shot glass or jigger (manual device) to measure the amount of alcohol you pour into each drink is what I've always done as a bartender.

Tip Jar-Last, but certainly not least is to have your own tip jar. having one is a must! You're losing tips without one! Have your own, preferably a wine carafe. The tapered neck of a wine carafe means once a tip is in the jar, it's in. You won't have any hands dipping in to swipe your hard earned tips, which can often happen in a busy nightclub.

I hope that you learned what tools you may or may not be missing behind the bar. It is important to have these tools because they increase your efficiency as a bartender, which will bring you more tips.