Guide: Essential Barware
On Friday, the Klaremont team went to Graffiti to refresh our knowledge of basic bar equipment with local barman Jimmy Greenhalgh. Here is what we found out about the essentials: muddlers, pourers, mixing spoons and strainers.
Used to get the juice out of fruits and the flavour our of mint and other botanical ingredients, this pestle-like tool is especially useful when preparing drinks like the Mojito and Caipirinha. Muddlers can take a number of shapes and are made from a variety of materials. Because wooden muddlers are difficult to clean and can become saturated with fruit juice, they can quickly become mouldy. Jimmy prefers this 25cm Eco-plastic muddler, but our favourite is this 19cm steel muddler with a silicone head. If you are going to muddle in the glass itself, make sure it is properly toughened (like the Cyclone range) so that it doesn't chip or break from the stress.
Pourers are designed to deliver consistent flow rate, which allows bartenders to judge how much alcohol has been poured by counting time in their heads. This in turn helps to keep service flowing consistently. The industry standard pourer for spirits and liquors is this medium tapor, but for thick juices and syrups, a fast-pourer is a good idea.
Another option is an optic measure. Optic measures are more precise, but slower. This is great for stock control, particularly when there are many people working behind the bar, but for a bar like Graffiti, where there are a few bartenders serving many customers, a pourer is the more practical option.
Mixing spoons are crucial for mixing drinks like Martinis or Manhattans. They can also be used for layering drinks, that is, floating one liquor on top of another. Jimmy explained that while a mixing spoon will help you layer drinks, you cant simply float anything you want. The order of the layers themselves are determined by the “specific gravity” of the liquor, which basically comes down to how much sugar is in each layer (a more complete explanation of the science is available here).
So, what makes a good bar spoon? For Jimmy, its this 5ml Bonzer mixing spoon, because it is straight and can also be used to measure. In addition, the head of the Bonzer spoon is smaller so it can get amongst the ingredients without getting stuck. A cheaper option is this stainless steel mixing spoon. Jimmy warned us against muddling with a mixing spoon – they are not really strong enough and can easily get bent or broken, use a dedicated muddler instead.
There are two basic types of strainers, hawthorne strainers and fine strainers. Hawthorne strainers are flat and have prongs. They are used for holding back ice and large chunks fruit in a cocktail shaker. Fine strainers, which basically look like tea strainers, are used for double straining - to catch smaller bits of fruit which make it past the Hawthorne. This creates a smoother drink, although Jimmy tends to think that removing everything makes the drink less tasty. As for which ones to get we recommend this steel 4-prong hawthorne because the extra prongs make it easier to use. For fine strainers, this fine mesh strainer is the standard. However, if your hands are big enough, Jimmy showed us a neat trick where you can hold your shaker, hawthorne, and fine strainer in one hand. In that case, you will want a smaller strainer, like this small bowl tea strainer – just be sure to practice at home first!
After our training session, everyone was feeling a little thirsty. Jimmy was kind enough to mix us some delicious Mojitos. Thanks to Jimmy and the team at Graffiti for hosting our training session!
Essential bar equipment from Klaremont