How many times have you looked on in stupefied awe, as a leading London bartender mixes a cocktail at the speed of light? The very best bartenders move in a choreographed blur, blending with one hand and pouring with another before they shake the whole thing together in that chic, professional way that only bartenders can.
But even the most experienced, polished bartenders need the right tools in order to execute those cocktails with their trademark sophisticated precision. They’re as reliant as any of us on the tools at their disposal — even though they might sometimes seem to move with a superhuman speed — and so we asked London’s best bartenders for the tools they can’t mix those delectable cocktails without.
Ali Ali (Bar Manager at Oriole Bar) can't work without his Boston Shaker
If you’ve ever been to Farringdon stape Oriole Bar, you’ll know the cocktails are second to none. The cocktail menu appears in partial map form, with drinkers encouraged to discover the farthest reaches of the globe in their glass. Ever wondered how they make their Cappadocia Julep, or their Finca Filadelphia? Well, Bar Manager Ali Ali — whose passion for design plays a major part in his role, with the creation of bespoke glassware and a focus on rare products and ingredients — shares the tool he just can’t mix without…
Bartending tool of choice: The Shaker: specifically a Cobbler or Boston Shaker.
Why it’s so invaluable: Choosing the right type of shaker when making certain cocktails is essential. The Boston Shaker is used to ‘throw’ the drink from one tin to the other. The ‘throwing’ technique is used to chill and aerate the drink, but doesn’t dilute it as much as the shaking technique. The Cobbler helps to chill the drink really well, and doesn’t allow the ice to move too much inside: therefore the ice doesn’t break and gives less dilution.
Which cocktail it helps most with: I use the Boston Shaker to make a Whisky Sour, because it helps to beat the egg white whilst shaking and chilling the drink at the same time; and I like to use the Cobbler for drinks like a Daiquiri or a Margarita.
YUKIWA Boston Shaker
Ryan Chetiyawardana (Founder of Mr Lyan) has to have a set of scales
Mr Lyan is both the name of his business, and the alternative name that Chetiyawardana is known by. Mr Lyan is behind bars such as Washington D.C.’s Silver Lyan, Amsterdam’s Super Lyan and London’s Lyaness; and Chetiyawardana is behind them all. With a focus on the bar as a hub of creativity, conversation and entertaining, he tailors his drinks to each person he meets; and here’s the tool he just can’t live without.
Bartending tool of choice: It’s a bit of a ‘left field’ choice, but my equipment pick is a set of good scales.
Why it’s so invaluable: Along with a good knife, scales are what make the biggest difference to your drinks. Balance is the key to a great cocktail, and being able to control minor differences allows you to build on the nuances that take a drink from good to great. We have always measured everything by weight to ensure accuracy — particularly when using powerful or weirder ingredients. My go to for these have been coffee scales — they’re quick, accurate and, handily, waterproof! I use Hario scales: both in the bars, and at home!
Which cocktail it helps most with: My go-to use is for drinks I batch up and keep ready. Batching up an Old Fashioned or a Martini to keep in the fridge or freezer is made all the more nuanced by using these scales.
Hario Drip Scale
Elon Soddu (Consultant and Bartender) can't live without his jigger...
As a former Head Mixologist at The Savoy and a former Head Bartender at The Beaufort Bar, you can rest assured that Soddu is a bartender who knows his stuff. He’s now working as a Consultant; and it’s safe to assume that any bars benefitting from his considerable experience and expertise will be much the better for it.
Bartending tool of choice: The tool I can’t live without is my Jigger.
Why it’s so invaluable: There’s nothing better than a cocktail properly measured; and it also provides consistency at your bar, ensuring that any bartender can make a drink in the same way all the time. I do own a collection of Jiggers myself, and I always use them at home when I’m making drinks for my friends. [In fact,] I use this tool to make all cocktails: mostly the 50/25/15ml or 60/30/15ml.
Which cocktail it helps most with: The Martini. You can make Martinis dry, bone dry or wet; and a good Jigger means you can properly measure the amount of liquid you need.
Copper Plated Jigger
...And neither can Tony Pescatori (Bar Manager and Drinks Designer)
If you’ve been to Nightjar (or even if you’ve boldly experimented with making one of their exquisite cocktails at home…), you’ll be familiar with their sublime cocktail masterpieces. It’s one of the sleekest, suavest bars in town — no doubt due to their somewhat secretive, speakeasy-esque character (there’s just something about a secret bar that ensure it positively oozes sophistication) — and Bar Manager Tony Pescatori (also the founder of Electric Bitter) is largely responsible for the bar’s considerable fame in the realm of cocktails. But who knows where he’d be without his most important tool?
Bartending tool of choice: The bar tool I can’t live without is definitely a jigger.
Why it’s so invaluable: It’s a single piece that allows you to easily measure most classic recipes at home and never go wrong. A good 6-measures jigger (like one that’ll allow you to measure 10, 15, 20, 30, 35, and 50ml) paired with diffordsguide Cocktails Made Easy — a great book that [houses] over 500 recipes using 14 key ingredients — is a must for your home bar!
Which cocktail it helps most with: A ‘The Last Word’, [which] needs lots of small measures.
YUKIWA Octagon Measure Cup
Joe Cobbe (Bartender at Liquid Diary) is always equipped with a conical fine strainer
If you haven’t yet heard of Liquid Diary, then you most certainly should have: it’s a (quite literally) world-class bar in Innsbruck, Austria; and you’ll regularly find Joe Cobbe behind the bar, mixing sublime, delectable cocktails with a fantastic range of ingredients — and sharing his considerable expertise while he’s at it.
Bartending tool of choice: My tool of choice is a fine strainer; or, to be more specific, the conical fine strainer.
Why it’s so invaluable: It’s a deep enough strainer that it stops small shards of ice from entering drinks that are served up (served over no ice). This prevents an unwanted feeling of ice hitting your lips, when having a drink such as a Naked and Famous, which is shaken over ice, but intended to be served without. A conical fine strainer ensures that cooling — and, most importantly, dilution — stops when the drink is served.
Which cocktail it helps most with: It works best for shaken drinks served in Nick and Nora glasses (or coupe glasses) such as the Daiquiri, Gimlet or Naked and Famous.
Conical Fine Strainer
Remy Savage can always be found with a digital food thermometer
Described by Design my Night as ‘bartender royalty’, Remy Savage knows his bar equipment like the backs of his (busily cocktail mixing) hands. Having led the teams at The Little Red Door in Paris and famous luxury bar Artesian at The Langham, he founded the delightfully edgy A Bar With Shapes For A Name (the name making it edgy not only in terms of style and personality, but also quite literally), based in Haggerston. And there’s one particular bartending tool that Savage simply can’t live without…
Bartending tool of choice: For me, my favourite tool is a digital food thermometer.
Why it’s so invaluable: Often, when making stirred, strong drinks at home, it’s possible to over-dilute your cocktail or serve it too warm, simply due to not knowing when it’s ready. But with a digital thermometer, you can stir your drink over ice until you see the liquid approach between -3 and -5 degrees. Then, it’s ready!
Which cocktail it helps most with: Dry Martini!
Waterproof Folding Probe Thermometer
Ago Perrone and Giorgio Bargiani (Director of Mixology and Head Mixologist at The Connaught Bar) need: everything
The Connaught Bar is world-famous. The Mayfair establishment has seen the world’s elite flocking through its doors for decades; and together with those sublime surroundings (Irish Cubist art and textured walls with platinum silver leaf will get even the most discerning tongues wagging), that’s predominantly down to those exceptional cocktails. A bar is nothing without a strong team, though; and together, Perrone and Bargiani have worked in seamless unison to form a united front and make the renowned bar what it is today. Such is their love for their craft that they struggled to choose just one tool; instead highlighting several fundamental items that no good bar should go without.
Bartending tool of choice: A Jigger, a spoon, a mixing glass and a smile.
Why it’s so invaluable: These are the essentials needed to make a balanced, elegant cocktail that caters for any occasion — and for any gentleman or gentlewoman in the room.
Which cocktail it helps most with: The Connaught Martini.
That’s the cocktail-making gear sorted; now, these steak knives will sharpen up your next dinner party…
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