Cigar Aficionado

The Right Bar Gear

Master mixologist or back bar buffoon who can't deliver cocktails when they're called? The key to deciding your fate is choosing the right tools.

Start with a shaker. Not just because 007 requests his Martinis shaken not stirred, but because it's an essential vessel for a number of classic cocktails, from Apple Martinis and Manhattans to Margaritas and White Russians. Stainless steel Euro shakers, which feature a built-in strainer, are common—Crate & Barrel (www.crateandbarrel.com, $19.95) and Guy Degrenne offer popular models—while vintage glass and crystal shakers can be found via the Internet. Boston shakers—a glass tumbler and a steel container that fit together—are a favorite with many professional barmen because they can see the cocktail and because the two components come apart quickly.

To appease those who believe that shaking a Martini bruises the gin or don't like the ice crystals a shaker creates, a cocktail strainer and a long spoon for stirring are a must. Mix some gin with vermouth and ice, stir, then—with the strainer fitting the top of the glass—drain into a Martini glass.

Gauging proportions is another crucial part of mixology and while seasoned bartenders can eyeball amounts, a combined jigger (1.5 oz.) and shot (1 oz.) tool is invaluable. Muddlers, like the one shown from Rösle USA, (www.rosleusa.com, $15.95), are needed for drinks like Caipirinhas, Mojitos and Mint Juleps. A hand-held juicer is perfect for drinks with fresh lemon or lime such as a Daiquiri or a Lemon Drop.

Since garnishes should not be overlooked, knives are also necessary tools. A standard bar knife cuts lemons, limes and other garnishes, while zester and channel knives are great when citrus peels are needed to heighten a drink's flavor and presentation. A bottle opener is another standard tool, and for elusive olives and maraschino cherries at the bottom of the jar, a short spoon is also handy.