Last week I talked about the tools that anyone who wants to make cocktails at home should have in their arsenal, the items without which it’s pretty impossible to make even the simplest drink. This week I’d like to get into the tools you might want if you decided to stretch your wings a bit – either for slightly more complicated drinks or that, while not essential, look cool and are fun to have around the house.
First up is an ice crusher. There’s a multitude of ways in which one can crush ice, ranging from the extremely simple (a hammer and a bag) to the very mechanical (think blender). What you want to do with said ice will help you determine which route makes the most sense for you. For example, if you want to make really slushy frozen margaritas in a hurry, a blender really is the best way to go (that is in fact why they are referred to as blender drinks!). On the other hand, if all you’re looking to do is to pulverize your ice a bit for shaking, or don’t mind crushed ice with a little character, then one of the more retro methods is not only fine, it will give you more control over the finished product. And if you’re a bit of a design nerd and a true fan of the vintage, as I am, I don’t think you can find a finer ice crushing machine than this beauty:
This is my very minty blue Dazey rocket ice crusher, a Christmas gift from the fantastic and perceptive Mr. Menace, who knew that I’d been longing for such a machine for quite some time. It even came with all of the bits to be wall-mounted, which is essential with this design. Those little fins don’t allow for enough torque otherwise!
Dazey made quite a few ice crushers, including one that is square and can sit on the counter top if the wall-mounted thing isn’t your jam. (Also many, many butter churns, if you’re into that.) But just look at the sweet Atomic Age rocket styling! What’s not to love? It has three ice-crushing settings ranging from coarse to fine. Admittedly it’s version of fine isn’t exactly powder. If that’s what you’re looking for I’d aim for the blender or even the hammer (it’s a great workout!). But it gets the job done for less detailed work, and it looks as cool as hell on the bar.
Next up we have a tool that some would argue is essential – provided you are making your cocktails with 100% real ingredients and not some bogus mix (you aren’t using the bogus mix, are you?). I didn’t include it in the must-have posts, however, because it’s conceivable, though unlikely, that you’re making cocktails that require no fruit or herbs at all, ever. I’m referring, of course, to muddler.
It looks like the pestle portion of a mortar and pestle, and serves the same function – to crush fruit, herbs, or spices to release their aromatic oils. You don’t need the mortar bit because your mixing glass serves that function. Muddlers can be made of metal or wood – this is one I picked up for a song at a flea market. Eventually I may invest in a nicer model, but this one does the trick.
The last tool I’m going to talk about today is in many ways the least necessary, but also the nearest and dearest to my heart. Less functional, more decorative, but in that way to me very emblematic of cocktail as art, I present the humble swizzle stick:
Named for a tropical drink called the Rum Swizzle, these sticks are primarily used to stir drinks, though some have little spears on the end for decorative fruit. The reason I say they’re particularly inessential is that usually by the time someone’s been given a drink, it’s already been stirred or shaken – no need to do your own mixing. But just look at them – they’re beautiful!
Though often made from plastic, glass swizzle sticks are my personal favorites. My grandmother had a variety that I was fascinated by, remnants, I believe, of the beach house bar my father had built for my grandfather when they used to summer in Hull.
I can’t resist showing off two more favorite photos:
These are clear, hollow tubes with advertisements stuck in them – I have some that advertise hotels as well as the whiskey shown above.
While this is far from a comprehensive list of bar tools, it’s a good start for a very beginner bar. In the next installment I plan to cover basic glasses – hold on to your hats! And hey, this segment still needs a name – suggestions welcomed in the comments!