A master mixologist discusses the best bar hacks
There was nothing as elegant as Nick (William Powell) making a martini for Nora (Myrna Loy) in the 1930s-1940s “Thin Man” films. “The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking,” he explains to a group of bartenders. “A Manhattan you shake to foxtrot, a bounce to two-step time. The dry martini you always shake to waltz time.” Beautifully clothed, he could whip up cocktails or after-dinner liqueurs on trains, in hotel rooms or at home.
“I’ll be with you in two shakes of a cocktail,” says Nora.
They brought cocktail crafting to a mass audience. They made it look like fun, and they made it look easy. The fun part comes with the alcohol, while a home bartender can practice making it look easy with the proper bar tools.
“People drink with their eyes first,” says Annie Blake, partner in Delray’s Death or Glory, where classic cocktails and crafted drinks are in the spotlight. “Whether you’re making cocktails for yourself or some friends, it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of effort to up your game on preparation and presentation. … Proper tools make execution easier and more precise, which makes for better drinks.”
Blake is a self-confessed “bar tool nerd,” and her home bar is a thing of beauty and infinite drink possibilities. She’s also vice president for Cocktail Kingdom, a leading provider of barware and bar accessories. She shared some of her essentials with us, and the reasons behind her choices.
1. A JIGGER. First and foremost, a jigger is something I always have. When working with multiple spirit cocktails, like a Last Word or a Negroni, it’s key to have the correct proportions. My workhorse is the Cocktail Kingdom Japanese Style Jigger. ($9.99)
2. A SHAKER, MIXING GLASS AND BARSPOON. For shaken cocktails, the home bartender can use a cobbler shaker. For stirred cocktails, you want to have a mixing glass and a barspoon. You can always stir in a pint glass, but that’s no fun. The Seamless Yarai Glass is great. A proper barspoon helps with an elegant, silent stir. Just please, no barspoons with the red tops. They have no balance and less style. (Shaker, $78.99; mixing glass, $44.99; barspoon, $17.99)
3. A STRAINER. You want to have a strainer with a tight coil to avoid having a float of ice chips on top of a drink. Nothing ruins a shaken daiquiri like a mouthful of ice. The Koriko Hawthorne Strainer is a great choice. Easy to use and clean, and it works for both shaken or stirred cocktails. ($15.99)
4. A JUICER. You’re going to want to have a decent juicer. Don’t fight trying to hand-squeeze citrus. ($19.99)
5. For presentation, I use either A ROCKS GLASS OR A COUPE GLASS for cocktails at home. Please let the world be rid of the conical martini glass. It’s not the original martini glass, and it’s difficult to carry and drink from. (Coupe glass, $41.99; rocks glass, $31.99)
6. A PEELER FOR GARNISHING. Garnishes aren’t all for show. The expression of citrus oils on an Old Fashioned is the difference between a good and great drink, and it takes about 10 seconds. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. Just get one that works. ($3.99)
7. AND FINALLY, ICE! If you want to get really fancy and order clear ice, Mixology Ice has absolutely great products. For me personally, I always just have some 2-by-2-inch cubes in the freezer. The larger cube keeps the drink cold but dilutes the cocktail much slower than your traditional ice cube you’d get from your refrigerator. Who wants to rush to finish their cocktail before it’s over-diluted? I also have an ice ball maker at home. It makes a perfect sphere, and it’s always a fun party trick. ($299.99)
All products available at cocktailkingdom.com