Welcome to the world of mixology, where every shake, stir, and pour is an art form! Whether you’re a home bar enthusiast or a budding bartender, understanding the essentials of bar tools and equipment is critical to crafting those picture-perfect cocktails.

Let’s dive into the ocean of bartending tools and explore what it takes to transform your drink-making game.

Essential bar tools
Essential Bar Tools

The Essential Bar Tools List You Will Need to Know

Many bartenders use a mix of the bar tools listed below. You will find out what works for you and what doesn’t.

This list at least lets you know the tools and equipment that are out there to help you make cocktails for yourself, family, friends, and guests.

1. Bar Cart

There has been a huge trend in bar carts for your home bar. They are very useful when you don’t have the valuable space for bottles and glassware anywhere else.

There are some cocktail bars that use carts to do table-side cocktails. Who wouldn’t enjoy a bartender coming to your table and then making cocktails for you something delicious at your table.

2. Bar Mats

Bar mats serve one purpose: to keep your work area clean from spills. No matter how much you want to think you are the cleanest bartender around, you will make spills.

The bar mat keeps those spills of multiple drinks from going everywhere on your bar.

3. Bar Spoons

A must to make stirred cocktails easier to make. With their long handle and tight spirals, you can properly chill and dilute your favorite mixed drinks after practice.

A bar spoon will sometimes have a flat surface on the end to be used as a muddler or a fancy decorative piece.

4. Bar towels

If you never have bartended, you don’t know how essential a bar towel is. Having them spread throughout the bar and on your person will make spills and wiping your hands easier.

Because we work with liquids and syrups, you must constantly wipe something.

5. Bottle Opener

Not all beer and liquor bottles are twist-offs. I know you light beer drinks; your mind is blown. So, to easily pop those caps off those delicious craft beers or even those “domestic” beers, a bottle opener is a must.

It will keep your hands all nice and smooth.

6. Cocktail Napkins

Everyone knows what a cocktail napkin is. It serves as a way to catch any small spills from your drink so the bar doesn’t get too messy.

It can also help prevent rings on your table.

7. Cocktail Pourer

Cocktail pourers in dive bars or neighborhood bars are always a must. They help pour with speed and control. If you are going to free pour, you will need a cocktail pourer.

8. Cocktail Rail (Speed Rail)

A speed rail is attached to an ice bin or counter space where you stand to make drinks. It holds the bottles you use the most on a nightly basis.

The less you move from your station, the more cocktails you can make.

In dive bars, it’s usually well-spirited; in cocktail bars, the spirits typically make up the top five or six craft cocktails.

9. Cocktail Shaker

A cocktail shaker is one of two bar tools you need to make properly shaken cocktails.

They mix the ingredients, add aeration, and dilute your drink. To make each drink the same every time, cocktail shakers will help you achieve this.

There are three popular styles of cocktail shakers. The most popular shaker is a Boston shaker at a bar; it’s one of my favorite tools.

10. Corkscrew

Some people might not think every bartender needs a corkscrew; if you don’t serve wine, I can understand that, but hear me out.

Some bottles have a plastic, thick, and heavy rubber stopper, and sometimes those toppers break off in the bottle. A corkscrew will be your best friend in that time of need.

11. Cutting Boards

It doesn’t matter what type of bar you work at; you have, at minimum, lime and lemon edges. How do you get them?

You use a knife and a cutting board. Cutting boards are made out of many sizes and materials. I have always liked plastic or recycled material for the ones I use.

12. Fine Mesh Strainer

A fine mesh or tea strainer helps keep those unwanted ice shards, herbs, or fruit from your drink.

A Hawthorne strainer will do great, but a fine mesh will get you there. If you have a drink served up, use a fine mesh.

13. Garnish Picks

Everyone has seen the little plastic pirate swords holding the bright neon cherry or olive in a drink.

Garnish picks have come a long way in the past ten years. From bamboo, skull designs, glass, and anything else you can think of.

They just add a little more personality to the garnish in your drink.

14. Glass Rack

There are two types of glass racks you will see.

One is to store wine glasses used for catering or events. They are plastic and, for the most part, hold 25 glasses.

Second, some bars hang their stem-wear glasses by the foot upside down.

15. Hawthorne Strainer

The Hawthorne strainer is the strainer that rules them all.

This strainer can be used to strain cocktails that are shaken and stirred, and is what you will see almost at all cocktail bars and restaurants.

Hawthorne standard strainer by crew
Hawthorne Standard Strainer by Crew

It does a great job keeping giant shards of ice and big pieces of herbs and fruit out of your cocktails.

16. Ice Bucket

Ice buckets do a great job of collecting a large amount of ice that you can use to fill up your ice bins.

They aren’t a glorious bar about bartending or the most incredible toy, but they are convenient.

17. Ice Crusher

An ice crusher is an affordable way for a reliable ice maker to make crushed ice for tiki drinks.

You put in a small amount of your regular ice, which will crush it almost like pebbles that you can use to whip, shake, or fill your favorite tiki mug with crushed ice to keep your tropical cocktail cold.

18. Ice Machine

Having ice machines produce a constant supply of ice is something some bartenders can take for granted. It’s the only way to chill and keep your cocktails cold.

Most bars and restaurants have one standard ice machine. Some cocktail bars will have two machines: one that produces regular square ice cubes and one that makes nugget/pebble ice.

19. Ice Molds

Do you want ice shaped the same way every time? Do you want to make sphere-shaped ice cubes easily?

Ice molds are the way to go. You can use molds and ice cube trays in different shapes and sizes to meet your beverage needs.

Some of the ice molds will even create crystal-clear ice cubes.

20. Jigger

The jigger is an essential tool you need to measure your craft cocktails perfectly every time.

Cocktails require the correct amount of liquid, and a jigger will help you ensure your measurements are the same every time.

Good measure jigger by crew
Good Measure Jigger by Crew

They have markings that help you know exactly how much you are pouring. It is one of two essential bar tools to make craft cocktails. 

21. Juicer

A juicer will get the juice of your lemons, limes, oranges, or any other juice you need from your fruit.

Most bars will have a hand juicer around to juice at a moment’s notice during service.

Some bars and restaurants will have an electric juicer for speed because they always juice for the high volume they make drinks.

22. Julep Strainer

Unlike the Hawthorne strainer, the Julep strainer serves one purpose: to strain the ice away from your stirred cocktail.

They are nice to have and look cool when you use them.

23. Mixing Glass

A proper mixing glass will help your stirred-down cocktails have the proper amount of dilution and chillness.

It helped speed up the stirring of your cocktails.

They are made from either glass or stainless steel. Both work great, and each has pros and cons.

24. Muddler

The easiest way to extract flavor from fruit and herbs is to lightly muddle them with your muddler.

By gently muddling, you are able to express oils and flavors in your cocktails.

25. Peeler

Being able to express oils and add twists and other garnishes is done with the help of a peeler.

Having a sharp peeler will make sure you get large swaths of fruit peels to use and makes the process faster and safer than a dull one.

26. Rimmer

We have all seen a three-piece rimmer at your local dive bar and most restaurants. They usually hold lime juice, salt, and sugar. It was an easy way to rim your glass with those ingredients.

A lot of cocktail bars use another method because rimmers can be gross, and when chilling your glassware, you don’t need the assistance of lime juice to hold salt, sugar, tajin, or any other garnish you want to use.

27. Service Mats

The easiest way to keep your work area clean is with service mats. These are laid in the area where servers pick up their drinks and sometimes garnish them, too.

Service mats are bigger than bar mats since you will have more drinks on them at one time.

28. Wine Key

A wine key combines a bottle opener and a corkscrew into one device and is a very handy tool to have on you at all times.

It also has a nice little knife on there to help take foil off wine bottles or any other thing you might have to use a little knife for.

I also prefer this over most other bottle openers because it fits in your pocket easily and makes it faster to open a bottled beer.

29. Zester

Have you wondered how some drinks have a dusting on them? The all-mighty zester is an essential bar tool to make that happen.

If it’s fresh nutmeg on a flip cocktail, lime zest, or whatever you can think of to be on top of your drink to give it a fantastic aroma, a zester will do the job.

What Bar Equipment Do I Need?

This is a bar equipment list that bartenders will use and may not use everything. You can get creative by substituting tools and equipment for things you have around your house.

I have created a list of essential bar tools that you should carry for your home bar.