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Bar Spoons in a Mixing Glass

 

If you’ve been to a fancy mixology cocktail bar, well, ever, you’ve probably seen a bartender grab a long, spiral-handled bar spoon and stir some of their cocktails. But why is the spoon so long? And why the spiral? And also, how do you use it in a way that’s so darn fancy?

You’re in luck, we have your back! In this post we’ll go over everything you need to know about bar spoons (and frankly, a bunch of stuff you really don’t need to know.) Skip ahead using the jump links below or read on for the full shebang!

 

All About Bar Spoons:

 

 

Cutting to the chase: Here are the Bar Spoons We Recommend

If you’re just looking for our recommendation, here it is!

Set of 2 Professional Bar Spoons

Set of 2 Professional Bar Spoons

Chris custom designed these heavyweight bar spoons to be balanced and comfortable in your hand. Choose a set with spiral handles, smooth handles, or one of each!

Buy Now on Amazon

 

P.S.
We literally JUST launched these spoons this month, so we have them priced extra low to celebrate.
I’ll increase the price soon, so if you like them, don’t wait!

We recommend these spoons because we literally designed them ourselves to the best out there. Choose a set of two spiral handle spoons, smooth handle spoons, or a pack of one of each. These spoons are heavyweight and balanced, so they glide through your ice with less effort and less noise. For more detail on why this is our choice, scroll down or click this jump link!

 

 

Different Kinds of Spoons

 

What’s a Bar Spoon?

Bar Spoons are, quite simply, spoons used for bartenders to make cocktails. So what makes them different from other kinds of spoons?  While there’s a wide variety out there, you’ll typically find they are all at least 12″ long and very often have a spiraled handle. The spoon itself is relatively small, and typically holds about 1ml of liquid.

 

 

A Brief History

It’s hard to pin point a moment in history when the “Bar Spoon” diverged from just being “any old spoon that just happens to be used behind the bar”, but if we use the spoon’s length as its defining characteristic, then our best guess for its origin would be the Sucket Spoon.

Originally named after the English dessert it was commonly used for, the Sucket spoon had a spoon on one end and a fork on the other, and often had a spiral shaft as well. “Wet” sucket was a dessert of fruit served in syrup – so the fork end was the perfect tool for eating it. So when fruit cocktails appeared in American bars in the mid to late 1800’s, they were often served with the sucket spoon – allowing the guest to “Fork” the fruit out of the drink and use the spoon to stir.

Another style of bar spoon, called the “Mazagran Spoon” probably originated as a French Apothecary spoon, “the cuillière medicament”. This spoon was used as both a tool of measurement and a muddler to break up medicines into a powder which could be dissolved in other liquids. It was named after a French military victory in 1840 near the town of Mazagran, which resulted in the popularization of a coffee drink with the same name. Why the spoon? Well, the coffee drink required the addition of hard French beet sugar that the imbiber had to crush with muddler-ended spoon.

Nowadays, many bar spoons don’t have a fork or a muddler on the end. Rather, you’ll find a simple teardrop or bolt shape. Partially for aesthetic reasons and partically for the bartender’s comfort, the minimalist style has become very common in the last 5-10 years behind cocktail bars.

Regardless of what’s on the end, you can consider it a bar spoon if it’s 12″ long or longer and has a relatively small ~1ml spoon bowl.

(Sources: Tools of the Trade: Bar Spoons, Bar Spoons: A Stirring History)

 

 

Bar Spoons - Different Types

 

Common Types of Bar Spoons

We’ve talked a bit about the characteristics that bar spoons have in common, but what about the things that set different types apart?

 

What’s on the End:

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between various types of bar spoons, it’s easy to see that there are quite a few different options for what’s on the non-spoon end of your handle. Here are the most common:

  • Decorative Shape (Teardrop or Bolt, for example).
    While arguably the least functional, this style of barspoon has become increasingly popular among cocktail bartenders and enthusiasts alike. Aside from being nicer looking (if you ask me), they have the added benefit of a bit of extra weight. The weight helps push the spoon through the glass and makes it a bit quieter too. Our Bar Spoon here is a great example of weight being added in a decorative / beautiful way. (If I do say so myself!)
  • Fork
    If you read the “History of Bar Spoons” bit above, you’ll know the fork “end” originated with the Sucket Spoon, and was used for poking fruit out of a syrupy dessert. Behind the bar, the fork can be a useful tool for garnishing drinks. That said, don’t expect your olive or cherry to look so great after you’ve stabbed it with one of these. (In my experience, craft bartenders don’t typically use these for that reason. But to each his/her own!)
  • Muddler
    While it used to be much more common, the “muddler” end is also losing favor to the decorative / weighted spoons as well. A Muddler spoon has a flat disk welded to the end of it which can be used to muddle, well, anything. And while it’s actually pretty good at muddling a sugar cube (like in the classic Sazerac), it’s just not very good at muddling anything else. And if you flip it over to use the spoon afterward, you’ll end up dribbling muddled liquid back down your hand and into the drink. Kinda gross. Not to mention the fact that it’s just plain hard on your hand to muddle with such a skinny shaft to hold on to. (Want my opinion? Our Muddler is a way better choice!)
  • The “Red cap”
    Ah, the red cap. If you see bar spoons at your neighborhood bar, they probably have a little rubber red cap on the end. (You’ll know it when you see it.) These bar spoons are the bare minimum, absolute cheapest bar spoon you can buy. And you know what? They are just fine. You won’t hurt yourself or make worse drinks using them, but you will probably find them less comfortable in your hand. The red cap is a little rubber piece that goes on the end to cover up the fact that the manufacturer hasn’t done anything else with it. (A very good inexpensive solution for a very cheap spoon.)

 

 

 

What’s in the Middle:

The handle/shaft is another characteristic that differentiates different bar spoons. There are two key variables here:

Spiral vs. Smooth

Traditionally, bar spoons have a spiral shaft. It’s helpful for layering cocktails (see the “techniques” section next) and with a bit of practice, can help the spoon glide more smoothly in your hand while you’re stirring. But it’s certainly not a requirement! Nowadays I’ve definitely seen quite a few bartenders (Chris included) make the choice to use smooth handled spoons instead. It’s really a matter of personal preference more than anything.

 

Long vs. Short

Wait, didn’t I already say that barspoons are typically long?  Well, yes! All barspoons are typically 12″+ in length. But some bar spoons are longer – 15″, 18″ or even more. And there’s a growing movement towards these very long spoons behind craft bars.

Standard Bar Spoons:

  • Fit in your bag more easily
  • Are much more common (easier to find / easier to find a style you like)
  • Won’t poke your eye out
  • Are very difficult to use for double-stirring (see “techniques” in the next section.)

 

Extra long Bar Spoons:

  • Bring extra weight with the length, which can make them feel more comfortable to stir with and can make them quieter
  • Are very eye catching
  • Double as a flag pole
  • Are much easier to use in double-stirring.

 

Again: the length you choose is really a matter of personal preference. Unless you’re in a super high volume craft bar, a 12″ will almost certainly do the trick for you – but I’m not going to discourage you from getting a fancy long one. They look awesome!

 

 

 

Bar Spoon Over a Cocktail

 

How to Use a Bar Spoon

Now you know where bar spoons originated and the various kinds available to you… which is great. But how do you use them? Great question! Bar spoons are incredibly useful for bartenders and cocktail lovers alike, and they can actually serve quite a few purposes behind the bar. Some of these will depend on what’s on the non-spoon end of the spoon, but some will not.

 

 

How to Stir a Cocktail

The most common thing bar spoons are used for is for stirring stirred cocktails. (I.e. cocktails which are not shaken.) If you’re not sure whether you should stir or shake, check out this video. And for a quick overview of how to stir a cocktail, this video should help! (Note: These were some of our very first videos – can you tell? Luckily the tips are timeless!)

 

Tips and Techniques for Proper Stirring:

  • Before you stir, ensure your mixing glass has been chilled. This chills the spirit more without adding dilution.
  • Then, add your spirit to the mixing glass. (Note, if you don’t have a mixing glass you can use the cup of your cocktail shaker.)
  • Put your bar spoon in the mixing glass before you add the ice. This avoids the awkward “stabbing” move to get the spoon into the glass.
  • While stirring, let your fingers do the work – not your wrist.
  • Try to be as quiet as possible when stirring. Noise correlates with the possibility of chipping ice & over-diluting the cocktail.
  • Some people recommend stirring 40 “stirs” (20 in each direction) but I usually just go by time – approximately 7-10 seconds in each direction. I’d recommend stirring higher-proofed spirits a little bit longer.
  • When straining, use a julep strainer instead of a hawthorne to help keep your drink clear.

 

Bonus points: Want to learn to double stir? How about quadruple? If you’re already a pro at stirring, check these videos out. (I NEED to learn to do this…)

 

 

Measuring with a Bar Spoon

Often cocktail recipes will call for “1 bar spoon of…” a certain ingredient. A bar spoon (if calibrated to 1ml) is roughly 0.035 of an ounce, which is somewhere between a dash and 1/4 oz. It’s a useful measure for ingredients with a powerful flavor like some amaros and flavored liqueurs.

I’ve mentioned it earlier in this article, but it bears repeating: not all bar spoons are calibrated to 1ml. If you aren’t sure, then I’d recommend using a scale to check your spoon’s volume and make a mental note of how full the spoon looks when it weighs exactly 1 gram or 0.035 oz. (Or if you’re me and don’t trust your memory, take a picture!) In these small quantities, even something like a meniscus can make a big difference in volume.

The next time you make a cocktail which calls for “a bar spoon of…” a certain ingredient, just go ahead and measure with the spoon based on the mental note (or photo) you took when you calibrated your spoon. Now you’ll have the perfect measure every time – or at least you’ll be close!

 

 

Using a Bar Spoon to Muddle:

As bar spoons with the muddler on the end become less and less popular, so is this technique. But if you happen to have one in your arsenal, it’s worth mentioning!

Given their heritage as apothecary spoons, it’s not surprising that the Mazatlan style (i.e. muddler style) bar spoon is best suited for crushing hard powders and granules, like sugar cubes. Its size is usually just about right to fit into a rocks glass and you won’t need a ton of muscle (like when muddling things like citrus or fruit.)

That said, I’d hesitate to use the muddler bar spoon to muddle fresh herbs, as it’s made from stainless steel and it would be very easy to “over muddle”, bruising the herbs and bringing out their latent bitterness. Use a large flat wooden or plastic muddler and be gentle – your herbs will thank you with a delicious aroma and less bitterness. Similarly, muddling citrus or fruit with a bar spoon would be downright uncomfortable. The skinny shaft doesn’t give you much to hold on to, and it’ll be hard to give the muscle needed to really extract the flavors and oils from the fruit. Stick with a traditional muddler for these.

But if you’re making a lot of Old Fashioneds and Sazeracs, a muddler bar spoon isn’t a bad thing to have around!

 

 

A Great Tool for Layering Drinks

A bar spoon is a great tool to help create beautiful layered cocktails and pousse-cafés. Jamie Boudreau explains it much better than I could in this video – take a look.

In essence, the bar spoon is giving your ingredient a place to land so it stays on top of the drink, rather than sinking to the bottom. It’s not something you see done terribly often, but when it’s done well it can be really impressive!

If your bar spoon has a spiral handle, you can also pour the liquid down the handle for a similar affect. This doesn’t work nearly as well with a smooth handle, and frankly either way is likely to cause a mess if you don’t have a good bit of practice. I’d take Jamie’s lead in the video above instead. (Note: the way he does it is also sometimes called a “float”)

 

Garnishing:

I briefly touched upon this when discussing the “fork” spoon in the section above, but it’s worth mentioning. Bar spoons are very useful for garnishing cocktails, especially when garnishing with an olive, cherry, or other piece of fruit that will sit inside the drink. Rather than using your fingers to pick up the fruit, the spoon is much more professional looking and sanitary (though I am sure your hands are clean!)

As I mentioned earlier, even if you have the “trident” or “fork” style of spoon on hand, I’d be hesitant to use the fork to stab your garnish and carry it to the drink. It’s usually a pretty aggressive fork and will likely cause your cherry / olive to become misshapen and, well, stabbed looking. Use the spoon side to keep your garnish looking plump, round, and, well, non-stabbed.

 

 

Choosing the Best Bar Spoon For You

So with all of that in mind, here are some tips for choosing a great bar spoon:

  • Unless you have a specific reason to use them, a “fork” or “muddler” end will probably not buy you much. So you may as well choose the one that looks nicest to you!
  • Go for weight. A heavier spoon is easier to stir (counter-intuitive, I know) and quieter. This is the #1 reason I avoid cheap spoons, because they are thin and light.
  • Choose your length carefully. Any chance you’ll be double stirring? Go for a longer spoon to leave the option open. Unless it’s important that the spoon fits in your bag – those 18″ spoons can really get in the way
  • If at all possible, get a spoon that’s advertised as having a 1ml bowl. Otherwise your volume may be way off.
  • Spiral or smooth handle? Good question! If you have never used a bar spoon before and you’re not looking to bartend professionally, I’d recommend a smooth handle. It’s easier for beginners and requires no practice. If you’re a pro (or looking to become one), try a spiral spoon and give it some practice. Some bartenders swear the spiral helps them stir. (If you’re not sure, go for one Bar Spoon of each!)

 

 

How’s it Stirring?

That’s a wrap! Hopefully this article has given you all of the information you ever possibly wanted to know about bar spoons. If you still haven’t chosen a spoon for your own bar, I’d like to humbly suggest our very own set – custom designed to be comfortable, balanced, and downright good looking (if I do say so myself!)

 

Set of 2 Professional Bar Spoons

Set of 2 Professional Bar Spoons

Chris custom designed these heavyweight bar spoons to be balanced and comfortable in your hand. Choose a set with spiral handles, smooth handles, or one of each!

Buy Now on Amazon

 

 

Bar Spoons Guide - Infographic

About the Author: Julia Tunstall

Julia Tunstall

Co-Founder and Editor of A Bar Above. Cocktail lover, drinker, appreciator. I write about cocktail recipes I like and other interesting topics related to bartending, cocktails and mixology.

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