Tools of the Trade
After a decade behind the bar, Chris became pretty picky about the tools he prefers to use behind the bar. Too many tools are poorly designed, break too often or are just plain uncomfortable to use. On this page we wanted to tell you about the bar tools that we recommend, and why. But before we get too far, I thought I should tell you about our sister company, Top Shelf Bar Supply.
Introducing Top Shelf Bar Supply
For years, we ran A Bar Above and fielded email after email asking us for our recommendations on cocktail shakers, strainers, and the like. Unfortunately we just weren’t happy with the products on the marketplace, and the ones we were recommending were “good enough” but not as good as they could be. So in 2016 we decided to go ahead and solve the problem ourselves. We founded Top Shelf Bar Supply and started creating our own custom bar tools, designed with the requirements of a career bartender in mind. All of the tools on this page are the very best tools we can possibly offer – because we’ve designed them that way! I’ll tell you more in the details of each section below, but for now you should know that we genuinely believe these are the very best bar tools you can buy. So let’s get to the list!
Complete Bar Sets
Starting from scratch? If you’re outfitting your bar for the first time or just looking for a great deal on a full set of tools, you’re in the right place. We’ve put together two bar sets that we recommend: a basic set for folks just starting out and a “complete” kit that gives you everything you need to make even the fanciest classic cocktails. The choice is yours!
The BasicsTo read the details of why I think each of these pieces are the best out there, just scroll down. As a set, this is a great value and contains the four pieces you need to make almost any cocktail – a Boston shaker set, jigger, and Hawthorne Strainer. It’s a great starter kit if you just want to give cocktails a try and aren’t sure you want to commit to a full craft set. If you just need a basic set of high-quality bar tools and want to get them for a good combo price, this is the perfect choice.
The BasicsIf you just need a basic set of high-quality bar tools and want to get them for a good combo price, this is the perfect choice.
Looking for top-of-the-line Cocktail Strainers? Look no further! After years of designing, testing, searching, we finally found the three cocktail strainers we love and trust. Designed for comfort and durability (and a bit of style, if I’m being honest!) this set includes all three strainers you need behind a craft bar: a Hawthorne Strainer, a Julep Strainer and a fine-mesh Conical Strainer. The perfect combination of comfort, form, and function, these strainers are built to last!
All three strainers you need for any craft bar. Includes a Hawthorne Strainer, Julep Strainer and fine-mesh Conical Strainer.
The WorksIf you’re looking for a complete craft bar set, this is your set. We were frustrated with incomplete kits and low quality tools so we finally decided to create our own. This kit includes the stuff you need for a craft bar, including the basics like a shaker, jigger and hawthorne strainer, but also including advanced tools like a julep strainer, fine strainer, hardwood muddler and picks for garnishing. It doesn’t get more complete than this.
The WorksIf you’re looking for a complete craft bar set, this is it! This 14 piece kit has everything you need.
Individual Bar Tools
Looking for your tools a la carte? You’re in the right place. Check out each tool below for details on why we believe it’s the best out there.
Boston Shaker Set
Shakers are one of the first things people think of when stocking their bar. While there are a few different types of shakers, I generally recommend the Boston Shaker. For a quick review of how and when to use each type, check out our Ultimate Guide to Cocktail Shakers.
As for which Boston Shaker to buy, here are the two that we’ve had custom made to be the best you can buy. So you should buy these. (Yep, I’m totally biased.)
Boston Shaker SetShakers are one of the first things people think of when stocking their bar. While there are a few different types of shakers, I generally recommend the Boston Shaker. For a quick review of how and when to use each type, check out our Ultimate Guide to Cocktail Shakers.
Weighted / Unweighted
It’s a great choice because the two tins fit together beautifully with a nice, tight seal – but still come apart when you want them to. This is my ideal Boston shaker combination. The larger tin is weighted to add rigidity but the smaller is unweighted to give the best seal. The weighted larger shaker has been welded all the way around so it won’t pop off during service. In my opinion, you can’t beat this set.
Weighted / Weighted
If you’re already used to a weighted / weighted set, you’re probably going to want to stick with what you’re used to. This set is exactly the same quality as our best-selling set, but we’ve asked the factory to add a weight to the smaller tin as well. Both shakers are welded all the way around, so they won’t pop off during service. If you’re looking for a weighted/weighted boston shaker, you can’t bet this set!
Hawthorne StrainerThe strainer is the second most quintissential bar tool there is. Unfortunately if you plan on actually using your strainer with any frequency, you’re likely to run into durability problems with most strainers on the market. Not this one! We designed this from scratch (read the full story here) to be the most comfortable, best straining, and longest lasting strainer there is. Plus, it’s pretty nice looking if I don’t say so myself!
Hawthorne StrainerThe strainer is another vital piece of your bartending kit. We desiigned this one from scratch (read the full story here) to be the most comfortable, best straining, and longest lasting strainer there is.
Fine Mesh StrainerTired of the handle of your fine strainer breaking? Yeah, we were too. We worked directly with the factory to design this strainer to be perfect for every bar. It’s bigger (10cm) to strain faster, has a comfortable handle that’s easy to grip, and most importantly it’s been built with reinforced welds so you can tap it against your shaker all you want – this handle will never break off!
Fine Mesh StrainerWe worked directly with the factory to design this strainer to be perfect for every bar. This fine strainer has strengthened welds, a larger bowl and a comfortable handle. It’s ready for your busiest shift!
Ah, the trusty Julep Strainer. Always there when you just need a Manhattan or Martini to finish your night! This one’s a classic – the standard oval shape is compatible with just about every mixing glass, pint glass or shaker tin. It’s sturdy, well-made and the perfect companion to all of your favorite stirred drinks.
Ah, the trusty Julep Strainer. Always there when you just need a Manhattan or Martini to finish your night! This one’s a classic – the standard oval shape is compatible with just about every mixing glass, pint glass or shaker tin.
Ever notice how most muddlers are roughly 8-9″ long, which is the precise length that results in you smashing your knuckles on the side of your pint glass or cocktail shaker while muddling? Yeah, that’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine. The last thing I need during a busy night of service is a bunch of bloody knuckles.
Not only are our muddlers a full 12″ long (long enough to keep your knuckles safe), but they are also incredibly comfortable in your hand. With a handle designed for comfort and flat head to release the aromatics in fruit and herbs without pulverizing them into a bitter slurry. In short: These muddlers rock.
Our muddlers are full 12″ long (to keep your knuckles safe), and incredibly comfortable in your hand. In short: These muddlers rock.
Hardwood MuddlerMade from natural hardwood, (beech to be specific), this muddler is unvarnished and unlacquered – so there’s no risk of pieces breaking off into your drink. It’s also downright beautiful (if I do say so myself!)
The Ultimate Bar Mat
One of Chris’ biggest pet peeves behind the bar were the standard black PVC bar mats. After just a few trips to the commercial dishwasher they would be warped and twisted, meaning your surface for making drinks was no longer flat. How aggravating! Is this one more expensive? Oh yes. But calling this bar mat “heavy duty” is an understatement. It’s made from thick food-grade silicone rubber and it will never warp or twist. It’s built to stand up to the harsh life of a commercial bar mat – without ever losing its shape. Plus, (unlike many of those cheapo ones) this mat is food-safe! So don’t hesitate to put your lime wedges right on the mat – it’s perfectly safe.
The Ultimate Bar Mat
This bar mat is a beast. It’s made from thick food-grade silicone rubber and it will absolutely never warp or twist. It’s built to stand up to the harsh life of a commercial bar mat – without ever losing its shape.
12″ x 18″ Size
3.25″ x 18″ Size
Cocktail PicksStainless steel cocktail picks are an awesome way to finish your drink without adding to the landfill. We started selling the standard 4″ picks first, but quickly realized that nobody was making long picks for Highball glasses. We contacted our factory and they said they could do it. And the 8″ picks were born. (Bloody Marys everywhere rejoiced!) Use these picks for garnishing any cocktail, or for appetizers or hors d’oeuvres. Be careful though – they are sharp! (Gotta get through those tough olives, y’know.)
Cocktail PicksUse these picks for garnishing any cocktail, or for appetizers or hors d’oeuvres. Be careful though – they are sharp! (Gotta get through those tough olives, y’know.)
Bar SpoonsNo bar is complete without a few bar spoons (or, if you’re like us, a few dozen!) There are a lot of cheap, lightweight bar spoons out there (I’m look at you, red-cap) but a great spoon is hard to come by. We’ve custom designed these bar spoons to be perfectly heavyweight, reinforced, and perfectly balanced. They feel weightless gliding through the ice – and look great on your mise en place as well!
Bar SpoonsWe’ve custom designed these bar spoons to be perfectly heavyweight, reinforced, and perfectly balanced. They feel weightless gliding through the ice – and look great on your mise en place as well!)
We believe great bartending is about hospitality and caring about your craft.
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