Lesson 03 – Difficulty: Easy
Using a bar spoon is essential for a perfectly stirred cocktail. The bar spoon is one of those underrepresented essential bar tools in your arsenal. True, most of us learned how to use a spoon by the time we were three years old. But, a bar spoon is slightly different and using a bar spoon correctly can make you look professional with very little time.
The goal to using a bar spoon is to mix your spirit-forward cocktails (such as the manhattan or gin martini) without breaking or chipping your ice. You do this by being more elegant about your stir technique: don’t be aggressive or bounce your spoon around the glass. The bar spoon supplied with our Home Bartender Starter Kit is an 11″ red knob bar spoon and that red knob has significance!
Anatomy of the Bar Spoon
The bar spoon has two sides, the flat of the spoon or “measure side” which is usually used for doing small measures (usually around 1 tsp or with our spoon, around 1/4 ounce measure) and the red know “stir side.” Most advanced bartenders with years of experience at craft cocktail bars that have worked under great mentors will use the red knob side to stir a cocktail. Using the bar spoon’s red knob allows for very fast and efficient stirring without getting the flat of the spoon jammed up in the ice. Most, however, think the spoon portion is the stirring side (and it can, in fact, do the job well).
The measure side is great for those with our Home Bartender Starter Kit because the Japanese Double Jigger that is supplied with the kit will measure all the other measurements you will need in your cocktail build.
Preparing The Mixing Glass
If you’ve got our Home Bartender Starter Kit, you’ve got a tempered pint glass that measures 16 ounces. Perfect stand in for a cocktail mixing glass! Prepare your glass by adding ice to it sooner than later to let it come down in temperature. This isn’t your stirring ice, just ice to keep your glass cool (if you didn’t refrigerate it or freeze it). Leave your mixing glass chilling while you pull together your cocktail recipe and other ingredients.
Using a Bar Spoon Step-by-StepStep 1 Toss any chilling ice from the glass. Add your alcohol, spirits, juices and all required ingredients into your glass. These are probably room temperature ingredients, which is perfect. Step 2 Add your ice into the liquid ingredients within your mixing glass. Usually filling the glass halfway up with ice. Step 3 Place your bar spoon (red tip first usually) into the mixing glass and set it up against the edge of the glass. Step 4 Using the “clock method”, hold your bar spoon between your middle finger and index finger and keep the thumb in position for control. With the pressure against the side of the glass, pull the spoon towards you (towards 6 ‘o clock) then push away (towards 12 ‘o clock) and repeat as you let the spoon glide around the outer edge of your mixing glass. Step 5 Continue the smooth stir for approximately 30 seconds to chill down the cocktail to the perfect dilution. Step 6 Using the julep strainer supplied with the Home Bartender Starter Kit or, worst case, your hawthorne strainer, hold back the ice and pour the silky contents of your cocktail into the glass you wish to serve it in.
Bar Spoon Technique
The ultimate technique is a nice smooth rotation in your mixing glass for those 30 seconds. You’ll find the technique is 90% finger movement, 10% wrist movement and 0% arm movement. The speed and efficiency comes through perfected finger movement to get the ice spinning fast through the cocktail ingredients.
Furthermore, spend quality time stirring your cocktails with both hands. Most of us righty folks are going to spend our time relying on the right hand using a bar spoon. However, you’ll find great value in becoming a master with both hands. Now, you’ll be able to stir two different cocktails at once which is great for efficiency and looks professional. You can also shake a cocktail in your dominant hand while stirring with your other hand, making fast work for multiple guests (and can get you back to socializing faster).
The Julep Strainer!
You’ll find the bar spoon, in combination with mixing, is where we focus on using our Julep strainer. The julep strainer is simply used to hold back ice and such in our mixing glass when stirring a cocktail. This preserves the springs of our cocktail strainer when trying to use it on a smaller diameter glass.
The julep strainer gets its name because it was once used to hold back crushed ice in a julep cocktail (prior to the proliferation of the straw). That is why we include it in our Home Bartender Starter Kit.
Don’t Fret The Small Stuff
Remember, you’ll find many different bar spoons on the market. Using a bar spoon is a universal skill and the bar spoon design you use won’t change how fantastic you have becoming using it. Some bar spoons will not have a red tip so stir with the measure side. Other bar spoons will have a weighted side (often used for muddling, which we find dumb) and others have a fork for poking garnishes. Who cares? Just learn how to use a bar spoon properly and you’re on your way!