Food & Drinks

The Best Bar Spoon Does Much More Than Stir

Whether your home bar is a corner of your kitchen counter or a full-fledged bar cart, it has likely seen many a shaken drink. But though we might fantasize about being Tom Cruise in Cocktail, shaking isn’t always the best mixing method—no matter how much flair you put into it. Whiskey sours, daiquiris, and other drinks with mixers like syrups, egg whites, and juices love being rattled around the inside of a cocktail shaker. Yet a more straightforward, liquor-centric drink like a Negroni or a Manhattan only needs a simple stir to chill and dilute your cocktail without adding air or overly watering down your booze.

While a bar spoon might have made its way into your home as a gift or as part of a starter bar set, it’s more likely that a regular spoon has done the trick for casual cocktails. It can feel silly to buy a specialty spoon when you have so many, but these expertly engineered utensils do much more than stir. If you love entertaining or just want to get into layered cocktails, a bar spoon can be just as mesmerizing to see in action as a shaker tin. Here’s how to get your swirl on.

How to stir

Some bars make do with the long, straight handle of an iced tea spoon, but the beloved Japanese bar spoon boasts a spiral handle designed to effortlessly glide between your fingers as you stir. There are a few schools of thought on how to place your fingers to achieve these rotations, but beverage consultant and cocktail educator Kaitlyn Stewart believes everyone finds their own comfortable position. What’s truly important lies further down the bar tool.

Barfly Japanese Style Bar Spoon

“I always say take the back end of the spoon [bowl] and make sure it’s snug tight up against the inside of the glass,” says Stewart, World Class’s 2017 Bartender of the Year. “With a clockwise motion with your wrist, stir the cocktail.” These revolutions around your mixing glass (or pint glass or mason jar) need to be smooth; the choppier they are, the more air you introduce to the drink. She says “the point is to control dilution” and achieve the “rich, silky mouthfeel” you’re looking for in a stirred cocktail.

Overdilution can wreck the texture of your Manhattans, but there’s some wiggle room in how long you should stir. Difford’s Guide recommends 30–45 seconds, but some popular recipes ask for as little as 20 seconds and as long as 90 seconds. Unless specified, especially with a pre-chilled mixing glass, 30 seconds of stirring set to whichever handwashing song you chose at the beginning of the pandemic will do.

Skip to 1:00 for that slo-mo stir.

The other end of the stick

Opposite the bowled part of the spoon, the other end of a stainless steel bar spoon can serve a few different versatile looks. The most common version is known as a teardrop, counterweighted to make stirring easier. Barfly’s 30-centimeter weighted teardrop bar spoon is a personal favorite because the spirals are gentle enough for my fingers and the weight of each end has proven helpful when cracking ice.

Barfly Teardrop Bar Spoon

You can add a bit more flair and functionality by choosing a bar spoon topped with a trident, muddler, or even a strainer. The trident typically skewers slippery garnishes like pickled onions. It’s also a deft ice pick for when you’re splitting your homemade blocks of clear ice or crushing ice by hand. Whether smooth or jagged, a muddler tip will release the oils of mint and crush a sugar cube for your Old Fashioned. As for bar spoons with a strainer end, Stewart recommends the Birdy bar spoon by renowned professional bartender Erik Lorincz. The tip allows you to dump the water used to chill the glass while reserving the ice cubes so they can be reused to make the drink—all without reaching for a conventional Julep cocktail strainer.

Spiraling into control

Most bar spoons are between 30 and 40 centimeters (12–15 inches), but they can get as long as 50 centimeters. How do you know what length is right for you? You want to be able to stir freely without your hand grazing the top of your glass, so consider the size of your hand and mixing vessel. If you use a tall mixing glass or you love making pitchers of sangria, the best bar spoon is one with a long handle. For a standard cocktail mixing glass, a 50-centimeter spoon will likely feel unwieldy thanks to the counterweighted tip being so high—unless you want to show off to your friends.

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