The wide world of mixed drinks is only matched in complexity by the science of mixology. Whether you’re picking up barkeeping as a job or just want to impress your friends at a party, here’s how to use a bar spoon like a pro.
A bar spoon is an important tool to properly mix your drinks, and you should allow 20-30 seconds of stirring to let the ice melt, diluting the drink and making giving it a pleasant chill.
There are a number of tips that separate amateur mixers from pros, and a lot of that mixing technique relies on the trusty bar spoon. The rest of this article will cover what a bar spoon is and how to use it effectively for mixing drinks.
What Is a Bar Spoon?
A bar spoon is a useful tool regularly found behind the bar counter. It consists of a 12-15-inch corkscrew handle and a paddle-like bowl.
As the name suggests, the bar spoon is used for making cocktails, serving the primary purpose of stirring drinks; however, they may also be used to measure, muddle, and crack ice. Around the world, different types of bar spoon have different designs for different functions.
American Bar Spoon
With a bowl holding a teaspoon, the American bar spoon is twisted and usually has a red plastic cap at the end. The twist in the handle compliments the stirring motion for proper mixing when combined with the ideal technique, crafting a masterfully mixed drink to enjoy.
For many mixing experts, the American bar spoon is considered the clunkiest of the spoons, generally resulting in a rougher mix.
European Bar Spoon
The European bar spoon has a flatter end and only holds half a teaspoon. Its ease of use makes it indispensable for layering and muddling ingredients.
Japanese Bar Spoon
Don’t think you’ll only find these tools in Japan. A bartender favourite, the Japanese bar spoon is usually on the longer side, and the weighted teardrop makes it easier to manage. It also holds half a teaspoon and is ideal for beginners and experts alike.
Which Tool Is Right for You?
You can gain experience with any of these bar spoons, but if you want the best of the best, then the Japanese bar spoon is usually your best bet since they reflect the highest quality craftsmanship and expertise. As a general note, you should avoid any bar spoons finished with lacquer since it can flake off in your drinks over time.
How to Use a Bar Spoon
Stirring the Drink
The first and foremost function of a bar spoon is stirring the drink. After all, that’s what the twisted handle is for. With a gentle stirring technique, you can mix cocktails with ease to layer and muddle flavours effectively.
While you could, of course, use any spoon for this job, the bar spoon is uniquely positioned to manage even narrow-bottomed glasses with ice.
Stirring is the most important part of using your spoon and is a gentler approach than shaking it, but the trick is more in the method than the tool. A complete stir ensures that all of your ingredients are mixed well and accessible to the palate in each sip, as well as ensuring the drink is properly chilled.
As a bonus tip, starting with a chilled glass is a good way to dilute and chill the mix quickly.
To stir like a pro, follow these steps:
- Layer all of the ingredients in your glass and slide the spoon in on the edge of the glass so as not to disturb the drink. Do so with the back of the spoon facing inwards.
- Pinch the spoon between your thumb and middle finger, positioning it above your first knuckle.
- Stir with a circular motion, using your wrist to facilitate the movement. Be gentle with the mix so that you don’t cause any bubbles, ensuring the concave side faces in the whole time.
- Stir up to 40 times (about 20-30 seconds), switching from clockwise to counterclockwise occasionally.
With this method in mind, you’re all set to start mixing drinks like a pro using a bar spoon. Once you get the hang of the method, you can even stir two drinks at once, thanks to the user-friendly design of the bar spoon. The corkscrew stem allows for gentle, even mixing, particularly in drinks that have ice.
The hardest part of using a bar spoon is learning how to hold it properly. Think of it as holding a pen such that you’re only relying on your finger and wrist muscles to facilitate the stirring motion. That way, you’ll be able to stir gently and evenly without overworking the mix.
Naturally, you’ll want to experiment a little with the amounts you’re mixing into your drinks, and the bar spoon is a handy dandy way to do that. Remember, American bar spoons are 5ml (1 teaspoon) while European and Japanese bar spoons are 2.5ml (1/2 teaspoon).
Just keep in mind that bar spoons are not made with the same measuring precision as measuring spoons, so it should only be used for an approximation.
Layering Your Drinks
One of the most important factors of taste is proper layering. The layering technique adds a dimension of flavor and depth to a drink, and you can use the bar spoon to accomplish this feat.
For floating ingredients, you can place the back of the spoon over the first layer, allowing your follow-up ingredient to be spread across the surface slowly without mixing.
A strong knowledge of the weight of your ingredients is the best tool to ensure you’re layering drinks properly. High sugar content makes a liquid heavy, while alcohol makes it lighter. Use this general guideline (and stick to some recipes to get into practice) to layer your drinks using a bar spoon properly.
Adding garnish to a drink adds an element of flair and a hit of acidity that boosts flavour. You can use your bar spoon to garnish drinks quite easily, thanks to the usually flat bowl of the spoon.
Separate the rind of your garnish from the pith and cut it into a strip. Wind it around the twisted step of the bar spoon to curl it, and voila! You’ve got a professional-looking garnish using nothing but a bar spoon.
Learning how to use a bar spoon isn’t too difficult, but understanding the variety of ingredients and methods in mixing can be quite challenging.
Thankfully, mixology is very beginner-friendly, allowing you to start practising your craft at home whenever you feel like experimenting with a new recipe. You can use the bar spoon to stir, layer ingredients, measure, and even prepare garnishes for your dish, making it a versatile tool that any avid barkeeper should know how to use.
Primarily used for stirring, the bar spoon’s twisted design compliments the stirring motion and allows for gentle, even mixing. Pinch the spoon like a pen, and only use your fingers and wrist muscles to make gentle clockwise and counterclockwise movements. Soon enough, you’ll be using a bar spoon to mix drinks like a pro!