Being a bartender, I frequently get questions about the various tools I use. Most often, people want to know what specific items they need to make decent drinks at home. In previous columns, I covered a handful of essential bar tools, but there's still several that can come in handy.
What is it? Exactly what it sounds like: a gadget that gets the juice out of fruit. We're talking about simple ones designed for limes, lemons, — not those high-horsepower beasts used for health-type drinks.
Do I need it? Absolutely. If you're making any cocktail that calls for citrus juice, you always, always, always want to use fresh-squeezed.
Basic or Fancy? If you only need a few ounces of juice at a time, a simple hand-operated one will do. If you're going to make drinks in bulk, a countertop model or moderately priced electric one will save you a ton of time and hassle.
Fine Mesh Strainer
What is it? A tiny sieve. Used in conjunction with a Hawthorne strainer, it filters ice shards and other small solids, guaranteeing your drink contains nothing but liquid.
Do I Need It? Depends. This type of strainer is mainly used for finishing drinks that are served "up" (no ice), so if most cocktails you make are on the rocks, you can get by without it. But if you want your no-ice drinks to look extra spiffy, then pouring them through a fine mesh strainer is a nice detail.
Basic or Fancy? Basic. The inexpensive ones they sell at kitchen and restaurant supply stores work just fine for home use.
What is it? A stick for mashing stuff, more or less. They're cylindrical and can be made of plastic, metal, or wood (picture a miniature baseball bat). It's used for gently pressing the oils and other flavorful goodies from fresh fruit or herbs.
Do I need it? Maybe. If you're going to be making a lot of mojitos, caipirinhas, or any drink where you want to incorporate the essence of fresh produce, then pick one up.
Basic or Fancy? Basic. Any place that has a halfway decent selection of barware will carry them, so you can get a perfectly serviceable one for just a few bucks. But if you're one of those people who like artisanal, hand-crafted exotic showpieces, then knock yourself out. Either way, it's still just a stick.