Essential Bar Tools, Part IV | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Essential Bar Tools, Part IV

If you dig garnish, peel citrus, or make juleps, this list is for you

Being a bartender, I frequently get asked about the various tools I use. Most often, people want to know what specific items they need at home in order to make decent drinks for themselves and friends. In previous columns, I've listed an assortment of useful bar tools, so here's one last batch to consider.

Paring Knife

What is it? A little knife for cutting little stuff. They’re everywhere, from high-end kitchens to your grandmother's junk drawer. It was likely the first knife a grownup ever let you use in the kitchen.

Do I need it? You probably already have one. If not, get one. Paring knives are handy for small cutting tasks and particularly useful for preparing garnishes. It's the go-to tool for slicing and trimming all the goodies that make your drinks look spiffy.

Basic or Fancy? Basic. You can find decent ones for under $10 in kitchen and houseware stores. Find one you like and get a few — knives like these have an annoying habit of getting lost or borrowed.

Channel Knife

What is it? More of a peeler than a knife. It's designed to pull a narrow, string-like strip of rind from fruit (usually citrus) and vegetables.

Do I Need It? Maybe. If you want to introduce some variety into your garnish game, it's a nice gadget to have. Not essential, but it definitely gives you more options when it comes to decorating your drinks.

Basic or Fancy? Depends. Like its sibling the veggie peeler, cheap ones do the trick for most situations. However, if you're making a lot of garnishes that require this type of tool, spend a couple more bucks and get one with a robust blade and comfy handle.

Ice Crusher

What is it? A machine that takes big chunks of ice and turns them into smaller chunks of ice. Designs vary, but the one I recommend is the two-piece, hand-cranked model designed to sit on a table or counter. 

Do I need it? You can definitely get by without one, but to make things like juleps and certain tropical-style drinks, they're mandatory. Plus, they're fun to use. Show your guests how to use it and put those freeloaders to work.

Basic or Fancy? You're looking for one that's sturdy and feels like it's up to the job. Some newer ones are made pretty well, but I prefer the vintage models. They're built like tanks, and can be found cheaply at thrift stores, flea markets, and websites like Etsy and eBay.

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