I think I was the last person in the bar community to
receive the Meehan Bag,
a beautifully and very expensive piece of luggage designed by Moore & Giles, in collaboration with bartending legend Jim
Meehan. I could never afford one myself. But now I have one (cheers Jim) and as
a result I find myself thinking of what I need to fill it with. Of course there
are the obvious components that every bartender needs such as shakers and
strainers. But I’m on a quest to create the ‘Ultimate Bar Kit,’ something that
is jam packed with every single tool you might ever need.
With an ever-increasing number of bar shows now popping up
everywhere from Melbourne to Moscow, coupled with potentially dozens and dozens
events a year, AND a new trend of guest bartending, having a killer bar kit at
your fingertips has become more important than ever. Also, it makes us look
like professionals because that’s exactly what we are, right? It’s the power
suit of the bar world and we need to start dressing to impress, so to speak.
But what to stock? I reached out to my ‘friends’ on
Facebook, asking people what they would put into their fantasy bar kit. The
answers were long and varied, some of which were very useful; others were plain
ridiculous and supposed to be funny I guess. Some were cryptic such as Angus Winchester’s desire for a “small creamer for
nitrous cavitation;” others were completely left field like John Gertsen’s
suggestion of ‘thank you cards’ (a nice touch sir); while some were perhaps
more for morale or courage, such as the call for mini bottles of Underberg (love it).
This list is not in any particular order of importance. In
fact, some of the things listed here you might not find important at all. For
instance, not everyone needs a bowtie packed in their bar kit. This is a
personal item that I often wear during presentations. And while some of the items
might seem unnecessary at first, you’ll be surprised when you might need them
(such as double sided mounting tape or batteries). One of my many philosophies
is that “it’s better to have it and not need it; than to need it and not have
Some items, on the other hand, are luxury items that might
not be useful to everyone, but remember, I’m trying to make the ultimate bar
kit here folks; one that leaves nothing to chance. That said, this is of course
not entirely useful for someone needing huge batching equipment for large
events. But I’m pretty confident that this list covers 99% of the things any
professional bartender could possibly need at their next event or seminar.
I’m surely not the first person to do this as I’ve seen
several brands design their own bar kits that have come in brief cases, leather
roll ups, tool boxes and Meehan bags. Some of the equipment is awful (and
branded) while some stuff is just very cool (and expensive). Gardner Dunn from
Suntory once gave me an extraordinary jigger
made of porcelain while Simon Ford gifted me a stirring spoon with a built-in
There is a lot of stuff on this list and to buy all of it
outright will set you back at least a grand. This is why I’m building my own
collection up overtime, buying 1-2 things a week until it’s complete. You might
not be able to fit it all into your chosen bag but you will have everything.
- EXCALIBUR BAR
SPOON (This is just the name I give my trusty, 33cm long bar spoon, a gift from
my dear friend Jason Crawley way back when. I feel naked behind the bar without
it and that’s not a good image for anybody. Similar ones can be purchased from
- FLAT ENDED BAR
SPOON (great for pressing mint leaves and sugar cubes).
- SHITTY BAR
SPOON (good for hand cracking ice; or even better, buy an ice cracker if you
can find one).
- FORK ENDED BAR
SPOON (good for spearing olives and basically just looking like a pimp. Gold
plated ones are highly encouraged).
- JIGGERS x 3 (I
use cheap, shitty ones I buy from some Chinese dude on The Bowery; they cost
$3.50 a pop. I use 1 & ½ oz. / ¾ & 1.5 oz. / 1 oz. & 2 oz.). I do
also like the Leopold jiggers.
- KORIKO SHAKERS x 2 sets
(28 oz. & 18 oz.). Forget all these gold plated Japanese cobbler shakers. I
hate these, passionately. There, I said it.
- JULEP STRAINER
(I like the Premium Julep strainer, also from Cocktail Kingdom.)
STRAINERS x 2 (contrary to many of the comments of FB, I actually like the 2
prong Bonzer strainers, so
- FINE CONICAL
STRAINER (as a rule, any drink that is shaken, I always double strain it).
- TEA STRAINER.
- FUNNEL (collapsible if possible).
- MEASURING CUP (a 32 oz. collapsible or silicone one is
very useful for batching small amounts).
- EYE DROPPERS.
- TAPE (as well as heavy duty double sided mounting tape).
- SHARPIES & PENS.
- CHEESECLOTH & TWINE.
- MICROPLANE (for citrus, chocolate, ginger, whatever).
- NUTMEG GRATER.
- NUTMEG & CINNAMON.
- CUTTING BOARD (a small white plastic one as well as thin
- LARGE SERRATED KNIFE (good for cutting larger fruits and
- SMALL PAIRING KNIFE (several people suggested the
Japanese brand Korin).
- MELON BALLER.
- CHANNEL KNIFE.
- CHURCH KEY.
- SPEED POURERS.
- TOOTHPICKS & SKEWERS (for garnish).
- BUBBLE WRAP (so you’re not breaking all your shit).
- SARAN WRAP.
- HAND STICK IMMERSION BLENDER.
- SUPER GLUE.
- BLOW TORCH.
- 5 PIECE MEASURING SPOON SET.
- EMPTY CLEAR GLASS BOTTLES (great for using for syrups,
- BAND AIDS/FIRST AID (such as finger condoms, antiseptic
cream, gauze etc).
- INTERNATIONAL POWER ADAPTOR.
- GAS CANISTER (aka creamer/foam gun) & CO2 CHARGERS.
- VARIOUS SIZE BATTERIES.
- HAND JUICE SQUEEZER.
- CITRIC ACID.
- ICE CARVING TOOLS (including ice gloves and a mesh
oyster shucking glove).
- YARAI MIXING GLASS (keep the box it comes in to avoid breakage).
- MUDDLER (Thanks to Gary Regan, I love the Pug muddler.
- WOODEN SWIZZLE STICK.
- ICE MOULDS (2”x 2” / Long rectangle ‘spears’ / ice
‘spheres’ (I like the ones from Muji).
- BLOODY MARY SPICES (for that ubiquitous hangover.
Include a couple of mini Tabasco and Worcestershire bottles as well as celery
salt, salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried horseradish powder. You’ll thank me
- MINI BITTERS (including Angostura, orange and The Bitter Truth have a great travelling kit of bitters).
- POLISHING CLOTHS (need to keep your glassware looking
- BAR RAGS/KITCHEN TOWELS .
- SPONGES & CHAMOIS CLOTH.
- ABSINTHE SPOON (and absinthe).
- CORDLESS HAND WHISK.
- LARGE LONG HANDLED SPOON (great for stirring large
batches of cocktails).
- BUSINESS CARDS.
- NAIL CLIPPERS.
- BOW TIE.
- APRONS (I carry three aprons: a full length white
butcher’s apron, a black waiter’s apron and a really dope leather apron from
the fine folks at Absolut).
- THANK YOU CARDS.
- STRAWS (long & short, as well as some metal ones
with a spoon on the bottom).
- PLASTIC OR METAL STIRRING RODS.
- SQUARE COCKTAIL NAPKINS.
- SMALL WHITE BOWLS (useful for garnish presentation).
- SALT RIMMING PLATE.
- SQUEEZIE BOTTLES.
- PLAYING CARDS.
- COMPUTER CABLES & USB KEY.
- PHONE/COMPUTER CHARGERS.
- ICE CRACKER.
- LEWIS BAG (for
- PLASTIC SHOT GLASSES (good for offering small sample
tastes of spirits or cocktails).
- TIKI GARNISHES (umbrellas, plastic mermaids, monkeys,
- WINE KEY (or what some also call a ‘waiter’s friend’).
- STOP WATCH.
- HAND SANITIZER.
- DRAINING ICE SCOOP.
- CAN OPENER.
- ICE GLOVES/OYSTER GLOVE.
- SALT & PEPPER.
- WHITE SUGAR (for making simple syrup or oleo saccharum
on the fly) & SUGAR CUBES.
- ZIP LOCK BAGS.
- COASTERS (especially fancy ones made of leather, glass
- CHAMPAGNE STOPPERS & CORKS.
- CRYSTAL CUT ROCKS GLASS (see below).
- BATCHED NEGRONI (this is what I like to drink when I’m
on stage presenting. And yes, I drink when I’m presenting).
- PLASTIC BAGS FOR TRASH.
- 97. SMALL RE-SEALABLE BOTTLES (perfect for transporting
syrups, juices, etc.).
- SILICONE NESTING BOWLS (because as Jacob Briars says:
“The most annoying thing is space or place to prep, so I always pack a small
set of silicone nesting bowls for prepping mise en place, and the silicone
bendable measuring jug - 1 litre and 500ml - for prepping syrups/juices/oleo
saccharum/etc. and a chopping sheet. That way any bar high-top, convention
center bathroom or taxi back seat can become a prep station in case the bar is
still locked/being cleaned/owner passed out or you are stuck in traffic.”
- LEATHERMAN/SWISS ARMY KNIFE.
- SMOKING GUN & SMOKING CHIPS.
- CONDOMS (because John Lermayer says so).
A FEW OTHER TIPS:
everything you can.
- Be very careful
when you lend things to someone at any event or bar show.
- I also keep a
laminated copy of this list inside the bar kit as an excel spreadsheet. I
literally tick off each item with a dry erase marker before I take off on the
road, so I don’t forget anything. Then I also check it off when I’ve finished
an event or a presentation to make sure I haven’t misplaced anything.
- Keep your
paring knife extremely sharp
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