Anyone who has seen a Bond movie will have heard the phrase ‘Shaken or stirred’. As much as we might be tempted to order a shaken martini, most bartenders will recommend that they are far better stirred down. You also need to know how to stir cocktails properly. To do this you’ll need a decent bar spoon.
What is a Bar Spoon?
A bar spoon is a long-handled spoon used for mixing and layering spirits. Simple, right?
Though at first glance, the humble bar spoon might not seem like it has any secrets, it’s actually evolved over centuries to be a barman’s best friend.
Have you ever wondered why they can be so long, or why it has that flat end and spiralled handle? All of these attributes are well thought out and essential in helping create beautiful cocktails and perfectly layered shots.
Stay tuned to find out how.
A Brief History
Modern bar spoons have evolved from a few different historical spoons.
With a fork on one end and a spoon on the other, the sucket spoon was named after the English dessert of fruit served in syrup that it was used to eat.
When fruit cocktails began to become popular in the 1800s, they were often served with sucket spoons so patrons could stir their drinks with one end and use the other to pick out pesky olives or berries.
This spoon is thought to have originated in french apothecaries. It had a measure at one end and a muddler at the other to break up medicines into powders that could be dissolved.
It’s named after a town in Algeria where the French army won a victory in 1840. After the war, a drink of the same name, that the soldiers had discovered in Mazagran, became popular in Paris. One of the ingredients of this coffee drink was hard beet sugar which had to be crushed with the muddler-ended spoon.
The Modern Bar Spoon
Sleek and minimalist designs are popular these days but the influence of these two early versions is evident in the modern versions (though hardly any have forks on these days!).
How Big is a Bar Spoon?
A bar spoon will typically be 12 inches long though some varieties are even longer. Their length ensures they can reach the bottom of any vessel so they can properly combine all the ingredients inside.
What is a Bar Spoon Measure?
A bar spoon measurement varies in volume from 1ml to 5ml so it’s best to use a proper measure for your drinks if you’re trying to be precise.
Types of Bar Spoon
There are many styles, shapes and lengths of bar spoon available online. These can be broken down into 3 main categories, Japanese, European, and American.
Japanese Bar Spoon
Highly regarded as one of the most eye-catching and pristine designs within the industry. Japanese bar spoons tend to be longer than their western competition and can measure up to a lengthy 40cm. The well-known teardrop shape and design aren’t just for elegant appearances, the larger tip adds more weight for a better centre of gravity when stirring down a drink.
European Bar Spoon
If its practicality you’re looking for…look no further. The European bar spoon is characterised by a flat disc on one end and is a choice favourite of cocktails bars throughout the world.
The flat disc has a variety of uses, it can be used for crushing soft ingredients like berries or sugar cubes, however, it’s no substitute for a quality muddler.
It’s also handy when used for layering cocktails, blending ingredients together, or ‘churning’ a drink involving crushed ice.
American Bar Spoon
Inexpensive, functional and does what you’d expect of a spoon – but not much more. The American bar spoon is easily recognisable with a coloured rubber cap covering one end, serving no other purpose than to protect the bartender’s hand. It’s a no thrills option, but reliable when it comes to the job of stirring.
How To Use It
A bar spoon is an important tool for every barman, from professionals to novices. They have a couple of key uses:
Stirring and Mixing
The correct method to stir down classic drinks like the Martini, Old Fashioned or Negroni is quite simple with a bit of practice. You’ll first need to take the spoon in your dominant hand, placing it into the mixing glass taking care to ensure the base of the spoon is against the glass.
As you move the spoon follow the circular shape of the glass, letting the twisted neck of the spoon rotate between your fingers as it goes around. The aim here is to get the ice and liquid ingredients to move as one, taking care to not jumble the ice or crack cubes as you go.
The end result should be a perfectly diluted and balanced cocktail, but it’s advisable to stop and taste your mixture throughout the process to ensure you don’t over-stir your drink.
Layering Drinks and Shots
Layered drinks and shots are a perfect way of impressing your guests. The art of layering is based on the oil and water principle, floating lighter distilled spirits like vodka and tequila on heavier ones such as liqueurs and syrups.
This process can be tricky to master but is made far easier by using the twisted stem found on European bar spoons in combination with the flat disc. By pouring carefully mid-way on the stem of the spoon liquid will run down the shaft before being slowed and spread out by the flat end, reducing impact and evenly spreading layers.
Alternatively, slowly layer the liquid down the back of your bar spoon like the image above. Great examples of layering include well-known shots like the B-52.
How Much is a Bar Spoon?
If this article has convinced you that you need a bar spoon you might be wondering how much it will set you back and where they’re available.
The bar spoon is a key piece of cocktail-making equipment and also one of the cheapest to buy. Check out our alternative bar tools for an alternative to a bar spoon as well as other key equipment.
Our recommendation is to use the modern bar spoon as a home bartender as it’s the most useful and versatile.
The good news is though, even if you don’t have a bar spoon at home there are plenty of alternatives available in your kitchen such as chopsticks or a normal dessert spoon