Watching a professional bartender stirring cocktails with a bar spoon is a mesmerizing experience. If you look closely, you will notice that not all bartender spoons are the same. And I'm not talking about the color. There are three main types of bar spoons, each with characteristic features.
And even though you could stir your drinks with a replacement tool, using this elongated bar tool will make your life much easier.
What is a bar spoon?
A bar spoon is an essential cocktail tool that helps bartenders stir cocktails and measure ingredients. Professional cocktail spoons, aka bar spoons, come in different lengths and designs. Even the spoon ends do vary. Some are more ergonomic, some help with cracking ice or muddling, and others help you pick up garnishes.
Why is a bar spoon twisted?
The twisted handle of a bar spoon helps with two things: stirring and pouring ingredients into an already mixed drink (think about adding soda to a Ramos Gin Fizz).
When stirring, the concave part should always point inwards. This way, the spoon smoothly travels along the walls of your mixing glass. The twisted shape of the handle supports this because it performs a sort of screw motion that counters your circular stirring. With an untwisted handle, this would be far more complex and hard.
And the twisted handle it's also practical when pouring ingredients into a mixed drink. You can simply pour soda water directly onto the spiral handle while the end of the spoon is inside your cocktail and facilitates a laminar flow. That means the liquid will stick and wander around the twisted handle. -No splashing, no wasted ingredients, and a clean pour. That works best with a Japanese-style bar spoon. If you don't know what that is, read the next paragraph.
The different bar spoons styles
At the beginning of mixology, there were only two different types of bar spoons. Both originate from Europe, one from Germany, the other from France. The German version initially had a small fork at the end of the spoon and was traditionally used as a spoon for eating dessert. Over time, this type of spoon evolved into the cocktail spoon we now know as the American bar spoon.
The French spoon had a metal disk at the end of the spoon, which helped to crush sugar that won't dissolve fast enough. This metal disk design is now the characteristic feature of the European bar spoon. And a newer, third type of spoon is today's most popular one, the Japanese-style bar spoon. Here's a quick guide to all three types of bar spoons.
American bar spoon
Measurement: 1 bsp equals 1/6oz or 5ml
Spoon end Design: Small red cap
The American bar spoon has a simplistic design. It holds 1/6 of an ounce or 5ml. It has a twisted handle and typically a red plastic cap at the end of the spoon. Today this type of spoon is only rarely used. The European and especially the Japanese versions are much more common.
European bar spoon
Measurement: 1 bsp equals 1/12oz or 2.5ml
Spoon end Design: Metal disk
Equipped with a spiraled handle and a metal disk at the end, the European bar spoon is superb for cracking ice, muddling sugar cubes, and layering. The spoon itself holds only 1/12 oz or 2.5ml. That's half the amount of an American version.
Japanese bar spoon
Measurement: 1 bsp equals 1/12oz 2.5ml
Spoon end Design: Drop-shaped
The Japanese bar spoon is the most common and elegant type of bar spoon. The weighted and drop-shaped end of the spoon makes it much more ergonomic. Therefore this spoon is perfect for stirring. It also features a twisted handle but with a sleeker and more elegant design. And just like the European one, it holds 2.5ml of liquid or 1/12 oz.
Length of a bar spoon
Most bar spoons available are somewhere between 10 - 12 inches long. Ideally, I would look for one that's 12 inches. That should be long enough to comfortably stir your cocktail without touching the rim of your mixing glass.
And don't buy a spoon that's less than 10 inches long unless you have a specific use case for it. Also, if you should need a much longer spoon, there are versions available in 18 inches of length. But as with shorter ones, you should have a specific use case for them. Otherwise, stirring your drinks just becomes a more tricky task.
What for to use a bar spoon?
A bar spoon can help you in many situations. Depending on the design, you can use it for:
Stirring cocktails: Stirring remains the most common use case of a bar spoon. And most available styles perform that task perfectly fine.
Layering drinks: The twisted handle helps with gently pouring in liquids on top to create a layered effect.
Measuring: This isn't the most common use case, but some recipes ask for small amounts of liquid. Knowing that your bar spoon holds either 2.5ml or 5ml can help a lot with measuring ingredients. On top of that, some recipes even measure ingredients in bsp (bar spoon).
Muddling: Using the metal disk of a European bar spoon, you can muddle ingredients like berries or sugar cubes.
Picking and placing garnish: If you're using a bar spoon with a fork-style end, you can pick garnishes like fruit easily without using your hands.
What is a bar spoon made of?
The majority of bar spoons available on the market are made of stainless steel. Stainless steel is affordable, super durable, and dishwasher safe. At least if you opt for a steel-colored one. If you prefer golden or copper-colored spoons, you might want to hand-wash these. Otherwise, the color will eventually come off or get stained.
If you're looking for something special, you could also buy a bar spoon made of solid copper. But as with other genuine copper bar tools, they're more expensive than the stainless steel options.
How to use a bar spoon?
Using a spoon seems like an easy thing to do. But if you did try stirring a cocktail with a bar spoon before, you know a good deal of technique is involved. The same thing applies to layering drinks. To help you look more professional using a bar spoon, here's a guide on how to use a bar spoon the right way for…
Once you get a grip on the technique, stirring cocktails becomes easy. However, in the beginning, there are a few things to consider to master the technique.
- Pour the cocktail ingredients into your mixing glass and fill it with plenty of ice.
- Grab your bar spoon and slide it into the glass while touching the wall of the mixing glass. Remember that the concave side of the spoon should be facing inwards.
- Hold the spoon with only two of your fingers. Using the middle and index finger is a common choice. But you could also use your middle and ring finger, whatever feels comfortable for you.
- Now move the spoon around the glass while always touching the glass walls and the concave part pointing inwards. That should be a gentle and fluid motion only coming from your wrist. Don't use force or move your arm too much. That is an easy way to distinguish an amateur from a professional bartender. But don't feel discouraged if it's hard at the beginning. Just keep practicing, and you'll master the stirring in no time.
- Once your drink is chilled, remove the spoon and use a Hawthorne strainer to strain the stirred cocktail into a cocktail glass.
Usually, you stir a drink 30 to 40 times before it's chilled enough to be strained into your serving glass.
Layering is another essential part of bartending that has to be mastered. And serving perfectly layered cocktails or shots is a perfect way to impress your friends and family.
The standard way to float one ingredient on top of another is by pouring liquid gently over the back of a bar spoon. Shots like the B-52 are perfect for practicing this technique as the ingredients have significantly different densities. That makes it easier to get nicely separated layers.
Another way to layer ingredients is by making use of the metal disk of a European bar spoon. Simply put the metal disk just above your drink and pour the layer directly onto the twisted handle of the spoon. Ideally, do this mid-way on the spoon handle. The liquid will flow smoothly down along the handle and spread evenly as soon as it hits the metal disk.
You will need some practice to master the layering of ingredients, but overall, it's not too hard. And seeing a perfectly layered shot or cocktail is highly rewarding.
How much is a bar spoon?
Bar spoons are inexpensive and can be as cheap as $5. However, I recommend investing in something of higher quality that would cost you around $10 to $15.
Bar spoon FAQs
The ideal bar spoon is 12 inches (30cm) long. That's also the most common size sold. Don't choose one that's less than 10 inches, as it will make it harder to stir your drinks.
Bar Spoons are used for stirring, measuring, layering, muddling, and even garnished cocktails.
An American bar spoon holds 1/6 oz (5ml). European and Japanese bar spoons typically hold half of that, 1/12 oz (2.5ml).
A bar spoon is also called a stirring spoon, cocktail spoon, mixing spoon, bartending spoon, or cocktail stirrer spoon.
One American bar spoon measures the same amount like a teaspoon: 5 ml (1/6 oz). European and Japanese bar spoons hold half a teaspoon: 2.5 ml (1/12 oz).