July 12, 2016

Why bar tool design has not changed since Prohibition

Sometimes we forget that turning a cocktail into something better than good requires great ingredients and great tools.
Let’s think of the bartender as a craftsman. That essential style of the cocktail can only be imparted by the right tools. In the same way a carpenter brings his own tools to the job so he can complete his craft with finesse, so too do the best barmen and bar women.

Bar tools add to the performance of cocktail creation, the better the function and aesthetics conceivably, the better the expected results.
So, what does this suggest today when we look back through history to discover that the bar tools we see today in our bars (and homes), are not far removed from those used during Prohibition?

Most designs trace their roots back to the 19th century – great examples are the Julep strainer, wooden muddler (evolving from a toddy stick), a Boston shaker, a Hawthorne strainer and the Cobbler shaker.

Whilst some other tools were tried (an aluminium shaker – but drinks tasted of metal, or cast iron juicer – bit cumbersome but good for shutting up a pesky client!) the basis of what we see today is not far removed from products developed almost 100 years ago.

By the time we reached Prohibition, the tools and production of classic (modern) cocktails was becoming established, yet as production, materials and machinery improved, it seems that generic bar products are being produced and sold for price for less and less money.

So wouldn’t we imagine the consequence of this that something must give, namely quality, function and performance?

The old adage that a tradesman is only as good as the tools that they use still stands true today.