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Bar gear: Cramming for the bar

At most restaurants, the bar is a big profit center, so an investment in tools will pay back dividends. When writing up the shopping list, be sure to consult your bartender or mixologist.

The basics

Glassware. Your selection depends on the bar’s focus: wine bars will have a wider range of wine glasses, cocktail establishments more martini glasses, pubs more beer mugs, etc. (See “Foodservice Buyer: Glassware” in the November 2007 issue of Restaurant Business.) Be sure to have adequate storage space for the glasses you choose.

Bar sinks. Use a three-sink system—wash, rinse, sanitize—plus an area for drying. Volume operations should also invest in an under-counter warewasher.

Ice supply. Although you can get along with just an ice well, it’s nice to have a small icemaker at the bar, with a big machine in the kitchen for backup. Scoops and caddies should be easy to clean and sanitize; some models are coated in antimicrobial silver for added protection.

Refrigeration. Juices, mixers, olives and onions, fruits, etc. require a small under-counter reach-in. If you serve lots of bottles or cans, you’ll need a larger reach-in; display units are available that merchandise as they chill.

Blender. Invest in a heavy-duty commercial model that can chew up ice. Extra blender jars allow you to prep several batches. Check the sound level: some models run quieter than others. Or you can buy a noise shield. An alternative to the blender is a frozen drink machine; it works like a soft-serve machine.

Smallwares. Tools of the trade such as bar spoons, jiggers, shakers, strainers and wine and bottle openers are essential. Many distributors offer these items free—if you don’t mind liquor or wine brand logos.

Garnish prep. You’ll need a couple of cutting boards and small knives for slicing up citrus wedges, wheels, twists and flags. A zester is appealing and saves time and effort. Keep it all neat, fresh and handy with a garnish caddy.

Muddler. One of the oldest tools of the bartenders’ trade, the muddler is back in style thanks to the popularity of mojitos. They are used to mash fruits, herbs and spices with sugar. Most muddlers are about eight to 10 inches long and shaped like a mini baseball bat, with the grip end the workhorse. Usually made from hardwood, muddlers are also available in easy-to-clean plastic and stainless steel.

Dispensers. Installing beer taps and lines is initially expensive, but this high-profit product yields a quick ROI. Choose a beer system that makes it easy to add extra taps if demand increases in the future. Soda guns are a fast, easy way to dispense soft drinks and mixers. POS-activated liquor dispensers offer the ultimate in portion control, but systems can slow down service versus free-pouring.

Mats. Although not glamorous, mats make bars easier to work in and safer. Bar mats line the back edge of the bar top for a non-skid area to prep drinks. Floor mats behind the bar and in other work areas absorb spills, reduce slips and falls and reduce fatigue. Both types should be easy to clean.

Beyond the basics

Beer engines. Many beer bars and brew pubs now offer at least one cask-conditioned ale. Because the beers have low carbonation, they must be coaxed out of the cask with a bell-handled pump called a beer engine. The portable pumps are usually just clamped to the bar, with the cask close by for an easy draw; the setup is independent of your regular beer lines.

Infusion jars. Infused spirits are big in the cocktail arena and easy to make on premise. Wide-mouthed glass containers with a tap at the bottom come in various shapes and sizes. Fancy shapes, such as grape bunches, are eye-catching but straight-sided jars are easier to clean. Some spirits suppliers offer free infusion jars—bearing their logos, of course.Wine dispensers. If you specialize in wines by the glass, a dispenser that serves and preserves open bottles will soon pay for itself by reducing spoilage. The machines can accommodate as few as two bottles or up to a dozen. Nitrogen displacement keeps wines fresh for up to three weeks. Bottles are held at ideal temperatures for red or white, and dispense at the touch of a tap. The units come in stainless steel, wood or custom cabinets.

Juicers. Premium cocktails call for freshly squeezed juices. Juicers range from hand-held reamers and manual squeezers and presses to fully automatic machines. A simple, stand-type citrus squeezer works well for a small bar. High-volume spots might opt for an electric machine that can juice five pounds of oranges in minutes. To juice other fruits and veggies, get an extractor.

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