Bartender’s Tool Kit: Essential utensils raise the bar

Brent Newman and Jonathan Schuyler, sommeliers at 2941 in Falls Church, offer their must-have tips and tools to elevate simple, good-quality ingredients into elegant at-home drinks.

By Jennifer Shapira

Newman and Schuyler / Photo courtesy of Marian Hayes
Brent Newman and Jonathan Schuyler / Photos courtesy of Marian Hayes
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

Self-described cocktail nerd Brent Newman tops off drinks with frothy egg whites, sometimes creating intricate designs in the foamy meringue—much like a barista’s works of art at an artisanal coffee shop. But you don’t need that sleight-of-hand to mix cocktails at home: Newman and Jonathan Schuyler, sommeliers at 2941 in Falls Church, offer their must-have tips and tools to elevate simple, good-quality ingredients into elegant at-home drinks. These modern mixologists are skilled in the act and art of enjoying classic cocktails. Here’s how they and other experts keep your spirits up. 

What’s stocked in their home bars?
“I think John and I are in perfect agreement about always having gin and rye whiskey in your home bar,” Newman says.

“And then I always like to have a decanter with scotch or cognac if people come over later at night,” Schuyler says. “Just put it on a rock like in a very classic 1950s movie sort of a way.”

What about their tools of the trade?
Schuyler favors a wooden muddler over stainless steel “for the beautiful sort of fine-grain texture that” results in a muddled cocktail.

Stainless steel jiggerA channel knife, which is a very fine peeler that creates long curls of citrus peel.

Simple syrup, an essential cocktail ingredient. Making it is, er, simple, say both sommeliers. Don’t even think about buying it: Two parts water, one part sugar. “If you can boil water, you can make simple syrup,” says Newman.

Make ice cubes from filtered water in large-mold ice trays.

And if you’re not used to pouring specific measurements for a living, a jigger is an absolute necessity. Be sure to buy one with a lip to avoid spillage.

They’ll tell you their twists on classics like Old Fashioneds, Negronis and Manhattans and state their case for making their own bitters. But these guys can wind down with a no-frills beverage, too. Schuyler’s springtime fave is Cynar, an Italian bitter artichoke liquor (buy it and it will last forever, he says. “You can only drink so much, especially if you’re mixing it 40/60 with soda.”) paired with San Pellegrino Aranciata or Limonata. Toss in a sprig of rosemary or a leaf of basil snipped from your own herb garden and enjoy.

(May 2016)

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