Welcome to “Kitchen Essentials,” a new series from Chowhound where chefs and bartenders from around the country invite viewers into their kitchens and bars, unveiling the five tools that are simply essential to their work.
Meander by Glady’s on Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn during the day and you might wonder what’s served inside the bright blue corner storefront. But stop by after the sun sets and you’ll hardly have to inquire. Once the sun disappears, the Carribbean restaurant lights up, transforming into a music-blasting, tropical cocktail-forward tiki bar.
Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails, $19.28 on Amazon
At the helm of the Crown Heights mainstay is Shannon Mustipher, the owner of the establishment and bona fide mixologist expert. At Glady’s, you might find Shannon behind the bar, shaking rum punch cocktails and brewing smoky Negroni slushies while platters of sweet plantains and spicy jerk chicken are shepherded out of the small kitchen. The place is undeniably a beacon for the neighborhood, a congregation of locals and tiki lovers and those who simply want to sway to the music pumping from the speakers.
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It’s here that Shannon revealed her most vital bartender tools—the kind of products she certainly wouldn’t be able to do her job without—to Chowhound during the second episode of “Kitchen Essentials.” Below, take a peak at what Shannon can’t live without. With just a few of these tools, you, too, can become your neighborhood’s resident mixologist.
A swizzle stick—sometimes referred to as le bois lélé or le baton lélé—is rather necessary to running an authentic Caribbean bar. The wooden stick is plunged into a beverage and swirled, agitating and mixing the liquid, and the spoked edges jutting out at the bottom actually act as a muddler, crimping and pressing fresh fruit and herbs. It’s much gentler than a conventional bar spoon. “When you see this,” Shannon says, “you know you’re in the right place for a Caribbean cocktail.” Buy Now
A cocktail shaker set is housed behind just about every cocktail bar, but that actually wasn’t the case until the invention of ice. Early cocktails were simply stirred, but once the cocktail shaker came onto the scene in the mid 19th century, things changed. Now cocktails were being swirled with ice and citrus and liqueurs—ingredients that required a bit more movement to get all the pieces to come together. Plus, the cocktail shaker chills the drink and latches close, so bartenders don’t have to worry about the liquid spilling out. Buy Now
Just as baking requires precise measurements, cocktails also benefit from accurate proportions. Shannon relies on a jigger (a dual-sided measurer that holds up to one ounce on one side and two ounces on the other) to measure out certain liquors and ingredients—plus its narrow center means it’s easy to hold and flip while putting together a drink. Buy Now
For anyone looking to upgrade and elevate cocktails without having the largest background in mixology, Shannon reveals that the easiest way to do so is by investing in a channel knife. The knife—which kind of resembles a potato peeler—is perfect for adding a bit of flair to a cocktail in the form of a garnish. Simply carve into your fruit of choice for a thin, curved peel, then plop along the rim of the drink. “The garnish is king in tiki,” Shannon explains, “more than any other cocktail.”Buy Now
On a busy shift, a bartender is often chained to a commercial drink mixer—in a good way. Shaking is great and all for when you have a small crowd, but when it comes to those busy nights, a flash blender churns out drinks way quicker. Everything is consistent using a flash blender; it doesn’t matter who’s operating the machine.Buy Now
For more about Shannon and operating a tiki bar, watch the second episode of “Kitchen Essentials.”
Header image by Chowhound.