The Most Important Bar Tool You’re Probably Not Using

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I have a confession for you: I can’t remember how to make a Mai Tai. I’m serious, I can’t. I mean, I know what goes in one, I know the legend of the drink, the names of the supposed creators, and the importance of the Mai Tai in modern cocktail culture. I can even conjure up the flavor and texture of the three most perfect Mai Tais I’ve ever had as if they were sitting in front of me.

But for the life of me I can never remember if it’s a half ounce of orgeat and a quarter ounce of simple syrup, or a quarter ounce of orgeat and a half ounce of simple syrup. Honestly, I probably get about five Mai Tai orders a year at my bar, so there’s a lot of time to forget exactly how to make one.

So, rather than just guess at it and risk screwing up my guest’s drink order, I simply swallow my pride and reach for a book that I’ve kept in my back pocket for the past six years: a Moleskine Address Book that contains every drink recipe I deem worthwhile.

It’s the most important tool I own, and I never set foot behind a bar without my book. The alphabetical tabs make it quick and easy to look up a recipe, and inside I’ve got years worth of classic cocktails, house recipes, syrup and mixer recipes for prep or to share with guests, variations, and layer upon layer of correction fluid and margin notes. It’s absolutely indispensable to me.

I also keep a second copy behind the bar, with every house recipe and house version of classic cocktails for my bar staff to consult when a menu drink from two years ago comes across the bar. Additionally, I present each new bartender with their own blank recipe book on their first day behind the bar, and we’ve all spent many late nights sharing with each other and transcribing the recipes we’ve discovered during our travels.

It’s the first thing I mention when aspiring bartenders ask me what my ideal tool kit would be. With a good book, the rest of what we do can be improvised. Pick one up for yourself here.

34 Replies to “The Most Important Bar Tool You’re Probably Not Using”

  • Nikki says:

    So I just started training to bar tend at Le Bistro Montage/La Merde after working in the dining room forever, and your blog has really been helping me. So thank you and please keep posting awesome advice for a new bar tender 🙂

  • Jeremy says:

    Wonderful idea. I keep a small composite notebook in my pocket and fill it as I go, but having the tabs would make it so much easier. I’m going to be transcribing my notebook into one tonight!

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