When it comes to stirring cocktails, does it matter which spoon you use?
How We Tested
A barspoon is an essential tool for making cocktails. With a relatively long handle and a small, slender bowl, it’s designed for stirring drinks in tall shakers and for fishing garnishes such as olives and cherries out of their jars. Occasionally it’s used to crack ice or to make layered cocktails (drinks with different spirits carefully poured in discrete layers, creating a striped effect). Some barspoons come with an additional tool on their opposite ends, such as a small, thick disk for muddling fruit or a miniature fork for spearing garnishes instead of scooping them out.
We’d never tested barspoons before, so we bought eight models, priced from about $4 to about $23, and used them to stir drinks in shakers of different heights, retrieve cherries and olives from their jars, and make layered cocktails. We also tried the other ends of the spoons, where applicable, using them to muddle and spear ingredients.
Spoon Length Is Important
All the spoons did a fine job of stirring the drinks, but a few factors made certain models easier to use. Right off the bat, we discovered that the length of the spoon was critical. Of the spoons we tested, we preferred those that measured from 10.5 to 12.25 inches long. Once inserted into our favorite shakers, the handles of these spoons rose about 4 to 6 inches above the rims, providing plenty of room for even large hands to hold them without feeling cramped. Measuring nearly 16 inches, one particularly long spoon made it feel as if we were stirring our drinks with the proverbial 10-foot pole. Unless we choked up on the handle to get closer to the bowl of the spoon, it was hard to muster any control over the ice we were trying to agitate—never mind retrieve olives or cherries from their jars. Spoons of a more moderate length were easier to hold and control.
Twisted Handles Are Best
The style of the spoon handle was also important. Handles that were straight and smooth—similar to the ones on soupspoons—proved more slippery and harder to grasp, especially when wet. We much preferred models that had twisted handles, as they provided a little more surface area to grab onto as we stirred. Of the models with twisted handles, we liked those that were twisted from top to bottom because they let us choose where we wanted to put our hands; models that were twisted only in the middle of the handle limited our grip options.
The Size and Angle of the Bowl Matter
Finally, we considered the bowl of the spoon—the part that actually agitates the ice. When it came to stirring the drinks, we had a slight preference for spoons with medium-size bowls. Bowls that measured about an inch at their widest diameter offered the best compromise: They provided just enough surface area to push even larger pieces of ice confidently while still moving nimbly around the tight confines of the shakers. These bowls were also big enough to hold olives and cherries and securely transfer them from their jars to finished drinks. The one spoon with an especially small bowl provided a little less surface area for moving the ice around and had a harder time fishing out garnishes. By contrast, spoons with larger bowls held garnishes comfortably but felt a little oversize and clumsy when maneuvering around narrow jars or shaker bottoms. This was especially true of the spoon with the biggest bowl; because the bowl was so deep and steeply angled from the handle, it almost scooped up the ice as we tried to stir; we had to tilt our hands uncomfortably to keep the bowl parallel to the ice.
Spoons with larger bowls did have one small advantage, though: They made it easier to produce layered drinks, since their broader surfaces provided bigger targets for us to gently pour liquor onto. You’ll have to be a little more careful when pouring liquor onto the back of a medium- or smaller-bowled spoon, though it can certainly be done. Since few users are likely to make layered drinks at home, though, we think most are better off with a spoon that has a slightly smaller bowl.
Extra Tools Are Unnecessary
By and large, the extra tools that were sometimes added to the ends opposite the bowls weren’t very useful. The dime-size muddlers on two of the spoons simply weren’t big enough to muddle lime or mint efficiently, and their sharp metal edges often dug unpleasantly into the lime skin, releasing oils from the bitter pith instead of pounding the limes properly. We didn’t like the fork on the end of one spoon either; we’d rather remove an olive whole from the jar, not spear it and leave unsightly gouges. And some testers didn’t feel totally comfortable having sharp points facing up at them as they stirred. That said, the extra tools didn’t have any effect on the spoons’ performances.
The Best Barspoon: Cocktail Kingdom Teardrop Barspoon
You can’t go wrong with most of the barspoons we tested, but our favorite is the Cocktail Kingdom Teardrop Barspoon. It has a moderately long handle that’s twisted from top to bottom, making it easy to grip, and a medium-size bowl that commands ice nicely and retrieves garnishes well.
- Test eight barspoons, priced from about $4 to about $23
- Stir cocktails in winning Boston and cobbler shakers
- Retrieve and transfer olives and cherries from jars
- Make layered drinks
- Perform additional tasks, where applicable (muddling, spearing, etc.)
Performance: We evaluated how well the spoons stirred and layered drinks.
Ease of Use: We considered how easy the spoons were to hold and rotate and how securely they retrieved garnishes.