The Names and Origins of 4 Tools You See Behind the Bar


If you’ve made or ordered something beyond a straight pour of whiskey, you’re likely familiar with a few types of bar equipment. And as the craft cocktail movement has caught on, you may have noticed that your local bar is now stocked with more tools than ever.

Although some of the tools’ names are intuitive, others are almost silly. To help you out, we’ve compiled the history behind some of the tools that you can find almost anywhere.

1. Jigger


As a measuring tool, the jigger helps bartenders pour precise amounts. The word “jigger” also signified an old measurement roughly equivalent to 1.5 ounces.

One theory is that the tool got its name during the heyday of the British navy. Each sailor would get a daily ration of rum or gin, depending on what they’d picked up at port. As the story goes, the sailors nicknamed the boatswain’s measuring device after the lowest sail on the jiggermast, the fourth mast on a sailing ship.

Another theory about the name is that “jigger” is a derivation of “thingamajig.” Since thingamajig is a made-up word used to refer to something that’s not yet named or something with a name you can’t remember, the tool may have simply gotten a nonsensical nickname that stuck.

2. Shaker


Versions of cocktail shakers have existed for thousands of years. In ancient Mexico and South America, it's believed that hollowed-out gourds were used to add spices and sweeteners to drinks. Today, bartenders use one of three types of shaker: the Boston shaker, the Parisian shaker, or the cobbler shaker.

In the U.S., the shaker was a rarity until about the 1840s. Before that time, bartenders mixed drinks by pouring them between two cups. Once they adopted the shaker, Americans preferred a combination of a glass and a metal tin that’s now known as the Boston shaker.

Back in the 19th century, "Boston shaker" signified the smallest possible glass that would both hold the drink and form a seal with the tin. Oddly, the first known instance of its name actually referred to a catalogue listing for an all-metal shaker advertised in Britain in the 1920s.

A two-part metal shaker is better known as a French or Parisian shaker. Though the exact origins of its name are lost, it’s likely that a bartender brought one back from Europe—or at least claimed to have gotten it there—and the name stuck. By 1878, catalogues referred to the setup as a Parisian shaker.

At some point in the late 19th century, an inventor built a strainer into a Parisian shaker to make a combination shaker, now known as a cobbler shaker. Since the cobbler was a popular drink often produced in this type of bar tool, the cobbler shaker likely draws its name from a popular use.

3. Yarai Mixing Glass

Though pint glasses and mason jars work just fine for stirred drinks, some bartenders prefer specially crafted mixing glasses. One popular type is the diamond-patterned Yarai glass. Named for a traditional Japanese weaving pattern, this design is thought to make the glass easier to hold.

4. Strainer


Though cocktail strainers may be related to ancient Chinese tea strainers, they’re a pretty new addition to the bar. We know that strainers arose around the same time that ice became widely available. The julep strainer was the first type of commercially sold strainer. It emerged around the same time as the Mint Julep, but the connection between the two is murky.

The American Mint Julep doesn’t require straining since it’s usually made and served in the same glass. One theory posits the strainer used to be served in the glass to keep ice away from the drinker’s teeth. Another story is that it would be presented with the drink and the drinker could use it to keep his mustache dry.

Around the 1880s, a variation of the julep strainer emerged. Now known as the Hawthorne strainer, this tool paired a slotted piece of metal with a spring around the edge. The first record of these being referred to as Hawthorne strainers was by a British company called Bonzer in the 1930s. Their strainers had holes punched in them that spelled out “Hawthorne.” It may have been an homage to a long-defunct Hawthorne bar, but the tie is lost to history.

What's the Right Way to Make a Sazerac?

If you pronounce New Orleans "New Or-leens," or if you can’t get enough of those Big Ass Beers sold on Bourbon Street, you’re probably not actually from New Orleans. But if you’re feeling adventurous and missing the Big Easy, a Sazerac might be just what the doctor ordered. 

‘Tails and Stories

A few hundred years ago, you might have actually gotten a doctor’s order for a Sazerac. One of the drink's origin stories claims that it was invented by New Orleans apothecary Antoine Amedie Peychaud. According to this tale, Mr. Peychaud mixed up the drink with his eponymous bitters and served it in an egg coupe in his shop. 

A more likely origin story states that the drink was invented by a different New Orleans resident (though in the same neighborhood). Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar to Aaron Bird and went into the import business. One of his products happened to be Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils brandy. While Taylor was importing, Bird renamed his bar the Sazerac House and began serving a house cocktail that featured Taylor’s brandy and, as the story goes, bitters made by his neighborhood apothecary, Mr. Peychaud.

In the 1870s and 1880s, Europe's grape crops were decimated by an infestation of American aphids. In just four years, French wine production was cut by 67 percent, and even the most dedicated cognac drinkers switched to whiskey. For New Orleans, that meant switching to rye whiskey that was shipped to the city down the Ohio River and through the Mississippi. Thomas Handy, who owned the Sazerac Bar during that time period, likely switched the drink's main ingredient. This take on the signature cocktail is the one that found its way into the 1908 edition of The World's Drinks and How To Mix Them, with the recipe calling for "good whiskey," not Sazerac cognac. 

The origins of the Sazerac’s name is vague. It’s possible that it was a nod to the fact that it was the bar's house cocktail, but it’s also possible that it’s a reference to the brand of brandy. In those days, “cocktail” referred to a specific alcoholic drink format. As put forth by The Balance and Columbian Repository in 1806, a “cock-tail” is “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” If you wanted this type of drink with whiskey in it, you would ask for a Whiskey Cocktail. If you wanted Sazerac brandy (until the aphid plague, at least), you'd ask for a Sazerac cocktail.

Hit the Lab

Sazerac Recipe:

2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
.25 oz simple syrup (or a sugar cube)
2 oz good rye whiskey (use the good stuff)
lemon peel for garnish

Place the sugar cube into an absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Dash the bitters onto the cube and muddle. Add whiskey and one large ice cube and stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0
What’s the Right Way to Make a Caipirinha?
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0

The Rio Olympics start in just a few weeks, and all eyes are on Brazil. To celebrate, we decided to focus on the country’s most famous cocktail creation: the Caipirinha.

In form, the Caipirinha is pretty much a Brazilian Daiquiri. It’s made from sugar, lime, and cachaça. Cachaça could be considered a cousin to rum, but it is altogether unique. While most rum is made from molasses, cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice.

Unlike rum, which can be made anywhere, cachaça can only be made in Brazil. Though it’s often sold unaged, it is usually matured in woods that are native to Brazil, like peanut and balm. As with wine, beer, and whiskey, different kinds of wood affect the product inside differently.

The classifications of cachaça aren’t based on the type of cask in which it’s aged. It can get a bit confusing: Spirit that is not stored in wood or is kept in stainless steel vats before it’s bottled is often called branca (white). But cachaça aged in wood that doesn’t color the liquor may also be labeled as branca. This category goes under several other names, including prata (silver) and clássica (classic).

Cachaça that’s stored or aged in wood is usually labeled as amarela (yellow), in reference to its color. These may also be labeled as ouro (gold). Envelhecida (aged) cachaça, a subtype of amarela, is a bit more involved: it’s considered aged if more than 50 percent of the content of the bottle has been aged for at least a year in a barrel that’s 700 liters or smaller.

Cachaça is the “third most produced distilled drink in the world,” according to Alcohol In Latin America: A Social and Cultural History. Though more than 5000 brands existed in 2008, it was relatively ignored outside of Brazil until the recent resurgence of craft cocktails. In fact, until 2013, it had to be labeled “Brazilian rum” to be imported into the U.S. As a result, it’s often mistaken by many people for being a type of rum.

Unfortunately, we don’t really know anything definite about the origins of the Caipirinha. Like the Mojito and the Old Fashioned, the formula was perhaps first used in folk medicine. Carlos Lima, the executive director of IBRAC (the Brazilian Institute of Cachaça) told Casa e Jardim that a mix of lime, garlic, and honey with a pour of cachaça was probably used in São Paulo around 1918 as a remedy for the Spanish Flu.

As the story goes, someone eventually decided to skip the garlic and honey. Then, to balance the acidity of the lime, sugar was added. Over time, the drink spread into bars, ice entered the equation, and it became the Caipirinha we know today.


Like the Mojito, the classic Caipirinha recipe is quite simple, but it’s also been the subject of many, many variations. We’ve included the International Bartenders Association (IBA) recipe as well as a modern take on the drink.

Modified from the IBA website.

2 ounces Cachaça
1/2 of a lime
1 tablespoon sugar

Muddle lime and sugar in an Old Fashioned glass. Fill with ice and pour cachaça over it. Stir and enjoy.

Prata B. (Puerto Rico Asta Ah Brazil)
Recipe by Luis Ramos, bar manager of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco.

1 3/4 ounces Avua Prata Cachaça
3/4 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce pineapple gomme syrup
1/2 ounce Pedro Ximenez sherry
1/4 ounce Punt e Mes
Grated nutmeg, lime zest, lime wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass. Add crushed ice and stir until glass frosts. Top glass with grated nutmeg, lime zest, and lime wheel.


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