Our use of tools distinguishes us from most every other creature on the planet—bartenders included.
Ten years ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find a hand-turned wood muddler or an etched-glass mixing-pitcher with a spout in a restaurant-supply depot or cookware emporium. Out of necessity, pioneering cocktailians worked with vintage pieces, as David Wondrich still does, or paid extravagant prices for equipment from overseas, like Audrey Saunders of the Pegu Club.
Thankfully, this has all changed. Greg Boehm of Cocktail Kingdom led the charge, providing bartenders with the tools they need to make craft cocktails: first as an importer, and now producer of fine tools, glassware and bar books. Many of his wares and others are available at shops such as Barkeeper in Silver Lake, California; The Boston Shaker in Somerville, Massachusetts; and The Proper Pour in Denver. Many of these stores and more also offer esoteric spirits, knives, vintage glassware and artisanal mixers.
Perhaps the most exciting development is the availability of pieces created by the bartenders themselves. You'll definitely need more than Jackson Cannon's bar knife or Don Lee's Hawthorne strainer to mix as deftly as they do, but adding their tools to your kit will help you refine your creations and simplify your technique. Subtle details like Eric Prum and Josh Williams's linen napkins or Daniel Osbourne's blown-glass mixing pitcher will ensure everyone knows you mean business behind the bar.