Crafting cocktails at home is more popular than ever — the pandemic truly brought at-home cocktail making to the fore. If you enjoy mixing your own drinks, you’ve likely noticed that the tools involved can be nice to look at but annoying to use. Shakers often leak or are hard to unseal. The glass half of a Boston shaker can break. Strainers aren’t always as efficient as they should be. And dishwashers can ruin the finish of your once-gleaming cocktail tools.
Chris and Julia Tunstall of A Bar Above set out to create, as they told me, “the barware of our dreams.” That amounts to premium bar tools that are both highly practical and look great. An experienced hospitality professional, Chris spent a decade working behind bars or managing them. He hosts the excellent cocktail podcast “Mixology Talk” with his wife Julia. Julia also manages their cocktail blog and created their line of bar tools with plenty of input from Chris.
Julia told me, “We started focusing on professionals, but during Covid, a lot of customers became “prosumers.” Their favorite bar was closed so they made drinks at home. Our customers are a blend of consumers, bars, and restaurants.”
Working in bars taught Chris the shortcomings of many drink-making tools. “People would ask, “What shaker do you recommend?” and I couldn’t really. You handle a tool for 8, 10, 12 hours and you get frustrated. A glass shaker would break and I’d get covered in a cocktail. It takes a lot of time to clean up and make sure there’s no broken glass in the ice. Not great when a bar is busy. We were waiting for someone else to make great barware and after a couple of years, we decided to make our own.“
Over the years, these self-described “cocktail nerds” created a laundry list of the ultimate cocktail ware. Their A Bar Above line features cocktail-making implements that are both practical and striking. Cocktail shakers, jiggers, muddlers, bar spoons, cocktail picks, and more are available in lustrous gold, copper, or silver.
“We’re very excited about our new gold pieces,” Julia recently shared. “Not only is it a gorgeous color, but it can survive the dishwasher, unlike so much barware, including our copper barware. The resin on the copper gets washed away in the dishwasher, but the gold is made using a different process.”
Chris and Julia sent me a set of their gold barware so I could recreate the experience of a finely crafted cocktail at home. I found the shaker and other pieces a pleasure to use. As Julia told me, “One side of the shaker flexes and one doesn’t. It has a tight seal but it’s easy to open.”
The jigger is also exceptional. I’ve encountered many with only two types of measures, or no measure markings at all. A Bar Above’s jigger is etched inside with 8 different measures, from as small as a bar spoon all the way up to 1 ¾ oz.
If you’d like to learn more about at-home cocktail concocting, tune into their A Bar Above podcast. The Carlsbad-based pair have created more than 200 episodes so far and have interviewed such illustrious cocktailians as Beachbum Berry, famed as “the father of the tiki drink” and the world’s foremost tiki drink authority. The Tunstall’s YouTube channel, blog, and Facebook groups (Craft Cocktail Club and Craft Bartenders Club) also have lots of info.
Julia told me about their love for the cocktail community. “We love to learn and create. Our mission is to serve people who serve great drinks. The bar community is underserved. One silver lining of Covid is people get that the hospitality industry needs support, including support for mental health struggles. Our hearts are in the industry and we look for ways to help.”
You can purchase A Bar Above’s premium barware here.