On the surface, the bar spoon may be the simplest of all bar tools. What is more elementary than a spoon? Spoons as we know them have existed for many centuries, and historians and anthropologists are nearly certain that early iterations of mankind used shells and rocks as spoons (furthermore, modern primates have been observed fashioning spoons out of wood).
Yet while spoons may be far more historically common than strainers and shot glasses, the history of bar spoons is no less intricate than any other bar tool
The Sucket Spoon
The bar spoon with the earliest roots is the Sucket Spoon, which was created for non-alcoholic purposes in Germany. While the date of the Sucket Spoon’s inception is unknown, it is believed to be many centuries ago. The Sucket Spoon is a long utensil with a spoon at one end, and a small fork at the other. It was created to be an efficient tool, so that a person only had to carry one utensil with them, rather than two (this was before the days of everyone having a full set of utensils in their home).
The spoon later came to England, where it was given its name, thanks to a popular British dessert called sucket, which often had both liquid and firm components. After becoming popular with the dessert, the spoon became even more popular with drinks, when people realized that they could stir their beverage with one end of the Sucket Spoon, and eat the fruit accompanying the drink with the other end. By the mid-late 19th century the Sucket Spoon was being sold to bartenders and utilized by patrons, both in England and in America. As drinks with pieces of fruit in them were popular in this era, it was the perfect utensil.
The Mazagran Spoon
Around the same time that the Sucket Spoon was gaining popularity, the Mazagran Spoon was doing the same. Unlike the Sucket Spoon, the Mazagran Spoon opted for a muddler opposite the spoon portion of the utensil. This came into being in the 18th century, when French apothecaries developed and utilized the spoon so that they could crush medicines in a glass, and stir them into a liquid.
The Mazagran Spoon gained popularity in the early-mid 19th century due to a coffee drink called mazagran that included sugar cubes; the spoon was used to crush the cubes, and stir them into the beverage. At the end of the 19th century the spoon was marketed and sold to bars, though “Mazagran” was dropped from the name, and it became known simply as the Bar Spoon.
The Mazagran Spoon is still the gold standard for bartending spoons, though the muddler on the end is sometimes replaced with a hammer for crushing ice, and the name is forgotten by all but the most avid alcohol historians.
Modern Iterations: the Twisted Handle
While a modern bar spoon is remarkably similar to the Mazagran Spoon that gained popularity more than 100 years ago, there are some new developments: namely, the twisted handle. Most current bar spoons have twisted handles, which look merely aesthetic, but actually serve a purpose. The twist – which resembles a long screw – helps bartenders stir drinks. As the spoon cuts through the drink while stirring, the handle turns, which further mixes the drink. Some bartenders also use the twist as a slide for their liquor when pouring a drink; this allows the liquid to be poured very gently, which is perfect for crafting a pousse-café, or carefully adding carbonation.
So next time you grab a bar spoon to stir your drink, think of the Sucket and Mazagran spoons; that simple utensil you’re holding is a lot more than meets the eye.