A while ago on Instagram I noticed a rather aggressive looking multi-function bar tool from @barbarianbartools in my feed. Essentially a hand citrus press with a number of additional useful bartending tools such as knives and zesters attached to it. With its matte black finish and multi-winged prow giving it a mace-like appearance, it certainly looks imposing, even more so when all the tools are extended. (Not that you’d use it that way, of course.) The other thing I noticed from the photos was the background scenes, which I recognized as Seattle and nearby environs.
Eventually JC Davis, the man behind Barbarian Bar Tools and I met up in person. JC is definitely a builder-type, always tinkering with things and looking for ways to improve them. Although not a bartender, JC became fascinated with the concept of a multi-functional bar tool several years ago and has spent a ton of time evolving a design and soliciting feedback along the way.
As an advanced home bartender, I’m always interested to see innovative new tools. Barbarian actually has two tools. The “Simple tool” is a thin, rectangular blade style tool with zesters and bottle openers, while the “Barbarian” is the much larger citrus-press tool. JC was kind enough to lend me his near final prototypes of the Barbarian for me to evaluate and provide feedback on.
The Barbarian has these tools:
- Citrus press
- Jigger (measuring cup)
- Corkscrew & lever
- Bottle opener
- Zester (small and large)
- Channel knife
- Bottle opener
- Can lance
- Knives (2)
The knives and can opener tuck neatly into the upper handle, much like the blades in a pocket knife. With one exception, it’s obvious what each tool is and how to use it. The jigger function isn’t obvious at first. The bowl on the upper handle has several rings indicating fill levels of 0.75, 1, and 1.5 ounces. Notched depression on the side of the bowl aid in pouring the contents out.
As a citrus press the Barbarian is about as ergonomic to use as other hand citrus, and it feels sturdy under load. Using the other tools is a bit more unwieldy as you’re moving around a lot more mass than with a dedicated tool such as a knife or zester. As a home bartender with a full set of tools already, the Barbarian won’t replace any of my dedicated tools while I’m at home.
Where the Barbarian can shine is on the road, away from a dedicated bar environment. Think camping, picnics, boating, summer cabin and so on. I’m frequently asked to bring classy drinks to small gatherings. Rather than just pouring Rum and Cokes, I assemble a small, portable bartender’s bag that includes spirits, citrus, glassware and tools. Being able to grab the Barbarian is a great advantage here, especially since it’s easy to forget something like a zester in the rush to prepare.
Some feedback that I gave to JC is that a way to lock the Barbarian in the closed position would be nice. Also, the knives in my prototype weren’t particularly sharp, however JC tells me that this is improved in the final versions.
JC has a U.S. patent for the Barbarian and has recently started a Kickstarter campaign. The Simple tool cost $15 for early birds, and should be available in March, while the Barbarian goes for $45 for early birds and should be available in April.