Bull in China: The Bar Industry Vets Crafting Better Bar Tools

Posted on: Sep. 03, 2015 | | By: Sara Commet

When you’re behind the bar, quality matters. A lot. And we’re not merely referring to the stuff in bottles — the literal tools of the trade are just as important as the liquid ones. That’s why Lucas Plant and Daniel Osborne of Bull in China started their mission to bring craft and quality tools to bar tending. The pair are skilled barkeeps, and their impetus for all of this? “We just got tired of things breaking,” Lucas explains, laughing.

The initial ask: a mixing glass, which proved a slippery slope of sorts. Since they’re located in Portland, Ore. (or as Lucas dubbed it, “the land of glassblowers and artisans”), they had the means to take matters into their own hands. Well, sort of. They took matters down the road to the skilled hands of Elements Glass Studio’s craftsmen. The resulting mixing glass, Bull in China’s flagship product, was as beautiful as it was functional. And in the process, Dan and Lucas learned a few things. For instance, the most inconspicuous of details, such as a pour spout, can prove to be the most difficult to get just right. But get it right they did.

Truthfully, they weren’t looking to start a business. They really were just sick and tired (but mostly tired) of their barware cracking, snapping and otherwise failing to get the job done. But when they started using these glasses, people started talking. Or asking, rather: Asking to buy them right off the bar. After that happened repeatedly, Lucas and Daniel started to think they might’ve stumbled upon something.

Bull in China’s handmade mixing glasses were the company’s first foray into barware.

And then things began to grow. To boom, even. An ice mallet here, a jigger there, and a whole lot of sturdy bags to keep them all secure. All American-made (and more specifically, Portland-made), all built to last. As Bull in China’s offerings grew, so did their network of makers. And in Portland, there are a lot of them. The duo brought on the marketing expertise of another bar industry veteran, Katie Burnett, and hit the ground running. Though they’re certainly proud of curating and creating barware that’s worthy of being stowed atop the bar — not beneath it — it’s the network they’ve built together that gives Lucas the warm and fuzzies. Well, that and seeing those amazing glasses, filled with even more amazing cocktails at bars around town, then washed in the dishwasher without a second thought given to their durability.

We know what you’re thinking: yes, there are new products in the works. But we’ll let the Bull in China team do that revealing. In the meantime, know this: their mentality stays the same. These folks aren’t looking to reinvent something that works just fine. In classic Bull in China style, they’re merely figuring out how to make a solid bar tool last longer (and perhaps look a little cooler, too).

Of course, we had to ask for the craftiest of craft cocktail recipes devised using Bull in China wares. The answer, which they gave almost immediately, was The Weary Traveler: a mix of Buffalo Trace bourbon (1.5 oz.), maraschino liqueur (a heavy 0.25 oz.), Fernet-Branca (a light 0.25 oz.), and two dashes Regan’s orange bitters, stirred in a mixing glass and poured into a Laphroaig-rinsed brandy snifter. The whole delight — which we’ve been assured tastes and smells just like Grandpa’s pipe next to a Christmas fire — is even better when topped with the oil from an orange peel.

And it looks like we’ve drifted away from talking about the mechanics of those skillfully crafted Bull in China tools, and jumped straight into the booze of it. But, then again, that’s sort of the point.

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