Looking for something to buy the cocktail lover in your life?

By Justine Sterling
Updated May 24, 2017
Jackson Cannon Bar Knife
Credit: © Nat and Cody Gantz

Until recently, I was satisfied with my bar knife—the small paring knife I use to strip swaths of lemon zest and halve limes. But then I saw Boston bartender Jackson Cannon’s knife, and I knew that my bar armory (barmory) was sadly ill-equipped.

Cannon's knife is a strange little thing, cut short at an angle with a small, graspable hilt. It doesn't look like any other type of knife—certainly not one you would find in a kitchen. And you wouldn't. It's based on a type of blade used to cut shoe leather in the 19th century.

Here's the story: When Cannon first opened The Hawthorne, his ultra-swank Boston cocktail den, he went in search of a signature bar knife. He called up R. Murphy Knives (a small Massachusetts company that's been making a huge range of blades for 150 years, and which Cannon refers to as his "knife farm") and requested that they bring over a selection of knives—"the weirder the better." One caught Cannon's eye. “I fell in love with this real ugly duckling,” he says. “I couldn’t put it down. I was doing everything from cutting fruit to opening boxes with it.”

Cannon worked with R. Murphy to tweak the design until it was absolutely perfect. “We pushed the shape a bit—kept one corner sharp (for slicing and notching fruit) and made one corner flat (for picking seeds out),” he says. “We shortened the handle by about 50 percent for control.” The craftsmen also cryogenically froze the knife's metal plates. “That forces all the molecules in line a little bit more and helps the blade hold an edge against citrus, which dulls most kitchen knives.”

Available from R. Murphy for $79, the knife has found success with bartenders (both professional and at-home) as well as one other unexpected group: Artisanal soil producers think it’s the best soil knife around.