FROM THE EXPERT: 5 TOP BARTENDING TIPS
From cocktail connoisseur to listening ear, to be a successful bartender, there are a variety of bartending tips that everyone should know. World Class bartender Kaitlyn Stewart shares skills and tips for being a better bartender.
Creating Community: Connecting with Your Guests
Being a bartender is more than just making balanced drinks, it’s the practice of hospitality. Being able to have open lines of communication with your guest makes everyone’s experience that much better. When you create a welcoming space, you build trust with your guests and when you build trust with your guests, you gain the ability to truly showcase what you have to offer.
One of the best bartending tips is that communication is so much more than being able to hold a conversation. We communicate with the lighting and tone of music in the space. We communicate with how inclusive we are.
Something as small as wearing your pronouns on your apron or jacket, can let guests know that this is a safe, inclusive space for everyone. Using inclusive language such as “folks” or “friends” vs. “Guys” or “ladies” takes away the possibility of misgendering guests. If you lead with good communication with your guests, that will transfer over to your staff and ensure that you enhance your customers’ drinking experience.
Know Your Bar Craft: The Classic Cocktails You Should Have in Your Arsenal
The classics are classics for a reason. Every bartender should have a firm grasp on classic concepts before trying to build their own. Classic cocktails are a great framework to build from and allow you to grow your bartending knowledge.
Knowing the 6 main core cocktail concepts is an excellent place to start: the Old Fashioned, the Daiquiri, the Whiskey Highball, the Martini, the Sidecar, and the Flip.
This knowledge comes from the Cocktail Codex and it states that every ingredient falls into one category:
- Core – the primary flavor
- Balance – enhances the core with sweetness, acidity, or both
- Seasoning – adds another dimension and complements or contrasts with the core
A great bartending tip is to keep a small journal behind the bar with classic cocktail recipes alphabetized for convenience. This will help you grasp cocktail concepts while helping you take a holistic and scientific approach to flavors.
But it’s not just the cocktail we should know, you need to have a good grasp on the core spirits as well. Understanding drink fundamentals like what makes gin a gin, and the difference between whiskey and whisky is critical to your bartending knowledge.
How to Master Being Under Pressure in Your Bar
A great benefit to being a bartender is that no day will be the same. While that can be a positive, there are certainly negative components to this as well. You must be able to adapt to whatever comes your way. One bartending tip that never goes amiss is setting yourself up for success.
This can be a major stress reliever when the pressure starts to mount. The art of Mise en Place should be used by every bartender. This is simply preparing and organizing your ingredients before you need to use them.
Before starting your shift, look at your station and make sure that you are prepared for any ask from a customer or another member of staff. Ensure that your tools are in the right place, your bottles are accessible, you have reserve bottles and ingredients prepared. If you are set up for success, the pressure should never become too much.
Knowing the art of Mise en Place can help take the pressure off. Here is how you do it:
Time and Again: Being Consistent with Your Bartending
A critical part of bartending is creating a consistent experience – it’s what keeps people coming back for more. When customers go to a bar and have an amazing drink, they expect to experience that when they go back and order it again. Taste memory is something that creates loyalty, and it is the bartender’s responsibility to replicate that drinks experience.
To achieve consistency, you must pay attention to detail. Before the start of every shift, you should always be tasting your “mise en place”. This includes ensuring things like whether the citrus juice freshly squeezed and having the bespoke syrups been measured correctly.
A bartending skill that every bartender should be practicing is mastering their jigger. Using a jigger will also aid in keeping cocktail recipes consistent. Having a recipe guide behind the bar will also allow for consistent cocktails no matter who is making them – so ensure that you are all following the same recipes.
The most important tool a bartender can have is a positive attitude. Approach your work like this, and you’ll never have a bad day!
Cocktail Recipes to Improve Your Bartending Skills
Now obviously you have to be able to back up what you have to offer with balanced cocktails and a bit of showmanship. That’s where practice and dedication to your craft will pay off big time. Check out these recipes to practice and own as part of your bartending.
2 oz (60ml) Bourbon
1 Raw Sugar Cube
4 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Place raw sugar cube in a mixing glass and soak with bitters. Using a muddler, break down the sugar and bitters into a paste like consistency. Express and add an orange peel to the mixing glass. Gradually add the bourbon and ice while stirring. Stir until you reach your desired dilution. Pour over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Finish with an additional orange peel and cherry.
Alcohol Content: 15.67 grams
1.5 oz (50ml) Cognac
0.75 oz (22ml) Orange Liqueur
0.75 oz (22ml) Fresh Lemon Juice
Half Sugared Rim
In a shaker tin, combine cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice. Add ice and vigorously shake for 10 seconds. Fine strain into a half-rimed coupe style glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
Alcohol Content: 17.38 grams
2 oz (60ml) London Dry Gin
1 oz (30ml) Fresh Lemon Juice
0.5 oz (15ml) Simple Syrup
Lemon Wheel & Cherry
In a Collins glass, combine gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Add ice and stir. Top with chilled soda water. Garnish with a lemon wheel and cherry.
Alcohol Content: 11.85 grams
Five Key Takeaways
1. Be inclusive – customers want to be in a warm and inviting environment. Create a bar setting that fosters those feelings.
2. Adaptability is a bartender’s best friend – be prepared for everything and find creative solutions when you’re faced with issues.
3. Mise en Place will set you up for success – this simply means to be prepared. If you have all your syrups, cordials, and garnishes ready, you won’t be under as much pressure.
4. Consistency is what keeps people coming back for more – people want to experience the same drink, so make sure you follow the recipes that you have crafted previously.
5. Attitude is everything – having a positive and friendly attitude will help your guests and your colleagues, as well as yourself.