If you cannot remember if a guest ordered salt for their Margarita or not, simply rim half of the glass with salt and they can drink from either side.
When a guest with a British accent orders lemonade, they mean Sprite or 7up, but double check.
When a guest with a British accent orders whiskey, they mean Scotch whisky, but double check.
When serving beer to Europeans, know that they like more head on their beer than Americans.
Spotters/shoppers are hired to act like normal guests then report everything they see happening. So keep this in mind.
Know that in every bar where you work you will learn something new about the bar world. No one knows it all, so drop the attitude.
Pourers should only be kept on bottles that are used a lot. That’s their purpose.
When stocking beer, an easy way to not have to pull all the current beer to the front of the cooler then stock the new beer behind it is to move the current beer to the left (or right) of the cooler and the new beer on the empty side. If you use this method and everyone working the bar follows it then everyone always knows which side of the beer to grab first.
Don’t bring nice pens to work because they’ll be stolen, lost, or never returned. Trust me, bars go through pens like water. I do have to say that I like having a light-up pen, but it takes up too much of my energy always having to keep track of it on a busy shift. The only pens that haven’t been stolen from me are gigantic novelty pens. They always get a big smile and I tell them that Mickey Mouse gave it to me.
Know that all Cognac is brandy but not all brandy is Cognac. Cognac can only be made from grapes grown in the Cognac region of France. Brandy can be made from grapes and other fruit anywhere in the world.
Know that sour mash means that part of the yeast mixture from one batch is used to start another batch. Like the way sour dough bread is made. People think Jack Daniel’s tastes the way it does because it’s a sour mash whiskey. No, many whiskeys are made in the sour mash procedure. Jack Daniel’s tastes like that that because before it’s put into charred barrels it drips through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal.
Know that Champagne can only be called Champagne when it’s made in the Champagne region of France and all other bubbly wines must be labeled and called sparkling wine.
Know that by Mexican law, tequila must be made from 51% of the blue agave plant and mescals can be made from any and many agave plants.
When you have to tell the guest that you’re out of something, it’s much better to say, I’m sorry, we’re sold out of that. When you just say you’re out of something it makes it sound like your manager is disorganized and doesn’t know how to order properly, but saying you’re sold outsounds like it’s a popular item.
Know that anyone in America can make bourbon, however only bourbon made in Kentucky is allowed to say Kentucky Bourbon on their label.
No matter what you are told, only one thing sobers up the human body and that’s time. Coffee makes a wide awake drunk, food makes a full drunk, and a cold shower makes a wet drunk.
Know that if your bar carries more than one Johnnie Walker Scotch you’ll have to ask a guest which one? Usually bars only carry red and black. But know that there blue, gold and green as well.
Know that as a bartender you more than likely won’t be taking any breaks. That’s just the way it is. Shifts can be 6-12 hours long. Many bartenders take a power naps before going to work to recharge themselves.
When you start working a new bar do not start moving things around or give advice where things should be or how things should be done until you settle in after several weeks. And you never want to say the words, Well at the last bar I worked we did it this way. No one wants to hear how you did it before, because it doesn’t matter. You’re going to do it the way they want you to do it. It can mean anything. And again, drop the attitude.
Know that cleaning up the tools that you’ve used to make a drink is part of making a drink, so you should always get into the habit of rinsing out the blender or shaker tins after making a drink.
When upselling, one method to use is to ask if they want you to use their favorite spirit, Would you like me to use your favorite vodka?
The classic Martini is made with gin. Period. So, when someone asks you for a Martini and says nothing else the best thing to do is smile, and say, Sure, would you want me to use your favorite gin? This lets them know without preaching that a classic Martini is made with gin. However, these days Vodka Martinis share the classic Martini spotlight as well.
Whenever you are slow, never just stand around. There’s always something to clean or organize.
Know that you will burn out. Doing a job that is physically and mentally demanding catches up with you. You’ll know when you begin to get snippy with guests and co-workers. It’s okay. Many professions that deal with the public go through this (Police Officers, cab drivers, strippers, etc.). Just make sure you take a mini-vacation and recharge. Go out and let someone serve you.
When making drinks you want to strive for only picking up a spirit bottle or mixer once during an order. While you have product in your hand use it in all glasses you need it for instead of picking it up then setting it down and thinking, oh I need that for this drink too, so you pick it up again, etc.
The drier a Martini is ordered means the less and less dry vermouth they want. So if a guest orders a very dry/extra dry Martini then they usually want like a drop of vermouth or none at all. Some bartenders make jokes and just wave the dry vermouth bottle over the drink.
When guests spill something on the bar, a lot of bartenders get irritated. The guest is already embarrassed and will say that they’re sorry many times. Just look at them, smile, and say, it’s ok, it happens. Their facial expression will instantly change and they’ll probably leave you a bigger tip.
Breakage means your empty bottles at the end of the night.
If you are too busy to get to a guest at the moment, then make sure you acknowledge them in some way. When guests are acknowledged then they don’t mind waiting.
When you’re slammed, don’t get frustrated. You can only go as fast as you can. If your bar is well stocked then just keep going and keep smiling. Guests don’t mind waiting in line. Just make sure that you give each person you are dealing with direct attention. And never forget that if it weren't for these guests you wouldn’t have a job.
Pour tests are sometimes mandatory for bartenders who are allowed to free pour (don’t have to use a jigger). It’s a set of test tubes that have measurement lines on them called an Exacto Pour. Management will give you a liquor bottle filled with water and ask you to pour these measurements separately into a glass: 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1, 1 /1/4, 1 1/2, and 2 shots. Each pour is individually poured into the tubes to measure. You will also have to do a Long Island Iced Tea pour and you may be asked to do all the pours with both hands. If you do not pass then many bars will not let you work. Some write you up and you are allowed only 3 write-ups and then you cannot work. Some make you pour with a jigger until you can pass the test. It can be serious and can cost you your job.
Know that real bartenders , when guests in another bar, do not ever tell another bartender that they are a bartender too. There’s only one exception and it’s when the bartender asks you first.It’s the biggest joke between real bartenders. The joke is that when a guest says they are a bartender, what they’re really saying is, I’m a lousy tipper, but I’m going to pretend that we have a common bond so you will give me lots of attention. Maybe they have been behind the bar, but not long enough to know not to say this. Bartenders show other bartenders that they are bartenders through action, not talk.
Hold spirit bottles firmly and don’t be careless with them. Most bottles are worth around $100-$200 each. Most are bought for $20-$50 and marked up 4-5 times to make a profit. So think about that when you go to grab one.
Yes, you will spill something! The worst is when you spill on a guest. Once I dribbled some beer down a girl’s bare arm while leaning over a table. She was with her boyfriend and three other friends. I over apologized, and offered her some napkins. I could tell that this group was cool, so I said something like, hey, should I spill some more beer and just have your boyfriend lick it off your arm? That got a big laugh. Some people aren’t as cool and trust me, you’ll know who they are.
Yes! You will break something. The most important thing is not to break glass near the ice well. Sometimes a small sliver can bounce into the well from a few feet away and that’s all it takes for a lawsuit. You simply can’t take any chances and must get new ice. When a guest breaks a glass, the first thing they do is start grabbing for the big shards of glass. You must tell them right away not to touch anything and that you will take care of it for them. The last thing you want is to tell your boss that a guest with bloody hands wants to talk to them. For the extra tiny little pieces of glass, simply wet a bar towel and lay on top the pieces then swipe up. The wetness picks them up.
Most bartenders do not like anyone to come behind the bar. They like their space, so if you’re a server, always ask.
Many times in your bartending career you’ll find yourself jotting down drink orders and that’s when you use bartender shorthand. Instead of writing in longhand, for example, Bourbon and Coke, you would write B/C. Every spirit and mixer can be shortened. Back in the 1970s and 80s cocktail servers actually wrote their orders this way and gave it to the bartender. Abbreviations for call and premium spirits are easy too: Crown=Cr, Bacardi=Bac, Southern Comfort=Soco, etc. Mixers are easy: DC=diet coke, T=tonic, OJ=orange juice, etc. Then there are the special ones like an X for rocks, and an upward arrow for up. Some abbreviations will differ, for example some people like to write Marg for Margarita while others will write Rita. It’s all up to what works best for you.
Know that there is always good and bad with every bar you work. But this seems to be true for every job in the world. For example, in a hotel bar you might have to walk very far to pick up appetizers in the kitchen, however there’s a cleaning crew that cleans your floor mats and mops your floor. Or you make killer money at a restaurant; however constantly transferring tabs to servers when guest’s tables become available is a pain in the butt.
Have you ever been somewhere and overheard employees talking about their personal or work life? Better yet, did they continue their conversation in front of you? Don’t do this! Guests should never hear you talking about private matters with co-workers. As a matter of fact, if I ever own a bar this action will be grounds for termination.
If you are a female bartender I have something to say to you. You should be able to perform all bartender duties just like the guysStart your shift with the ice well filled as high as it can be filled. This way you don’t have to run and get ice in the middle of your shift and you also save your back muscles from having to bend over so far.
When a guest orders a drink, add a little trivia they probably didn’t know (99% of the time they don’t). For example, if they order a Tanquerey & Tonic then while you are pouring you can say,Did you know that it’s believed that the shape of this bottle was inspired by a cocktail shaker? Guests love it. Other great ones are: the 1800 bottle comes with it’s own one-ounce measuring cap (then turn the bottle upside down to show them), Canada created Crown Royal for Queen Elizabeth’s 1939 visit; Southern Comfort was created by a bartender in New Orleans in 1874; and that Michelangelo probably drank the very same Amaretto di Saronno we drink today because he was 50 years old when it came out in 1525.
Know that some bottles are always next to each other on the back bar. Usually blackberry brandy and banana liqueur are together because of the Rumrunner. Bailey’s, Kahlua, and Grand Marnier sometimes get put next to one another, and the two crème de menthe’s and the two crème de cocoa usually sit together as a family. Oh, and Southern Comfort should be with the liqueurs, not the whiskey.
When you get busy, you simply don’t have time to talk to guests, so try to find out little tidbits of info about them like, where they’re from, grew up, where they work, or went to school, etc. This way you can connect people at the bar and they start talking to each other and have a grand ole’ time and think you are the best bartender around. I’m sort of known for doing this and managers and bartenders like to watch me do it. They just crack up how I connect anybody at the bar. Sometimes, I know nothing about them and say something like, Wow, you two must love the color green because you’re both wearing it! Magically, they begin small talk and sometimes it turns into big talk.
Know that the proper way to keep the ice scoop is stuck into the ice with the handle up. This keeps your nasty hands from touching the ice. It’s a good habit to start from the beginning.
When you make the wrong drink and it’s not carbonated, always strain it into a glass and set to the side. You’ll be ready to use when it’s ordered again. If no one orders that drink again, then you’ll have to record it on the spill sheet.
Know that you’ll probably have many bar keys on a ring and will have to learn which go with what. Most bar keys are small and are used to lock cabinets mostly. You may also have some coolers that use a padlock. All you have to do in most cases is look at the name of the lock and match it up with the same name on a key. I know that may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised at the people who don’t know this. One last thing, it’s a very good habit from the beginning to never put the bar keys in your pocket. Buy a cheap little hook so it can hook to a belt loophole or something if needed. The reason is because it’s too easy for you to forget about them in your pocket and you’ll end up taking them home.