Truly great bartenders are hard to come by. Highly trained professionals who know their stuff and come equipped with great people skills are one in a million, and worth their weight in gold to the lucky establishment that happens to find them.
And training amazing bartenders is additionally difficult given the variety of technical systems you need to learn, and the fact that servers and mixologists need to hit the ground running the moment they arrive in the fast-paced world of alcohol service.
For bar and restaurant owners, it behooves you to look for competent, knowledgeable people who are ready and eager to learn the specifics of your establishment. Here are some ideas and best practices for bar training and bar manager training that will help you get it right.
Bar training classes: worth it?
For the average bartender, mixology and service classes can be extremely useful as it gives them a great baseline knowledge of drinks, recipe interpretation, and other aspects of restaurant functionality.
But things like signature cocktails, custom POS technology, and the ebb and flow of the day-to-day in a real establishment can make any bartender’s martini a little extra dirty. So yes, as a starting line, bartending classes from a quality institution can absolutely be worth it either for new mixologists or veteran bartenders who want to update their hard-earned skillsets. But it needs to be combined with on-the-ground bar staff training and real-world service experience.
How to train bartenders
Bar managers are typically the ones to train new bartenders, and it can help the process go quickly and smoothly to follow a standard set of practices. Here is a protocol we recommend.
Use a handbook or training manual.
You may roll your eyes at the mere mention of a training manual. No one actually reads the manual, do they? A bartender’s guide is only good for gathering dust.
But a bartender training manual doc can be incredibly helpful for standardizing the instructions which are given to each generation of bartenders working under your roof. And keeping and updating your manual over time will allow you to perfect the flow and technique of your bartender training protocol.
One shortcoming of bartender training manuals is that they have to be used in order to be useful, and you may have to apply a little pressure to your bar managers if you believe in the training document you’ve produced. Consider impressing the importance of the manual in your bar manager training guide.
But barman manuals are important and unless you have a truly tiny establishment that takes about 5 minutes to learn, you will be thankful you have a written document to follow. Plus, handbooks can be useful for your employees who learn best through reading and self-direction.
Follow bartender certification rules
Different states have different requirements for earning bartender certification, but all states do require some level of official training and even licensure for anyone serving or handling alcohol within a public-facing bar or restaurant. Make sure any bartenders you want to hire have all their paperwork in hand. Or, if they’re amazing but without documents, be prepared to set them up with their required certification courses.
Check out this useful article to see what the bartender cert requirements are in your state.
One great bartender and bar manager training course is the Techniques of Alcohol Management training course. TAM is a comprehensive certification program that covers not only laws and regulations related to alcohol in your state, but also soft skills such as the ethics around selling alcohol to already inebriated customers, how to handle an unruly guest, and how to help someone out when they’ve had a few too many.
Another great, self-guided course for bartender training online is the Training for Intervention Procedures program. Similarly to TAM, TIPS offers venue-specific lessons designed to teach servers, bartenders, and retail associates how to prevent underaged drinking and intoxication, how to prevent drunk driving, and the ins and outs of legality and alcohol in your state.
Last but not least, the ServSafe technique offers both online and instructor-led classes to help bartenders safely serve their patrons with a smile.
Implement practical lessons
Of course, what would a bartender be without their mixology skills? On top of the technical and the legal stuff, a bartender trainee needs to know how to make a mean margarita. Here are a few tools of the trade to include in your training criteria.
- Jiggers: here’s a flashback to bartending 101. This tool looks like a double-sided cone and makes portioning alcohol fast and simple for easy cocktail construction. The short side of a jigger is typically equal to 1 oz, and the long side 2 oz. A standard shot is 1.5 oz.
- Free pouring skills: these are good to have in the event you can’t locate a measuring device. Plus, they add a little showmanship to the mixing process. “Free pouring” simply means streaming alcohol direct from bottle to glass or shaker without measuring it first.
- Tasting and pairing: bartenders are often called on to make recommendations, and this means knowing what something tastes like and being able to give a good description to either make a sale or help a guest steer clear of something they won’t like. They should also be up-to-date on your establishment’s food options, and have an understanding of which drinks will elevate which dishes.
- Cocktail recipes: rule number one for bartenders - they have to be able to make a serviceable cocktail. Of course, no one is expecting your resident mixologist to know every single recipe there is to know, but they have to have a decent repertoire and the ability to interpret and elevate a recipe should the need to use one arise. Have a bartender’s mixed drink guide under the counter at all times just in case.
How Provi can help
Provi is an alcohol retailing solution that also produces alcohol industry content that goes down smooth. Blogs and other forms of online media, such as video-based bartender tutorials, can prove a useful tool in training your bar staff, and Provi has a backlog of readable recipes and spirited history to help you spice up your training manual.
For example, did you know one of the most popular Brazilian cocktails began as a cure for the common cold? Read more in our other post, and teach your ‘tenders how to make this delicious drink for your guests: Recipe: Caipirinha.