Being a great bartender requires more than just knowing to shake a Mai Tai or stir a Manhattan. A bartender’s job can be hectic even at the calmest parts of the day, so when you throw in the after-work happy-hour crowd on a Friday night and the bar is 3-deep, then having every tip and trick at your disposal is a solid bonus for coping with the madness.
Who better to provide those bartending tips and techniques than the ones who work behind the stick? Check out the best bits of bartending advice we’ve gathered from bartenders.
Always Be Prepared
Every bartender wants to tend a busy bar: it means the place is doing well, shifts are more entertaining and of course the tips will be more plentiful. But not being prepared for a busy bar could be catastrophic. That’s why every bartender should show up early and stay a little longer after closing to make sure their workspace is organized just the way they want it. Whether you’re mixing up some cocktail bitters or syrups, peeling oranges and slicing limes for garnishes, or just stocking the coolers with cans, it’s worth it to be prepared ahead of time.
Study the Craft
Bartenders need to be at the top of their game and the best way to ensure that is to keep learning! There’s nothing worse than having to tell a patron you don’t know how to mix the cocktail they just ordered. Except maybe attempting it and mixing the wrong one. Of course you should study up on the most popular essential cocktails, but once you’ve got those down pat you can start exploring more. What are the flavor trends happening right now? Is there a particular cocktail everyone keeps talking about? Staying current helps bartenders build on their foundations to serve everyone better. It also doesn’t hurt to brush up on your bartender slang.
Roll with the Punches
If the bar gets crowded and things get overwhelming, sometimes the best approach is to go on the offense. The bar is your turf and you know where everything is, so use that to your advantage. Getting overwhelmed with separate orders? Suggest particular house cocktails to guests that you know are quick and easy to make. Better yet, offer up the seasonal draft which is a quick pour. Also don’t be afraid to ask your bar staff for help for simpler orders. Working as a well-oiled machine can help tame a quick spike in patrons to keep things flowing well.
There’s No Such Thing As Downtime
A little different from the above, but if you find yourself in the middle of a lull then take advantage of it. It sounds a bit doom and gloom though the truth is bartenders should always have their hands busy. If you find yourself with some extra time after mixing the latest cocktail order or topping up a few glasses of draft, use that time wisely to stock up your mixers, prepare a few garnishes, tap a new keg or try and upsell a few rounds. Every one of these little gestures can help boost the night’s productivity.
Be Everyone’s Best Friend
Finally, it pays to be the good guy. While every bartender has to deal with unruly patrons now and again, the truth is most bargoers are at your establishment to have a good time. Treating your customers with a smile is a solid start, but being sure to call them by name, striking up conversations and letting them know you’re there for them can go a long way towards improving not just their night but yours as well. Most patrons will know you’re busy by the way you handle yourself and if you can still whip up cocktails for them with a smile, they’ll be sure to appreciate it.
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