When a bartender cares about making a well-crafted cocktail and puts effort into being conscientious and organized, the art of mixology can be the difference that brings customers back, time and time again. Any Joe off the street can splash vodka on ice, throw in some juice and an umbrella, and call it a drink, but with these bartender tricks they can truly become the best in the business.
This isn’t so much about drink-making tips, but rather to highlight some bartending tips and tricks that sometimes get overlooked when running a high-volume operation. Some may be obvious, others might have escaped you, but all are essential if you want your bar to be a true destination and not a “stop along the way.”
Here are 4 bartender tricks you won’t want to forget.
Bartender Trick #1: Be Neat
Most pros will greet this bartending tip with a subtle “Well, duh…” Then they’ll go back to their shift, unaware of the pools of liquor and beer creeping under glassware, juice containers that aren’t sealed, or utensils taking up room in the sink instead of getting sanitized.
I’m not saying they’re dirty. I’m saying it’s easy to overlook basic items when things get busy behind the stick. To avoid this, follow the oldest bartending tip in the books – if you can lean, you can clean. Bars are constantly covered in drips, crumbs and other residues. Be conscious of where you’re working, and always wipe things down – even if you just wiped the same area.
More importantly, prevent excess mess and waste by setting up neat, organized work areas to make drinks. Have clean utensils and measuring implements at the ready, and be sure spillage is kept in check by measuring properly, paying attention to ice and liquid levels, and keeping the Tom Cruise flair bartending to a minimum.
Bartender Trick #2: Don’t Mess With What Works
Because bartending is an art form, it’s easy to fall into the trap of tweaking and fine-tuning things until you achieve the “perfect drink.” But, like any artist, it’s rare that the bartender will ever stop experimenting and testing, meaning the original, beloved recipes could soon be lost as more and more variations are tried.
Now, of course, we’re not saying to always improve – that’s a key part of being a better bartender. And of course, experimentation can lead to great things. But if you have a martini recipe that sells two cases of vodka a night, there’s no need to question the taste of your biggest and best critics – the customers.
When looking to find a way to improve the flavor of a cocktail, one bartender trick I’d recommend is listening to customer feedback. If customers always seem to ask for more ice or soda in your basic mixed drinks, then you’re clearly pouring too heavily. Likewise, if customers are finishing your cocktails too quickly, they need a little more oomph.
And if they only order a drink once and move to something simpler, find out why. Once you have this information, you can start figuring out what’s missing and build from there.
Bartender Trick #3: Measure
I know, I know. Measuring is for trainees and airport bartenders, right? Wrong. Measuring is for bartending professionals.
And now that bar POS systems can monitor every last drop that’s poured from your bar, measuring only keeps things further in alignment.
While getting out a rack of jiggers and spoons might seem amateurish, in reality it’s a testament to how dedicated you are to providing a perfectly mixed cocktail, and not just some cup of liquor poured with the same attention as a ballpark soda. Measuring each drink carefully will also help reduce unnecessary liquor costs and liquor waste, which is great for your bar and the environment.
Believe me – once guests see how well-measured liquor comes together in their favorite recipes, all the showy bartender tricks in the world won’t be able to pry them away from your establishment.
Bartender Trick #4: Put Your Best Glass Forward
A perfectly crafted cocktail isn’t just about appealing to the tastebuds, but to the eyes as well. An easy bartender trick for getting more tips is to serve your drinks in the most suitable vessel.
Serving any mixed drinks with lemonade and iced tea? These can be more aesthetically pleasing when served in a Mason Jar. A simple bartending trick for serving beers on tap is to pour it into a chilled mug. This practice takes little effort, but it’s seen as an added bonus for customers looking for a refreshing brew.
Of course, if you’re serving a tropical mixed drink, don’t just put it in a plain pint glass, try pouring the cocktail into a hollowed coconut and adding a colorful umbrella to top it off. You can add a flare to any drink with a little brainstorming. The Broadway in South Boston, for example, serves a Coffee & Donuts drink, with a skewer of donut holes right in the glass!
Having a drink served in a way that’s out of the ordinary will set your bar apart from the others. Not only can you charge more for an interesting drink presentation, but it will also have customers leaving bigger tips.
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