When a customer walks into a bar they expect bartenders to know how to make the drink they order, no matter how bizarre or unpopular.
Some drinks are ordered more often than others, and the bartender will likely know how to make them, but others are much more unpopular and may require a skilled or experienced bartender to know how to create them.
Nevertheless, as a customer, you can expect a bartender to create the drink in which you request. They may need some time to find the ingredients but they should be able to make it for you.
In this post, we’re going to answer a question that many customers and aspiring bartenders are eager to learn the answer to, and for good reason. “Do bartenders know all drinks?”
No, bartenders do NOT know all drinks. Bartenders are humans and may not know the ingredients for every drink out there. However, the bartender’s experience and the bar you’re drinking in will play a significant role in how many drinks the bartender knows and can make.
Let’s take a closer look…
Do Bartenders Really Know All Drinks?
Learning the ingredients of all drinks is one of the more difficult parts of being a bartender. Depending on how quickly you can learn, it may take you weeks, months, or even years to memorize them all.
The good news is that it’s not a requirement to know how to make every drink under the sun as a bartender. Yes, there are drinks that you absolutely should know, but others you may not and that’s fine.
In fact, most bartenders do NOT know all drinks. Instead, they know what’s on the menu in the bar that they work in as well as some of the more popular drinks.
Learning every single drink would be a waste of time for most bartenders. Most bars have a set menu and most customers only order popular drinks.
There are around 10 – 20 different cocktails that are most popular, so learning the other 57 or so would not only be added stress for the bartender but they would rarely use the knowledge.
Instead, they can simply ask the customer for the ingredients to make the drink or search it up online themselves.
That said, bartenders need to be able to make ALL drinks, as in taking the ingredients from the customer or online and being able to mix them together to make the requested drink.
This is why bars should be stocked with a range of ingredients to ensure they can cover any drinks that the customer orders. It doesn’t look good when a customer orders a drink that the bar can not create due to lack of ingredients.
How Do Bartenders Know So Many Drinks?
After years of working as a bartender, you begin to master the art of making drinks and understand which ingredients make each type.
Most bartenders master a few common drinks and then add and subtract ingredients to make others. It becomes like second nature after a while on the job.
Not only that, but customers generally order the same drinks and it’s rare that you’ll get a customer that decides to order something out of the ordinary.
Pornstar Martinis, Daquiris, Old Fashioned, and Mojitos are all among some of the more popular cocktails. Whilst there are endless combinations and 77 total recognized cocktails, there are only around 10 or so that are the most popular.
Master the most popular cocktails first then as you become more experienced and confident you can tackle the more obscure drinks.
Repetition is a wonderful thing and the more you make each drink, the more the ingredients start to cement into your mind, then all of a sudden you instantly know how to create most drinks based on memory.
New bartenders rely on cocktail sheets for the first few weeks of the job, then as they start to memorize drinks and the bars cocktail menu the job becomes MUCH easier.
As a professional bartender is it part of the job to learn and know drinks. Therefore, customers can expect bartenders to know and be able to make any drink of their choice.
Why Might A Bartender Not Know A Drink?
The main reason why a bartender may not know how to make a drink is that it’s likely not on the bar’s cocktail menu and they have never had to make it.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t make it for you. If you really want a certain drink, be sure to ask the bartender politely if they would be able to make it for you and provide the ingredients if you know them.
Most bartenders will try to accommodate this so long as you are polite. If a bartender doesn’t know a drink, this doesn’t make the incompetent or bad at their job, the bar probably doesn’t serve it.
Another consideration as to why a bartender may not know a drink is that they may have just started on the job. Learning and memorizing drinks is tricky and it often takes months for new bartenders to do this.
Have patience and be polite if your bartender does not know how to make a drink. They may feel embarrassed or could have just started the job.
What Drinks Should Bartenders Know?
For the most part, bartenders will knot how to make almost any drink that you decide to order and all of the drinks on the bar’s cocktail menu.
There are drinks that bartenders absolutely SHOULD know, and whilst this doesn’t cover every drink out there it does cover the most popular ones.
Below are some of the drinks that bartenders should know:
- Whisky Sour
- Old Fashioned
- Moscow Mule
- Bloody Mary
- Aperol Spritz
- Whiskey Sour
- White Russian
- Gin Fizz
- Pina Colada
- Gin & Tonic
These are just some of the drinks a bartender should know. The chances of a customer ordering the above drinks are very high, so if you’re a bartender and do not know these you’ll want to get your act together and start learning.
Do Bartenders Get Trained To Learn Drinks?
When new bartenders start on the job they will usually be given some basic training on how to mix drinks, use bartending tools, and keep the bar tidy.
There is no training that can be provided to learn drinks, aside from a cocktail sheet that details the ingredients and how to make each drink.
Practice and repetition are how bartenders learn drinks, and this takes patience, time, and experience to get the hang of them.
A member of the management team may provide over-the-shoulder training on how to make cocktails for the first couple of weeks which can be very helpful, but aside from that, it’s down to the individual and their memory as to how quickly they learn.
Hopefully, you now have a clear answer to “do bartenders know all drinks” and have a better understanding of why this is an unreasonable expectation.
Learning every drink under the sun would be a monumental task and one that is just not necessary in most bars or alcohol-serving establishments.
There is a handful of around 10 – 20 drinks that most customers order, therefore, it would be largely a waste of time for most bartenders to learn every possible drink.
That said, there are some professional bartenders that pride themselves on knowing how to make every drink, but these are few and far between and usually only seen in the classy up-town bars.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I’ll catch you in the next one.