If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that I’ve been in the bartending game for over a decade now.
From the thumping nightclubs of New York to the beach bars of Bali, I’ve had the privilege of working in some of the most diverse settings the bartending world has to offer.
Over the years, I’ve picked up a trick or two, made a few mistakes, and learned lessons the hard way; but I want you to learn from my mistakes and skip the heartache.
Today, I’m excited to share with you 19 of my most treasured bartending tips, techniques, and tidbits of wisdom that I’ve gathered over the years.
These insights have not only made me a better bartender but have also enriched my journey in this incredible profession.
So, whether you’re a newbie looking for a solid foundation or a seasoned pro seeking a fresh perspective, I’m confident that this post will make you a better bartender, no matter where you are on your journey.
Let’s get into it…
1. Master the basics
No matter where you are in your bartending journey, mastering the basics and building a solid foundation are key.
Before you start crafting your signature cocktails or experimenting with exotic ingredients, ensure you’ve perfected the classics like the Martini, Old Fashioned, and Mojito.
These timeless drinks are often the most requested, and being able to make them flawlessly showcases your competence.
Don’t overcomplicate it, just nail the basics until you’re confident with the most popular drinks before diving deeper.
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2. Clean as you go
A cluttered bar is a slow bar. By cleaning as you go, you not only present a professional image but also ensure efficiency in your workflow.
Wipe down counters, rinse tools immediately after use, and always keep an eye out for spills.
This proactive approach not only speeds up service but also reduces the risk of accidents like slips or cuts from unnoticed broken glass.
Nobody likes the clean down when the shift ends, but cleaning as you go will mean everyone gets to go home earlier and your workstation is nice and tidy.
3. Engage, talk, open-up
Contrary to popular belief, bartending isn’t all about making drinks. Engaging with your customers creates a welcoming atmosphere.
Listen actively, share stories when appropriate, and always wear a genuine smile. Building rapport can lead to better tips, repeat business, and a more enjoyable work environment.
Don’t be afraid to open up to customers and really build connections with them, oftentimes patrons appreciate this and you’ll develop a connection that makes everyone’s day better.
4. Stay updated
The bartending industry is dynamic, with new trends, techniques, and products emerging all of the time.
To stay relevant, attend workshops, follow industry leaders on social media, and experiment with the latest ingredients.
This not only enhances your skill set but also positions you as a knowledgeable resource for curious patrons.
You’re one step ahead by being on this blog, so dive into the guides and helpful topics we write about and learn all you can about the industry.
5. Know your tools
Each tool at the bar, from muddlers to strainers, has a specific purpose. Familiarize yourself with each one, practice using them correctly, and ensure they’re always in good condition.
This mastery not only improves the quality of your drinks but also showcases your professionalism and dedication to the craft.
You want to be confident with every tool behind the bar, and with a little practice and patience, you’ll get there quite quickly.
They’re really not that complicated.
6. Practice free pouring
While precision and accuracy are crucial, there are times when speed takes precedence, especially during peak hours.
By mastering free pouring, you can quickly serve drinks without compromising too much on accuracy.
However, it’s essential to regularly test yourself to ensure you’re not over or under-pouring.
When the bar gets busy and you can feel control slipping, switch to free pouring to speed service up a little – this tip is a real game changer and can save you from a backlog at the bar.
7. Develop a thick skin
As a bartender, you’ll encounter a number of personalities. While many interactions are pleasant, some can be challenging, especially in some parts of the world.
It’s essential to remain calm, professional, and not take negative comments to heart. Everyone has off days, so focus on providing the best service you can.
8. Eat well, exercise, and stay hydrated
Long shifts, hot lights, and constant movement can take a toll on your body.
Ensure you’re drinking enough water throughout your shift and eating balanced meals before or after.
This not only keeps your energy levels up but also ensures you’re at your best mentally, making multitasking and decision-making easier.
If you want to last in the bartending game without getting burned out, taking care of your mental and physical health is crucial.
Meditation has helped me a lot in my career, so give this a try, incorporate it into your routine, and reap the rewards.
9. Learn to upsell
Upselling is an art. It’s about understanding your customer’s preferences and suggesting a premium alternative or an additional item that enhances their experience.
This skill can significantly boost sales and tips. But, always ensure your recommendations are genuine and in the best interest of the patron.
Don’t just try to flog a packet of nuts onto every customer who orders a beer. It’s about making genuine recommendations that you are confident the customer will enjoy.
10. Work on your memory
As bartenders, we often need to juggle multiple tasks at once.
Whether it’s remembering a complex drink order or recalling a regular’s favorite cocktail, a sharp memory is invaluable.
Techniques like association, repetition, and visualization can help improve recall, which is incredibly important.
Being able to remember multiple drink orders will save you soooo much time!
11. Understand pairings
If your establishment serves food, having knowledge of drink and food pairings can take the customer experience to the next level.
For instance, knowing that red wine pairs beautifully with a steak or that a crisp lager complements spicy dishes can impress patrons and enhance their dining pleasure.
Take the time to taste menu items and experiment with drink combinations to offer informed suggestions.
12. Stay organized
Efficiency is born from organization. Develop a system for everything – from the arrangement of bottles for easy access to handling tabs and payments.
Knowing exactly where everything is without having to look not only speeds up service but also reduces stress during busy periods.
Regularly take stock of inventory to ensure you’re never caught off guard.
13. Know when to cut someone off
Serving responsibly is a crucial aspect of bartending. Recognize the signs of over-intoxication, such as slurred speech, impaired coordination, or aggressive behavior.
Approach the situation with tact and empathy, offering alternatives like water or non-alcoholic beverages.
Have confidence in your judgment and don’t be afraid to cut someone off if it’s necessary.
You’re the bartender and you have a responsibility, so back yourself.
14. Invest in comfortable shoes
Hours on your feet can lead to fatigue, soreness, and long-term health issues. Investing in a pair of comfortable, non-slip shoes can make a world of difference.
Look for footwear that offers good arch support and cushioning. You can find the best shoes for bartenders here.
Your feet, back, and overall mood will thank you.
Have you ever heard the phrase ” Your network is your net worth?” Well, it’s true.
Building relationships with other bartenders, suppliers, and other industry professionals can open doors to new opportunities, insights, and even friendships.
Attend industry events, join online forums, and be open to collaboration. Sharing knowledge and experiences can lead to personal and professional growth.
16. Always be learning
Bartending is ever-evolving. So dedicate time to learn about the history of spirits, new mixing techniques, or the science behind flavors.
This continuous learning not only enriches your craft but also positions you as an expert in the eyes of patrons and peers.
Bar managers love to see bartenders scrubbing up on knowledge and working to better themselves, so you might find it worthwhile in the future in the form of a promotion.
17. Stay safe
Safety should always be a priority. Understand the protocols for handling broken glass, cleaning up spills promptly, and managing any potential fire hazards.
Be prepared for emergencies by familiarizing yourself with the location of first aid kits, fire extinguishers, and emergency exits.
This also means safety for your customers. If you spot a confrontation, alert door staff to diffuse the situation and prevent people from getting hurt.
18. Manage stress
No matter how long you’ve been a bartender, you’ll know that it’s pretty full-on.
Find ways to manage and release this stress, whether it’s through meditation, exercise, or simply taking a few moments to breathe during a break.
Prioritizing your mental well-being ensures you can consistently deliver top-notch service with a positive attitude.
Health is wealth, and you have NOTHING without your well-being.
Always remember that.
19. Remember your ‘Why’
When the going gets tough, it’s essential to reconnect with your passion for the craft.
Whether you were drawn to the creativity of mixology, the energy of nightlife, or the joy of connecting with diverse individuals, hold onto that spark.
It will serve as a source of motivation and inspiration throughout your career.
No matter if you’re pouring a pint at a local pub or crafting a signature cocktail at a high-end lounge, the essence of bartending remains the same: delivering an unforgettable experience.
I’ve been fortunate to witness the evolution of this craft, from the resurgence of classic cocktails to the rise of molecular mixology.
Through it all, some truths remain constant. In this post, I’ve distilled a decade’s worth of experience into 19 practical tips that can elevate any bartender’s game.
So take these tips onboard, really absorb them, and put them into practice during your next shift.
Catch you in the next one.
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