Do anything long enough and you’ll start to see the familiar patterns form that help make the job easier. In line with that; here are a few of my most hard-won observations on being a modern bartender.
1. Hospitality first
Biz Markie once said: “Hip hop is the culture, rap is what I do.”
Similarly, my mantra is that bartending is the profession, of which making drinks is a component. It’s not about the drink.
Learn classics, then practice hospitality before ‘mixology.’ Bartending is a respectable profession that uses mixology, but ‘master ‘mixologist’ is not a job title.
2. Pay attention to details
If you haven’t started using exclusively fresh pressed citrus juices over sour mix at your bar, you should apologize to your guests for being lazy. Be better.
If you’re inclined to think of yourself as a top talent but can’t make your own orgeat, grenadine, falernum, syrups, and garnishes, learn them.
Also, glassware is the new garnish.
3. Be generous
Here’s a note to head bartenders—leave your ego at home when training new bartenders. You’re training your eventual replacement. Don’t hold younger bartenders down and never keep information hidden from them. If you do consulting, you are not being paid just to make recipes. In meetings with consulting clients, I like to say that we give our drink recipes away for free.
4. Get uncomfortable
Bartending is a challenging career. You should set your bar up to maximize effort. Batch complicated steps, practice your speed, and remove needless steps. But don’t accept shortcuts from yourself or others, use garbage ingredients to save money, or refuse to learn new skills.
5. Remember to practice self-care
Finally, stretch, exercise and rest. Don’t let anyone make you sacrifice key moments in your life out of a sense of obligation to a job. Some regrets last a day, but others last forever.
An extra note for guests of a Bartender:
When asking a bartender for an opinion, tell them your preferences rather than asking silly questions. Do you like tart? Spirit-forward? Sweet or dry? Using these descriptions will enhance your experience and help servers and bartenders to serve you quickly and satisfactorily.
Also, the all-too-familiar caution ‘not too sweet’ is equally pointless. Everyone’s palate is subjective and different.
The same goes for telling someone to ‘make it strong’—it only confirms that you lack an understanding of basic commerce.