Good Bartender Guide

'Bartenders, the aristocrats of the working class'


Mixology, as a profession, has an appeal unlike many others.


With the right attitude it can be fun and financially rewarding.


Remember: Knowledge is power.

You don’t have to be an expert, just have a fact or two about each Spirit you serve. Know the differences to the palate and not just the wallet. Learn characteristics, interesting historical facts and subtle qualities about your products. This will help you up-sell and gain extra tips.

The first and most important characteristic in being a successful bartender, male or female, is personality. I don’t care how fast you are, how cute you are, or how well you can mix a drink. If you have no personality or worse, you’re a jerk, having a career as a barkeep will be short lived. This does not mean you need to be overly nice or overly proper. The formality will depend on the culture of the bar. Beyond that, you’ll need to be personable and able to communicate with all walks of life.


A list of essential tips for the good bartender:

Bit of a long list I know, we're going to break it down soon!

  • All Cocktails are shaken with ice
  • All Cocktails are created on the top of the bar in front of the customer
  • All Cocktails are tasted with a straw (which is then thrown away) before they are given to the customer
  • A napkin is put underneath every cocktail
  • If you shake a teaspoon of eggwhite with the other ingredients you will get a smooth misty look and a pleasant white head. (You won’t taste the egg, trust me.)
  • Avoid using high quality malt Scotch whisky in a cocktail; it should be enjoyed straight up or on the rocks. Use blends for cocktails.
  • After preparing a creamy cocktail, thoroughly wash out the using detergent and a cloth to remove the cream which may stick to the inside, for it may taint the next non-cream cocktail.
  • All ingredients should be at their peak of condition, especially fruit (freshly sliced) and fruit juices (just squeezed). A cocktail is no better than its cheapest ingredient.
  • Measure quantities accurately especially when using ingredients with strong flavours such as Crème de Menthe and Pernod.
  • When jotting down drink orders use bartender shorthand – Vodka and Coke – V/C. Abbreviations too – Southern Comfort – Soco. Orange Juice – OJ
  • Ever been somewhere where employees discussed their personal lives in front of you? Did they continue the conversation in front of you? Clients should never hear Staff discussing private matters. Don’t.
  • Start work with the ice well filled and your store-and-pours brimming, be prepared. Also know that the proper way to store an ice scoop is for it to be stuck in with the ice handle facing up – helps keep your hands from touching ice.
  • Female Bartenders. You should be able to perform all bartender duties just like the guys. This means hauling cases of beer, removing rubbish and changing barrels. Manoeuvring full barrels is different and usually judged on size and age.
  • Keep the bar surface, glasses, serving area, preparation area and fridges spotless. People do not want to pay for cocktails made on a dirty area. An immaculate bar area with shimmering glasses and flawless bartenders is as important as your mixing abilities.
  • Make sure your garnishes are properly prepared and fresh. Nothing kills a cocktails appeal faster than a drying lime wedge or ugly olive!
  • Know your guests. You should start to remember their drinks once they have ordered a couple of times. ‘Same Again?’ is a delight to hear and usually results in a tip. People like being recognised.
  • Make sure your uniform is clean and well ironed. You should always look your best.
  • Be courteous and friendly at all times, most guests will respond in kind.
  • Clean as you go. All professional bartenders clean as they go. Some cleaning behind the bar can wait until you have caught up with customers demands, just be aware that what the guest can see is top priority.
  • Never tell a customer that you can make a cocktail unless you are sure you can do it properly. If you can’t get the guest to wait while you find someone who can
  • When a client orders a drink, serve it with a little light trivia. For example: ‘Michelangelo probably drank the very same Amaretto di Saronno’ or ‘William of Orange brought gin to the UK and it gave rise to the term ‘Dutch courage’. Chambord Liqueur was said to have been introduced to Louis XIV. It was common during that time for liqueurs to be drank with elegant meals.
  • If you make the wrong drink and it’s not carbonated, always strain it into a glass and set to the side. You’ll be ready to use when it’s ordered again. If no one orders that drink again, then you’ll have to record it on the spill sheet.
  • Hold spirit bottles firmly, most bottles are worth between £20-£50 each. Think about that before you grab one.
  • No matter what you hear only one thing can make a human sober, time! Coffee makes an alert(er) drunk, food makes a full drunk and a cold shower makes an unhappy drunk.
  • The drier a martini – the less vermouth they want.
  • Make your barspoon a little easier to use by bending it a little bit at the neck
  • A martini is made with gin, a vodka martini is made with vodka.
  • Pour Test – Make sure you can free-pour half a shot, a shot and a double as standard. Otherwise you will be made to use a jigger while everone else is freepouring. You will look foolish!
  • You will Spill! Just try not to spill on guests. If you do apologise and offer napkins.
  • Learn how to bounce pour!
  • Use both hands – practise with your weaker hand when the bar is not rammed, never have an arm dangling doing nothing.
  • pink-gin-cocktail-image-2
  • Don’t fill your drinks to the rim. Always allow half an inch breathing room at the top. The only exceptions are creamy drinks.
  • How to rim a drink. You want the salt/ sugar to be on the outside edge. So you’ll have to tilt the glass and rotate it around. This stops the salt/sugar falling in the drink.
  • Speedpours should only be used on bottles which are used often.
  • All Cognac is brandy but not all brandy is Cognac. Cognac can only be made from grapes grown in the Cognac region of France. Brandy can be made from grapes and other fruit anywhere in the world.
  • When you have to tell a guest you have no more of something say ‘I’m sorry we’ve sold out of that’ it makes it sound like it’s a popular item (as opposed to a disorganised bar manager)
  • Know that sour mash means that part of the yeast mixture from one batch is used to start another batch. Like the way sour dough bread is made. People think Jack Daniel’s tastes the way it does because it’s a sour mash whiskey. No, many whiskeys are made in the sour mash procedure. Jack Daniel’s tastes like that that because before it’s put into charred barrels it drips through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal.
  • Champagne can only be called Champagne when it’s made in Champagne, France. Everything else is sparkling wine.
  • Many gin and whiskey cocktails are stirred because shaking is said to "bruise" the spirit.
  • A 330ml bottle of lager should fit exactly in a 12 Fluid Ounce Hi-Ball
  • 1 imperial pint is 20 Fluid Ounces, Half a pint is 10.
  • Metric vs Imperial = Nightmare. Keep it simple and choose Metric (aside from pints and half’s)


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