What would be the best advice you could give all the aspiring bartenders out there and here's what they had to say...
"When I first started bartending an old school bartender gave me the best advice... Don't let the animals run the zoo."
- Learn and research on the most common cocktails/shots that are popular today.
- Learn about bar terminology, tools, how to cut garnishes, and glasses.
- Be confident, responsible, and be fun. It will increase your tips and you will earn more respect from your customers and co-workers.
- Bartending classes are, for the most part, bullshit. (Barsmarts Wired is the only one I have heard of that is not. And I highly recommend taking it if you work in a cocktail bar type place.)
- Learn to build rounds of drinks, not just one at a time. Take as many orders as you can when you are busy and fill them efficiently. People will wait for their order to be made, but they hate waiting to have their order taken.
- Bartending is like dancing, you need to be smooth and have rhythm for it to work. And smiling makes it look so much better.
- Stay calm. What ever is happening will go so much smoother if you are calm about it, customers can smell panic and will push you as far as they think they can.
- Learn. A new drink, a customers name, a better way to slice your fruit... Make it a goal to learn something EVERY shift. Even the little things can make your life smoother. Use what you learn as soon as you can, and often, memory through repetition works wonders.
"don't assume that the person in front of you is an asshole. I'm sure there are a few people in this world that love that person and maybe his way of going out and drinking is different from yours. that doesn't make him a bad person it makes you bad at your job that you can't give him what he wants in a way that fits your establishment.
never cut a corner. it hurts the craft. it hurts your wallet and it makes you look like a fool when your end product is less than your absolute best.
if you find yourself dreading work remember that there are people that go to bed at eight and wake up at six am just to drive in traffic to their everyday lifeless desk job. you have a chance to bring happiness to someone each time you look across that bar. countless people have done it before you and you owe it to the bartending community to give your best every time. have fun."
- SMILE. Be miserable, tired, cranky, whatever, on your own time. When your at work, your professional AND fun. Every single person, every single order, smile at them.
- Stick to the rules, your own and the bar/states/countys/countrys. Don't break the rules for anyone, and if that means you make a rule for yourself that you don't sleep with customers, or you only drink after work one night a week, or whatever, stick with it. You can lose yourself very quickly behind a bar, away from normal people and a normal life.
- Don't ever leave a full spirit bottle on the counter. I watched a brand new bartender do this one night, bottle was taken and I had to trail the guy through a capacity nite club to get it back. Rookie didn't last long after that.
- As soon as you find yourself dreading going to work, it's time to move on.
- Don't get drunk behind the bar.
- Engage your patrons.
- Mis en place
- The person on the other side of the bar may have just gotten fired, lost a kid on the operating table, or a mom 10 seconds away from drowning her kids. Your job is to get them to walk out of there feeling way better than they walked in
- Leave your baggage at the door
- Be confident! In any walk of life, confidence shines.
- Don't let your customers control you. You're taking the orders but you're setting the rules.
- Always hustle! No one likes a slow bartender...
- Be efficient in your movements: pour two beers at one time, pour your liquor and mixer at the same time, etc...
- Always keep learning and recognize the fact that you'll never know it all.
- Keep your workplace clean. If you're slow--clean. Things get sticky and funky real quick-like, so do your part...
- If you want to bartend for the long haul, find a place that is popular, well-respected, and seems like somewhere you want to work. Get a job as a barback and don't waste any time letting your boss know you want to learn how to bartend. Show up early, leave late, and work your butt off. Pay attention to the other bartenders. Give it some time and if you picked the right place you will eventually be given a shot. Often it's unplanned and you will get thrown into the mix with no warning. Don't fuck it up.
- If you have to cut someone off, don't avoid the situation. They wont go away. Just get it over with. Do it quietly and with respect and usually they wont cause a scene.
- Don't let a bad tip ruin your night. Track your tips and focus on what you make all week/month/year. Everything balances out.
- keep calm. As with any service job. Panic is the worst thing to have behind the bar.
- know your shit.
- if you don't know your shit, get good at faking it. Especially in high volume.
"All I have is always keep your head, whether you're three deep or someone's threatening to shit on your chest."
"If you've time to lean you've time to clean. Learn to read your customers and their mannerisms. Don't be afraid to cut someone off (regular or not). Run the show, be outgoing and make people be confident in you. Personality goes a long way."
"Empathy is an art. One you should work at. Yes it helps with tips, but it's truly a matter of self care. It's been said other ways in this thread... Boundaries are important when you're selling a drug that makes people forget they have any. Some people push and push because they define their lives by the boundaries outside themselves. (children, etc.) Some people are waiting for you to say no. These same people are often more relaxed when you do. Saying no is an art. Interest. So many things flow from this: drink knowledge, communication efficiency, people skills etc. If you're not interested you're probably not interesting. Ask good questions. Answers will vary. I had a nuclear physicist in last night. I would would have pegged him for a trucker. Interest is the fuel of learning. Sometimes fuel runs thin. You have to do what it takes to keep gas in the tank. It's difficult to retain information you're not interested in, so find something interesting about you're surrounding life and build on future interest to be reaped by future you."
"As an instructor with National Bartenders School, my best advice is this, "Know your shit, or know you're shit." Its one of my personal favorites, but there are of course better pieces of more specific advice though. Be friendly, always be humble and willing to learn from those who know what they're doing. Ask questions, and talk A LOT. and finally, another personal favorite, 'The customer is always right, but the bartender decides when people are no longer customers.'"
- Remember most high volume bars should have the specs for drinks in the POS!
- for a long time, you will realize, you know nowhere near as much as your customers do. But thats ok! fake it till you make it.
- Be sure to taste EVERYTHING. make sure to taste the limes, lemons, lemon juice, lime juice, oranges, raspberries, pineapple, lychees, strawberries. you name it, all fresh ingredients, ill taste, so i know what flavour profile you will be working with because there will be inconsistencies throughout the week, and when it comes to volume, you want your drinks to be consistent.
- Dont spend too much time garnishing.
- practice your freepouring! you can shave so much time freepouring, and it comes down to shaving those seconds. If you jigger a drink with 5-6 ingredients, its going to take you longer than walking to the back bar, grabbing whatever spirits + liquers you need, and pouring 4 bottles at once, your fingers will build strength over time.
- Dont be afraid to admit you dont know something, if you get stuck, ask or check the POS. *If the customer orders a drink you have never heard of, ask them if they know whats in it, because sometimes the customer had a drink at a bar up the road, and their specs will be different to yours, then you can ask your fellow bartenders/bar manager what the house specs are.
- CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN! Keep your work space tidy, wipe down the bar top between drink orders, will only take you a second.
- Add ice last, if the bar you will be at is anything like the bar im at, add spirits, then ice. Do wine, then cocktails, then standard drinks, then beers. if you are making a round of shaken and stirred drinks, you can leave the stirred drinks to sit in the ice without stiring, it will dilute itself and save you the time, then when you are done shaking your 2 or 3 cocktails, go back to your 2 stirred down drinks, give it a taste, then a quick 2 second stir, then another taste, if its fine, strain it out. if not, let it sit for another 5-6 seconds while you strain out one of the shaken cocktails. Sequence of service is everything!
- Be nice to your barback, dont bark orders at him, manners dont cost anything. Plus, he will know where everything goes in the bar.
- Identify your weaknesses, let this be known to your employer, they will show you the ropes.
- Dont be scared to take multiple orders at the same time, most venues serve 60% vodka, so 2 out of the 3 orders will be vodka, if you ask 3 different people what they want, you might get like 6 vodkas, a g&t and a scotch and soda, and of that each person wanted 2 vodka lime sodas, it'll save you so much time.
- work smarter not harder, need to make an old fashioned? is your bar 5 deep? use a bar spoon of sugar syrup instead of muddling that fucking sugar cube with some soda, that shit can fuck right off.
- Smile, it makes people more comfortable :)
"Save your money. It's super tempting to throw cash around, but put that shit away for at least six months. You never know when you might be looking for the next job or just find yourself in a position that would be easier to get out of if you had a few grand put aside."