14 Tips and Tricks from Masters of Mixology

Pro bartenders offer tips and tricks to help you perfect your craft.

Bartenders today need to be skilled at making cocktails. They also need to be knowledgeable about current drink trends.

It would help if you were fast behind the bar and friendly: Guests come to enjoy a drink and want to have fun. How can you stay at the top of your bartending game and get there? We sought advice from a few professionals, and here are 13 suggestions.

Get familiar with the basics and stay on top of the latest trends.

Read books and watch technique videos online, says Dimitrios Zahariadis, cofounder of TheCocktailChemist.com and president of the U.S. Bartenders Guild Connecticut Chapter (USBG CT).

For recommended reading, Jon Kraus, a New York bartender, swears to The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold, and the Bartender’s Choice app from Sam Ross of Milk & Honey fame.

James Menite, a bartender at The Plaza Hotel New York, says, “Definitely buy The Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide.” When I started, I yellow-Sharpied so many pages into that book. One of my recipes is now in the book. My career has taken me to a complete 360 degree.

Make time for the kitchen and behind the bar.

Johan M. Stein (principal of Cat & Mouse Consulting), a bar consultant, says that it teaches you how to be organized, fast, and clean. He also notes that barbacking is great for young bartenders. “I was a first-rate barback, and I proved myself to be a great bartender.”

Use mise en place to “put in place”.

Joe Alberti, the bartender at McCoy’s Oceanfront at Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa, suggests that it is good to organize and arrange the items you will use during a shift to save time.

Make your syrups.

Homemade syrups add an extra cool touch that isn’t available in stores. “They also save money because they last for approximately a week and cost only a cup sugar, such as a thumb of ginger, or a pineapple,” Cody Goldstein, Red Farm head bartender in New York, says.

Infusing simple syrups with fruits and herbs is a smart idea. Alberti suggests that you infuse spirits rather than infuse them. This will reduce liquor waste.

Use a jigger.

Chris Almeida is a bartender at The Eddy, Providence, RI and president of USBG Rhode Island. You can make the drink the same every time. He says it eliminates many variables. “Friends shouldn’t allow their friends to use jiggers.”

Learn how to pour for free.

Although many recommend using a jigger to pour most pours, bartenders should be able to free pour. To learn how to pour 1/2 oz. Every day, practice daily to 4 oz. Zachary Blair, Whiteface Lodge mixologist in Lake Placid, NY, said that you should use both hands at once. He also recommends learning to bump pour–continuously pour glass after glass.

Owen Joseph, the bar supervisor at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel on Cape Cod, MA, advises that you aim to pour the perfect drink every time. It will be great and will remain consistent for your guests. Count while you pour and adjust your count according to the ounces or portions.

Use a plate to rim glassware.

Alberti advises that you don’t dip the sugar/salt glass rims into plastic containers. Instead, use a plate to ensure that salt and sugar don’t get into the glass. This will prevent unbalanced cocktails.

Source local ingredients.

Greg Fournier, beverage director at the Harbor View Hotel on Martha’s Vineyard, recommends that you visit your local farmer’s market, garden, or florist. Everyone enjoys the sweet floral scents of summer and the complex, unique flavors of fall herbs.

Bob Peters, the head mixologist at The Punch Room at The Ritz Carlton in Charlotte, NC, explains that you don’t need to know what something looks like a farmer’s market. “Most farmers will let you taste their fresh produce.

After each drink, clean the tins.

Goldstein says he has worked with many bartenders who put their tins in a sink after every drink. This not only means they don’t have any tins, but it also slows down the process when they need to make multiple drinks at once.

A Misto spray bottle can be used to simulate a rinsing method.

Peters says it’s faster to spray the Misto spirit into a glass than to pour some in, coat the glass and then throw the rest away. This will also reduce waste and extend the bottle’s life three to four times more than traditional rinsing.

Peters says that the spray rinse can make a great and unique part of your drink presentation. Spraying vermouth or absinthe in a glass in front of your guests can spark their interest. It can also start a conversation that can make for an unforgettable experience.

Create your signature shake.

Enjoy shaking a drink. Blair from the Whiteface Lodge says that it is fun and makes the spirit smoother by diluting it.

Bartenders have their unique shakes, so be open to trying new things. Blair points out that it is important to keep track of the shakes and ensure they are the same each time. “The consistency of a cocktail is determined by how many shakes it gets, which ultimately leads to people returning to the bar.”

Mix a complex beverage in small batches.

Blair suggests that bartenders should not mix their drinks in batches because of state laws. Instead of adding each ingredient one at a time to the mix, make a large batch before putting it in a bottle.

Blair states that the mix should fit in a one-quart container. This makes it easy to pour when the mixer is not working. Grab a funnel and pour the mix into a glass. He says that this prebatched cocktail contains approximately one part spirit and two parts mixer.

Be friendly and smile.

Labinot Gashi, a bartender in Gaby Bar at the Sofitel, New York, suggests keeping a few jokes and interesting stories in your back pocket to spark conversation with guests.

Sabrine Dhaliwal (bar manager at West Restaurant + Bar in Vancouver, BC) says that you are not serving drinks. She says that women tend to have a touch and finesse that men lack, so if your job is as a female bartender, you should be proud of it and work hard. A smile from a woman is the best thing.

Keep track of your regulars.

Gashi advises that you should always remember the preferences of your customers. This will keep them coming back.

Gashi suggests that if you are serving repeat customers, they should be asked if they would prefer their regular cocktail to the one named. This makes your guests feel good. They have found someone open to listening to them.

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