You might not think that bartending is a very demanding job. But just wait until you’re the only person working a packed bar. This job requires that you not only have an excellent memory and the ability to work well under pressure but also that you have well-developed social skills and a knack for handling people that don’t necessarily want to be handled. It’s a pretty tall order, but when you understand some basics you should be able to figure out whether or not this profession is right for you. Here are just a few guidelines that good bartenders should live by.
- Keep your bartending bible handy. No matter how long you’ve been a bartender, you’ll find that there are going to be times when someone asks for a drink you’ve never heard of, or one that you haven’t made in years (and you’ve forgotten the recipe for). While some bartenders will simply refuse to make the drink in question, a good one always wants to learn, not to mention keep the customers happy and ordering more drinks. So keep your compendium of drink recipes handy and if you don’t know how to make something, look it up. You’re bound to get better tips this way than you would by turning people down.
- Learn local favorites. One thing you’ll quickly discover is that you can’t possibly learn how to make every drink. Over time you’ll pick up plenty of recipes, but just when you think you’ve got them all down pat, some new iteration will spring up. Keep in mind that drinks are often made differently from one locale to the next, so you might think you’re making it right only to discover that the customer expected something different. The best you can do is learn to make drinks the way your regular patrons like them. Keeping the locals satisfied is the first order of business since they’re the ones that are going to come back and bring their friends.
- Be attentive. It costs you nothing to smile and greet customers, even when your bar is packed, and you’re bound to get better tips by paying attention to every face in the crowd. Since you also bear some responsibility for cutting people off when they’ve had enough, you’ll have to become a master at tracking how much various parties have ordered throughout the night. On the other hand, drunks will generally make themselves known, often loudly and obnoxiously. It’s your job to get to them before they ruin the fun of other patrons.
- Head for cash-in-hand. There is a sort of unwritten rule in bartending that money talks. You’re there to make drinks for people who are ready to order, not to mention tips for yourself. So when a customer muscles his way up to a busy bar and holds up a bill, he’s telling you that he’s ready to order and ready to pay. This person should always be your next customer when you finish with whoever you’re currently waiting on. Clearly, he understands bar etiquette.
- Practice, practice, practice. The only way to get better at mixing drinks is to do it. So practice every chance you get, even if that means working for tips at a friend’s house party. Of course, you should probably put together a repertoire of signature drinks rather than just offering to make whatever people ask for. While you can certainly start out with mixers from Margarita Masters to back you up, eventually you’re going to have to learn to make drinks, correctly and consistently, if you want to excel at your job as a bartender. And as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.