Cocktail History

History Of Cocktail Culture



History of Cocktail Culture


For as long as people have been drinking Alcohol, they have been mixing drinks. This dates back at least 10,000 years. From beer spiked with intoxicants to Wine infused with Thyme, it’s fair to say that the desire both to increase mood-altering effects of booze and to improve the taste have been with the human race for millennia and it doesn't seem to be leaving us quickly. It used to be that cocktails were for girls and rich men who bought them for girls who liked rich men.

Things have changed, for the better! A cocktail in hand is a must, lets look into how we got to be in this great cocktail age we now live in.


A long time ago.

The arrival of sugar opened up a new era for producing drinks. By medieval times the rich were spicing up their ales with sugars & spices from the Middle East, where sugar originates from (India). In fact they loved sugar so much that women would regularly blacken their own teeth in order to give the impression that they could afford so much sugar that their teeth were rotten. so any excuse for adding extra sugar was snapped up by these medieval hipsters in the form of drinks.


Fast forward...

By Shakespearean times mixing drinks was big news. Probably the most enduring cocktail produced found its origins in India –

Punch. Based on 5 ingredients, Spirit, Sugar, Water, Citrus juice & spices. Crudely similar to the cocktails of today... It made it sway into the theater culture and cocktail drinking was worn as a badge of honour when impressing socially.


Fast forward...

At the turn of the 19th century, just as the word cocktail was making it’s print debut, many significant developments were also made. such as by 1800 Ice became for sale in America. A big plus for the bartender.

In the middle of the 19th Century in North America the production of other spirits and liqueurs began. Among the immigrants were people from all over Europe who implemented their knowledge of distillation in their new home. The world needs immigrants.

Around the turn of the century, the American Bar was already an integral part of life in American society. The import routes from Old Europe worked, and many spirits came into the country, and with it came the American enjoyment and pleasure of experimentation with nothing standing in the way. There were countless cocktails invented, many of which died a death, but some became world famous.

in 1967 Artificial Carbonation was achieved & refrigeration arrived on the scene. These are all developments which aided the cocktail to be brought to a mass global market, and from then it’s popularity became infinitely expandable.

For me the link as always been between cocktails and the fashion of the day. James Bond drinks Martinis (Vespers to be exact) and girls wearing 'cocktail' dresses. Young desirable couples on their way to cocktail parties etc... etc...


Put simply. Drinking a cocktail makes you look better...


(this is very brief and designed to make you look at the drink in front of you and be inspired to find out more)


ernest hemmingway

Because everyone wants to be Ernest


But where does the word 'cocktail' come from? comment below with the most plausible in your head.


The dictionary should be able to tell us but my guess is that the monk that was doing the writing at the time was too drunk to spell it so gave up as the word Cocktail’s origins are lost according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Some possible Explanations are:


Cock-ale was an old English ale, spiced with a ground-up red cockerel mixed in – the word became applied to other drinks (Containing niether of these ingredients) and gained a T.


In a Mexican Tavern, English Sailors noticed that mixed drinks were stirred with the root of a plant known as colo de gallo, or in English ‘Cock’s Tail’. The Sailors brought the name to England and thence the US.


There are many more suggestions as to the origin of the word. what do you think it originates from?



job roles

Job Roles Within A Bar Outlined - Stop Confusing Your Staff & Get The Best Out Of Them

A lot of staff are not good at their jobs.... because they haven't been told what their job is. So here is your simple guide to the different job roles within a bar

It's that simple.

This post on job roles within a bar is designed for you to print out and stick to the wall, Give to new starters or even to give to your boss to show them what you should be doing.

You lot have just got to promise me one thing...

Integrate these job roles into your bar and watch how easy it becomes to operate as one well-oiled machine

Profits will soar.

Tips will soar.

And most importantly, staff and customers will be happier

But Joel - How do you know that everyone will become happier?

Well, this happens to be the first thing I do when I get to work on bringing a bar back up to speed. I simply make sure every member of staff knows exactly what their job role within the bar is.

Now, this isn't something that I have dreamt up... No this is backed by research.


job roles within a bar


When there are no excuses surrounding an employee, i.e when something doesn't get done because they claim not to know that they were supposed to, you can really start to evaluate them for the roles they are in.

It allows us as hospitality professionals to have a baseline of the minimum job expectancy.

How many job roles have you been in where the manager has favoured someone on their personality rather than their ability to perform the job role within the bar properly?


The guys over at JobDig place extreme importance on knowing your job role

"If you or your coworkers have any questions about your responsibilities, it can make for a very inefficient, confusing, and unsatisfying situation­- and it's a terrible way to work. Misunderstanding can be avoided if everyone knows the game plan in advance.

The more you work to learn what's expected of you, the more recognized, appreciated, respected, and valued you will be!"


The job roles within a bar we will look at today will be

  • Floortender

  • Barback

  • Bartender

Don't forget, you can download your printable PDF file here as a handout or a stick-up poster

Right, let's get into it

job roles within a bar


The floor tenders job roles are often regarded as the least important or least cool job in a bar.

It is however equally as important as the other roles. The average customer spends only 10% of their time at the bar being served by a bartender.

The rest of their time is spent Front of House (FoH) in the customer area. The floor tenders role is to look after the customer area.

A customer only spends 10% of their time at the actual bar! #TheFloorIsWhereItsAt Click To Tweet

It is therefore essential the floor tender provides the highest level of service as it is likely they will make the biggest difference to a customers’ experience...

How many times have you gone to sit at a table and realised the previous customer has spilt a drink and their glasses haven’t been cleared... what impression does this give to you as a customer?

Floortenders should not be in the back room for prolonged periods of time as there may have been a spillage, breakage or glassware which needs collecting.

The floor-tender is responsible for the following job roles within a bar:

Clearing glasses from tables and the customer area

Wiping tables after the customer has left and the glasses have been cleared

Ensuring the toilets are kept to the highest standards (in some bars)

Clearing any empty glasses from the smoking area, emptying & cleaning ashtrays and wiping tables in the smoking area on a regular basis

Sweeping up any breakages in the customer area – with the ‘claims culture’ we now live in this is essential, if a customer falls onto broken glass your company could face a hefty court case and you would most likely lose your job

Mopping up any spillages on the floor & placing a wet floor sign above the spillage. (Again see above regarding compensation claims)

job roles within a bar

Bar Back

The bar back's job roles is the hardest role in any bar, but without one a bar simply wouldn’t run.

It is the bar backs’ job to provide the bartenders with everything they need to be able to serve quality drinks to the customer.

The bar back is the communication point between the bar and the floor.

If the bar is running low on glasses, the bartenders will inform the bar back, who will then inform the floor tenders so they can concentrate on getting as many glasses as possible over the next few floor runs they do.

The bar back is responsible for the following job roles within a bar:

Washing the glasses collected by the floor tenders and replacing them on the bar

Replenishing stations with ice

Replenishing stations with cut fruit

Replenishing stations with citrus juice

Replenishing stations with fruit juice

Restocking bottle fridges with the labels facing forward. When restocking fridges the bar back should not wait for the fridge to be empty. Move all the cold bottles to one side and fill the gap with bottles from the cellar or the cool room (whichever your bar uses). This way the bartender can always serve a cold beer to the customer without having to reach to the back of the fridge to get a cold one

Restocking each stations bar caddy with long straws, sip straws & Bev naps

Changing the bin on the bar for an empty one if it becomes too full

Replacing any empty spirit bottles for the bar. If a bottle is placed on the back bar with a pour spout, in the bar back must get a new bottle from the spirit store & replace it on the back bar or in the appropriate speed rail. If there is no pour spout in the bottle the bartender will have already replaced it from the backup stock from underneath the bar.

Changing kegs/postmix/gas in the cellar. Cellars are very dangerous places and no member of staff should attempt any of the above activities unless management has given the go ahead.

The best #barbacks make the best #bartenders Click To Tweet



Bartender Job Roles

As a bartender, you become the face of the business as you are likely to be the first person a customer comes into contact with when they enter.

First impressions count, so make sure yours is a good one!!! You must always be smartly dressed, well groomed, hair tidy and have high levels of personal hygiene.

Each bartender must provide the high service expectations we outlined above.

Bartenders are responsible for the following job roles within a bar:

Giving customers the highest standard of service

Serving the highest quality drinks to each customer

Ensuring the bar top is kept clean and dry at all times

Serving every drink on a bev nap (beer mat)

Serving every bottle and draught product with the branding facing the customer

As a bartender, you become the face of the business! So do it right Click To Tweet

For our more in-depth look at the job roles of a bartender then check out our 20 commandments.

So there are your job roles with a bar. what else would you add? let us know below.

The best suggestions will get added to the post.

Remember you can download the PDF cheat sheet for this post.

Dealing with Drunks

Dealing With The Drunks

Part of being a bartender is your ability for dealing with drunks and unruly customers.

It is essential you deal with customers who have had a little bit too much to drink in the correct manner to get the best outcome.

Remember – it is illegal to serve customers who are too drunk as you may be putting their lives at risk. Bottom line, don't serve the intoxicated.

Drinking alters people’s perception and ability to control their actions.

How would you feel if you served someone who was already far too intoxicated and they walked out of the bar and got run over because they didn’t see the car coming... not very good I’m guessing!!!

dealing with drunks

Offer Water

If you feel a customer is well on their way, instead of serving them alcohol suggest they have a water to sober up a little bit or suggest they get some food to soak up some of the alcohol.

Remember to always use a friendly tone of voice and not speak to the customer in a patronising manner, as this will cause them to become defensive and demanding.


The second method of dealing with a drunk customer is the ‘ignore the drunk or drunks’ method.

If the customer has already been cut off or you think they are too drunk to be served let them know you’ll be with them in a minute.

Try to serve the other people at the bar, avoiding them but telling them you’ll be with them in a minute.

Remember – this method only works if the bar is busy enough for you to appear too busy.

Hopefully, the customer will get bored of waiting and move on.

Get Their Friends On Your Side

The third method is to employ a more sober friend to help with the situation.

Just have a quiet word with their friend and let them know you think they have had a little bit too much to drink.

Advise them that their friend needs to cool off for a while, otherwise, they may be asked to leave.

The friend will then be on your side and encourage the drunk to calm it down so he or she won’t ruin the rest of the groups’ night.

If you ever feel uncomfortable dealing with a drunk customer ask a manager to deal with the situation.

As managers, we should have all been trained in coping with unruly customers. Managers would rather you come to them for help rather than putting yourself in an uncomfortable position.

Communication is key when dealing with drunks.

If you have cut off a customer it is essential that you let all other bartenders, managers, bar backs and floor tenders know that they have been cut off.

The customer will no doubt try and get a drink from another member of staff.

If we as a team present a united front that the customer will not be getting served again in your establishment, he or she will most likely give up and move on.

Best ways to deal with the drunk customers #BABBT Click To Tweet
History Of Vodka

The Brief History Of Vodka That You Probably Didn't Know

You may have heard about the fights between Poland and Russian on the subject of the history of vodka.

Since vodka’s introduction into the West, it’s boasted of being tasteless & odourless.

Indeed the US  government initially defined vodka as a clear, neutral spirit so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without discernible flavour or aroma.

Vodka’s earliest campaign in the West even claimed to “leave you breathless”. So, denied its heritage and introduced as the white whisky, vodka was a successful iconoclast and a certain hit with the young but denied any recognition of its own product realities.

Now, the EU defines vodka as a spirit in which the characteristics of their raw materials are selectively reduced and this defines, more accurately, many of the vodkas that emanate from the East and some of the more recent vodkas created in the West. These remain the purest of spirits while retaining some character from their raw materials.

Vodka, the world’s most popular spirit, remains pretty functional in the East where, historically, it’s usually been drunk neat, a refuge from life’s horrors and an aid to the digestion of fatty foods.

In the West, vodka’s been drunk more as a lifestyle statement than because of what’s in the bottle. So long as it was clean and neutral, few had reason to know about vodka’s product realities except perhaps its alcoholic strength.

The future looks very different as Westerners now call for so-called vodkas with character, whether they be traditional vodkas from the East or vodkas with taste, texture and aromatics, now distilled in the West.

Related:  When You Learn About Vodka You Will Never Think They Are All The Same Again


Vodka is probably the world’s oldest spirit but Russians and Poles disagree about the origins and neither has the definitive evidence to support their claims.

Russia gave us the word ‘voda’, meaning water and ‘vodka’ meaning ‘little water ’ though Poland has similar words ‘woda’ and ‘wodka’.

The diminutive ‘ka’, when used in the middle ages, meant better, a description most likely true of vodka because water, at that time, not only tasted bad but could be very unhealthy too.

What is true is that Poland was distilling vodka for medical use by the 11th century and, by the  17th century, vodka was Poland’s national drink.

In Poland

3 copies of a lifestyle book, dated 1405, contain mention of how to infuse your “vodka” and in 1534 a Polish encyclopaedia of medicine & science explained how to distil herb vodkas and suggested using vodka to cleanse the skin after shaving or to rub on after a bath to remove unpleasant odours!

Making vodka was less restricted than in Russia and in 1546, King Jan Olbrecht issued a decree allowing every citizen the right to make vodka. As a result, distillation was very much a family affair, and by the sixteenth century there were 49 commercial distilleries in the town of Poznan alone. In the centuries that followed vodka distillation and consumption became established at all levels of Polish society and today Poznan remains a major centre for the production of vodka.

In Russia

Alcohol production was first documented in the 9th century, but spirits were thought to have arrived in Russia through Italian traders in the 14th century. Early distillations were likely for medicine or even gunpowder rather than for drinking but only a century later, a monopoly on distillation and sale of spirits was imposed in Moscow, suggesting that,  by then, levels of consumption were already considerable. In the 1540s the Russian Tsar Ivan 'the Terrible' established his own network of distilling taverns, making sure that profits went straight into the Imperial treasury. He outlawed taverns that were outside his control and banned distilling by potential rivals. Always needing support from the nobility, however, he did allow them to continue distilling vodka.

High alcohol vodkas developed in cold Northern countries because in cold temperatures only high levels of alcohol ensured that the drinks remained liquid. Better still and much, to everyone’s surprise, the higher the level of alcohol, the more palatable the spirit. Distillation, however, was an imperfect science and so, in these early years, impurities remained in the finished spirit.

Successive rulers maintained their monopoly on vodka distillation but continued to grant distilling rights to the nobility and government officials. As their knowledge grew, the nobility tended towards the production of quality vodka while the peasantry made vodka of sorts for themselves, usually adding flavours to mask the raw spirit.

From the beginning of the 17th century, it had become customary for vodka to be served at Russian Imperial banquets and all formal meals began with bread and vodka. Vodka was also drunk at religious festivals. Peter the Great was renowned for his hospitality and love of drinking and, in his time, the Governor of Moscow was known to have trained a large bear to serve pepper Vodka to his guests or to remove the guests’ clothes, if they refused their drink.

In 1863 the government monopoly on production was repealed and Pyotr Smirnov, among others founded his distillery in Moscow. Until then vodkas had remained far from pure and the product of single distillation in pot stills but the Smirnov family pioneered charcoal filtration and, in the 1870s, were the first to use the continuous distillation process.

Success followed quickly with Smirnov, now the vodka of the Czars, reputably soon selling more than 4 million cases p.a. in Russia, thanks, in part, to the authoritarian Russian governments being more afraid of people thinking than drinking and so turning a blind eye to the widespread drunkenness. To assist the war effort, vodka distillation was banned in Russia in 1914. 3 years later the masses, no longer so drunk, rebelled and overthrew their government, no doubt encouraging Stalin to rediscover the ‘benefits’ the Czars had seen in cheap vodka during his reign of terror.

In Sweden

A distilling prodigy, Lars Olson Smith introduced continuous distillation and began to produce spirits with exceptionally low levels of impurities, particularly his Absolut Rent Brannvin, launched in 1879. Success earned him the title ‘King of Spirits’ but, still, vodka was not to gain broad success across Western Europe until the second half of the 20th century.

First, the Smirnov family fled the Russian Revolution and set up in Europe, changing their name to Smirnoff. They were not successful and sold their recipe to a family friend who had escaped to America. The recipe for Smirnoff arrived in America in 1934 and, though again, not initially successful, the ‘vodka’ experience of troops meeting Russian soldiers during World War 2 and clever marketing in the West, transformed vodka from a curious speciality from the East, into a fashion icon. From the 1950s onwards, Smirnoff drove the ‘breathless’ revolution and vodka became a global and stateless, truly international spirit, to be enjoyed more for the alcoholic kick it added to a mixer than for its own character.

clever marketing in the West, transformed vodka from a curious speciality from the East, into a fashion icon Click To Tweet

It wasn’t until the approach of the 21st century that Westerners began to show interest in what was in the bottles but today, alongside neutral western vodkas, numerous traditional vodkas from the East are to be found as well as vodkas, distilled in the West, proud of their character, whether sourced from spring waters, local raw materials or process.

A choice can now be made between vodkas that represent a lifestyle choice and those, from the East & the West, that offer distinct product realities, whether in the vodka itself and/or in the vodka’s heritage and provenance.

be a better bartender

The 20 Commandments of Being a Bartender

So were chatting the other day over here at Be A Better Bartender about what it takes to be a bartender. We decided that we had to make a list. For four hours we argued. We argued hard. As lists go. We are pretty happy with what we have come up with. Tell us what you think below. Do you agree? Would you change any of them?

#bartending really is about working smart rather than hard Click To Tweet

This is unbiased from the views of both what a manager wants to see and what the customer wants to see from the bartender. We decided to flesh this out after our last post's success.

Make Eye Contact

Be a roving Bartender and keep a wary eye. Greet all guests with a smile and eye contact as they arrive at the bar. On a quiet night there is no excuse for not providing a speedy service, but on a busy night if you can’t take care of a guest immediately, acknowledge them and indicate you will take care of them shortly. Even if you’re very busy, SMILE, make eye contact, nod your head. Human beings are insecure creatures. We all like to be smiled at.

Offer a Cocktail Menu

Greet all guests and offer them a cocktail menu as soon as they arrive.

3 Put Down Beverage Napkins (Beer Mats)

Put a bevnap in front of the customer you are serving, and those you know you will serve immediately afterwards. The bevnap in front of the customer tells other Bartenders that that particular guest is being looked after. It also makes customers feel acknowledged. It saves a Bartender asking ten people in a row, “have you been served?” because a bevnap was not placed in the first instant. If the bevnap’s gone when you come to put down drinks, replace it with another one.



Offer a Sincere Greeting

As a Bartender dealing with a guest you have never met before, you must never appear surly or agitated, no matter what has happened in your personal life. A sincere hello must always be offered, remember: the money the customer spends pays your wage.

Make Sure You Know Everything

You are only as good as what you know. Every bar offers products and talents which are unavailable in most other places. Know all the products that you stock. Understand what the differences between products and techniques are. Learn all new products as they arrive. Be complete on your cocktail knowledge. Train yourself continually. Be motivated.

Up sell Knowledgeably

Offer customers alternatives. If you’re knowledgeable, it won’t sound like you’re up-selling. (‘Have you tried Blanton’s, it’s a rich single barrel bourbon’, etc). Knowledge when up-selling makes the customer trust your judgement, and more willing to be up-sold to.



Be Efficient

Whether it be for drinks, service or acknowledgement, efficiency is key. Never slow down a drinks preparation by carrying on a conversation with a colleague.  Get your priorities straight: take the order, make the drinks then sell the drinks. Remember you have two hands (and forearms). Make drinks in front of the guest whenever possible.

Be Organised

Continuously going back to a guest to re-check an order is highly inefficient. No-one expects you to remember dozens of orders. But you should be able to handle two different orders for mixed drinks. As you are waiting for a customer to hand over their card or pay, look up and ask the next guest what their order is. Organisation is the keyword.

Be Technically Proficient

Be professional and technically perfect. Work on your methods. Get your pouring exactly right. Understand how to shake drinks, how to stir, how to serve. You are a professional firstly and a showman secondly.


whisky tasting



Certain drinks deteriorate the longer you leave them standing, it is therefore imperative that you organise multiple orders in a systematic way. The long ice filled drinks first, the shorter drinks next, and the martinis last.  A long drink can sit at the bar for longer before it is unservable than a martini, which begins to warm immediately.

Secure Payment Immediately

Secure the payment as soon as possible. It is perfectly polite to ask, ‘Will you be running a tab?’, and if the answer is no, hand over the bill.

Check back on the guest and talk

Are their glasses getting empty? Do they want another drink? How did they like your recommendation? They will be pleasantly surprised. Create a friendly atmosphere, talk to the guests. Talk to them about drinks. Keep an eye on their drinks. Friendliness and conversation are welcome from a Bartender, but avoid long, involved conversations with guests that may interfere with service to other guests.


bartending FAQ


Be thoughtful and proactive

Look after customers who have little spillages. If someone is looking around obviously, find out if they are looking for the loos and point them out. Pour wine or Champagne ordered by the bottle; don’t let customers pull wet bottles out of their ice bucket, covering the bar and themselves with water.

Offer food

Know what’s on the food menu. Up-sell food, that’s what the food menu is there for. Use it. A bar is most often than not just a place to drink in. People will be able to drink more once they have eaten something.

Be Clean

Constantly check up on the state of the bar area. Check for spillages, dirty ashtrays outside, coasters, straws, napkins, empty beer bottles etc. No customer wants to put their elbows into a patch of spilt beer. Take away empty bottles and wipe at the same time. No more than one cigarette butt in an ashtray. Build it into your bartending behaviour; clean the bar top at every available opportunity.

Work as a team

Your bar team is more than just a collection of individuals. It is essential all bartenders, bar backs and floor tenders work as a team to provide an all-round service to the customer. It is pointless a bartender creating the most amazing looking and tasting cocktails if the customer then has to go and sit at a wet table with empty glasses on it.




Offer a sincere farewell 

“Cheers, thanks!”  Even if you’ve been busy and they don’t hear, someone else will. It’s the last thing they should remember about the bar they were in, and they will remember it was a friendly place.

Be as well presented as your drinks

Be clean. Look clean. Clean your fingernails. Guests don’t want orange peel flamed by someone with gunge under their nails. Pay attention to yourself.

Don’t serve the drunk, unruly or underage

If a guest is unruly or highly intoxicated, either upon entering the room or during the course of the evening, indicate this to your manager before offering an additional beverage service. Do not serve alcohol to persons under the legal age.  If you believe that a guest may not be old enough to drink, ask for identification.

Be helpful, be cool, take pride in who you are

You are here to turn difficult guests into friends, to make great drinks, to help people have a good time and even on occasion to teach people how to have a good time. Take pride in who you are and what you know.

All #bartenders need to read this! Click To Tweet


So what do you guys think? let us know below