Two of the most frequently asked questions that I am asked as a bar trainer is What makes a good bartender? And how can I become a better bartender? Suggestions for the first have included personality, confidence and sense of humour – all well and good but I can’t see managers holding a personality training session, can you? In fact, there are four basic skills groups a bartender must practice and master. Firstly knowledge of products, recipes and the tools needed; secondly the ability to make good drinks at speed; thirdly to make the drinks with a defined style; and finally to be aware of the etiquette of drinks, drinking and service. The answer to the second question above lies in the answer to the first… identify your weak skills and work on them!!. Let’s help you to become better bartenders, let us look at how we can make you guys faster!
THE NEED FOR SPEED
As we are all aware customers have a different sense of time to real people. One minute in real-time feels like five minutes of customer time. So an unacknowledged customer or one who waits whilst the bartender leisurely makes drinks is an unhappy customer which makes unhappy managers which leads to unemployed bartenders. This is not good.
Of course, a good bartender will always acknowledge a guest (if you remember that shops have customers and bars have guests and treat them accordingly you are already on the way to bartender heaven) to make them feel welcome and important. This is common sense. But the tricks of the trade about making drinks quickly are less obvious for the novice and in many cases the old pros. Put at their basic level the 10 commandments of quick drink-making are:
1. use both hands. God gave you two so use them both. Free pour simultaneously, add a straw whilst filling up with a mixer, start ringing the order into the till whilst pouring.
2. Free pour or die. No system in the world is quicker than the free pour, as long as it is done accurately ( and if not accurately then not at all).
3. The Set-up. Everything in the bar has its place and it should always be there. The secret to devastating speed is not having to look for anything because you know where it is (blindfold bartending anyone?)
4. Clean and prep as you go. You may think it is quicker to just bang drinks out and wait to clean shakers, get more change etc … big mistake. A good bartender knows that they should be as close to perfect set-up all the time and will try to keep it like that.
5. Consolidate orders. Ask two or three customers for their orders to allow you to make drinks simultaneously. If you consolidate then you do the same actions less times which equals more speed.
6. Consider the ‘working order’. Drinks which take the longest should be started first (blended ones especially) and the ones which take the least time should be done last.
7. Keep busy. Steady beats Busy’s arse every time. If you work quickly and steadily all night rather than ‘turn it on’ when you have to then you’ll do better… after all you don’t go from first gear to fifth straight away in a car do you? work smart not hard, you need to have time to have fun.
8. Remember that it is efficiency of movement rather than speed of movement that matters… teamwork when it comes to moving in a busy bar is important or multi-tasking and only making one journey instead of many… the multi-bottle pickup from the speedwell is a good example.
9. Always be practising your speed… look at every order as a challenge.
10. Know your prices, your recipes and your customers…people respect a hardworking bartender who doesn’t have to go to the till, doesn’t have to look in a book and remembers what they had last time.
Speed is one of the most obvious skills needed for a bartender… a drink will always taste better if it doesn’t take a long time to arrive and if one follows the basic rules and, most importantly, practice, then you can make great tasting drinks in half the time, make more money for your bar and/or you and in fact keep guests entertained… everyone likes watching a slick hard-working bar team and despises a bar filled with sauntering dickheads who couldn’t give a shit.