Drinks Bartenders Should Know

 

Having worked many types of bars in America for 31 years, I found that I made the same drinks over & over & over again. It seems that the only people who order the wild & crazy drinks are under the age of 25. Over 25, guests tend to order beer, wine, or a favorite and or classic cocktail. There are some exceptions: 1) some establishments carry their own specialty menus, 2) bartenders have their own specialty drinks, 3) the popularity of a drink at the time, 4) and some people like to try something new & hip while celebrating a special occasion or while on vacation. There is also a geographic issue.

Second Golden Age of the Cocktail

Since 2000, something has happened in the Cocktail World that you should be aware of and its the second Golden Age of the Cocktail. The first golden age was in the late 1800s until 1920. Bartending was taken seriously and cocktails were crafted with real ingedients.

Today, the second golden age can best be described by comparing and 4-5 star chef crafting an incredible meal with a classic foundation then using the freshest ingredients and imagination.

The man credited for this shift in the cocktail world is Dale DeGroff. His website is KingCocktail.com. Starting in about 2000 and all the way to today this rebirth has exploded. Craft and classic bars are no longer limited to big cities. They are trinkling into the the smaller cities worldwide. Dale started the Museum of the American Cocktail and also helped start the world's largest cocktail festival held every July in New Orleans called Tales of the Cocktail. Since, there are cocktail weeks popping up all over the world. There is now The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, San Francisco Cocktail Week, Portland Cocktail Week, London Cocktail Week, and so many more.

With so many websites and information, it's hard to know how to get started on the right path, but the links I've provided will get you started.

Make sure you become facebook friends with as many as these people as possible and that will lead to more connections.

Join Gary Regans' Bartender Database.

Join Tobin Ellis' Social Mixology.

Join Simon Diffords' newsletter.

Join Liquor.com.

When you are checking out drink recipes sites then there are two that you should use as guidelines. Ted Haighs' Cocktail Database, and David Wondrichs' Cocktail Database.

A new recipe database that is more modern is Kindred Cocktails.

Well, this should be enough to get you started. These links will lead you in the right direction.

 

NOTE: If you need to learn some drink-making terminology, you'll find that and more here.

 



The Drink Families

I realize that these categories might not make sense to cocktail conneissuer, but for someone working 95% of the bars in America, I've found that this way clicks quicker in a beginners head. For example, the "Sour Family" and the "Tropical Family" can easily fit into the "Juicy Family", but I felt it was important to separate these three to help you better understand their relationships.

Drinks and cocktails not found in these categories are simply spin-offs. The drink families I've put together are Juicy, Creamy, Sour, Tropical, Hot, Shots, Classic, Highballs, Stick, and Misc. Drinks.

The Juicy Family The Shot Family
The Creamy Family The Classic Family
The Sour Family The Highball Family
The Tropical Family The Stick Family
The Hot Family Misc. Family

 

Drink Making Tips

 

Never fill a cocktail to the brim. Somewhere between 1/4” and 1/2” from the rim is proper. You need that extra room for travel and melting.

Always serve a cocktail on a beverage napkin to absorb the condensation.

Anytime an ingredient is mentioned, know that the ideal is to use the highest possible quality of that ingredient. Of course, when you work for an establishment you have to use what they provide, but at home parties and handmade cocktail bars you can use the best.

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Know that some drinks have geographical differences in measures and ingredients slightly vary. This is nothing to have a fight over. Just make it the way your boss wants you to or agree with the other bartenders so that it’s made consistently. But ultimately, it should be made the way a guest prefers.

Most of society knows nothing about cocktails except from what they see and hear on TV and the movies, so when the opportunity arises take the time to educate them without an attitude.

 

If possible, always place a guest's glass on the cocktail napkin in front of them while you are making their drink. This presentation makes a little show for them and actually makes more sense rather to make the drink in the well and then try to carry the drink down to them. Of course you wouldn’t make a Bourbon & Coke this way, but shooters, layered drinks, Martinis, Margaritas, wine and the like are excellent to present this way. You’ll discover that it’s much more efficient as well.

 

If possible, preheat coffee glasses with hot water for a few seconds before making a coffee drink.

 


Know that some establishments have funny rules. For example, some won’t allow you to hold a glass and walk to the bottle on the back bar then pour. They want you to keep the glass on the bar mat, walk to the bottle, take it to the glass, and walk the bottle back. However they seem to allow you to walk with a shaker tin. But all establishments are different. The weirdest was when I wasn’t allowed to write anything on a cocktail napkin or it was grounds for termination.


Some establishments require you use a jigger to make all your drinks. The best way to hold the jigger is with the jigger touching or very near the rim of the glass. This way you can fill and dump. If you are holding the jigger with your left hand then you’ll find it works easier if you wrap your right (hand holding the bottle) around the glass/glasses meeting the jigger. Filling your jigger away from the drink and then carrying it over to the drink makes no sense and looks silly.


When you get several orders at once, the first thing you should do is grab your glassware, ice them (if needed), and set them in order on the bar mat in front of your well. This way, if you forget what you’re making, then all you have to do is glance at the glassware and 9 times out of 10 you’ll remember.

 

Most bartenders are confused when it comes to using straws. If a drink has one spirit on the rocks (or two spirits without a mixer like a Rusty Nail) then it gets one straw to stir the drink, helping the ice melt. It’s then sipped from the rim of the glass. If you work at a high-end bar, then cocktail stir sticks are used. (The other bars just use a cocktail straw because they don’t want to pay the extra money for stir sticks.) Drinks with mixers served in short highballs or old-fashioned glasses get two cocktail straws. They are used for stirring and also sipping. Trying to sip a drink through one straw is frustrating. The extra straw allows more of the drink to enter your mouth. However, the majority of men will stir then set the straws on the bar because it seems unmanly to sip through a straw. If I’m making the drink right in front of a man I gently roll the drink and give it to them without the straw. They like it. Tall drinks of course, get drinking straws. High-end bars will have tall thin cocktail straws called Collins straws (meant to be used for drinks served in Collins glasses). And if you just have normal sized drinking straws at your bar then you should use two for frozen and blended drinks unless you just enjoy watching guest’s faces turn blue. Or have fat straws.

You should also know a secret that most nightclubs have been practicing for years; walk into any nightclub/danceclub and I bet you that they have fat straws. Even for the short drinks! The theory is that people drink faster out of fat straws therefore more drinks are ordered and the club makes more money. It works.


Another way straws are used are is to mark drinks. Let’s say you are making drinks for a server and she has ordered a coke and a diet coke and you have to walk away for some reason. How will the server know which is which? One way is to stick a small cocktail straw in one of them to show which is which. You also have to come up with other marking methods for other drinks like a Vodka Tonic and a Gin & Tonic sitting next to each other. Once your system is established then you can keep marking drinks and the server will know what they are. Another way is to line up the drinks in the exact order given so all they have to do is follow the order.


When working with servers, know that they are usually responsible for garnishing their own drinks.


Alcohol portions
normally add up to 2 ounces or less. It’s very rare for drinks to contain more than that.

When sweet-n-sour mix is mentioned in a recipe it means the sweet-n-sour mix that your bar provides, but the best is freshly made sweet-n-sour mix. When you look at other drink recipe books you’ll see that recipes call for fresh squeezed lemon or limejuice and a spoon of sugar. This is sweet-n-sour mix. The water from the melting ice or mixer provides the water to mix with the sugar and lime making sweet-n-sour mix.


When guests ask for cream they mean half & half. Half & half is what most bars stock and its namederives from its contents: half cream and half milk.

Never shake carbonated mixers, unless you enjoy mini explosions.


If a draft beer has been sitting
long enough for the head to go down, secretly stick in a straw and swirl it around to beat the head back up before serving.

When a guest lays a napkin on top of their drink it means that they will be returning.


When you look at recipe sites
and books, sometimes they give instructions in parts. This is confusing to some people when it says add one part this and one part that. What is a part? Well, it’s simply that. It’s an equally divided part of the whole. Let’s say that your recipe says, mix together one part vodka, one part orange juice and one part cranberry juice. That’s three parts, right? You’re going to mix equal parts of all those ingredients together. If that didn’t click with you, then you’re probably asking yourself, how much is one of those parts? Imagine that you have set these items side by side on a table; shot glass, pint glass, flower vase, and trash can. Got the image? Okay, now imagine dividing each of those objects in thirds (3 parts). Vodka would be poured in 1/3 of the way up, the orange juice would be poured up the imaginary 2/3 line, and the cranberry would fill in the last top 1/3. When you’re dealing in parts, just know that each part is equal no matter what size container you are talking about.

Experienced and professional bartenders always grab and pour a bottle by the upper neck. Many times they wrap a finger around the pour spout in case it slips out. You will be laughed at if you grab it by the body. It’s the first sign that you don’t know what you are doing.

Here's an image of a bartender holding the bottle incorrectly...or rather unprofessionally.

 

 


If you want to learn these top drinks that all bartenders should know
then I suggest buying a very portable pocket-sized address book that has alphabetical tabs. Simply go through these drink recipes and start filling up your book. Study them at your own pace, because just like anything else in life, we learn through repetition. Add new drinks as time goes by. Later, when and if you ever work behind a bar, you can always feel confident that you have these recipes at any moment right in your pocket.


The Juicy Family The Shot Family
The Creamy Family The Classic Family
The Sour Family The Highball Family
The Tropical Family The Stick Family
The Hot Family Misc. Family

 

Second Golden Age of the Cocktail

Since 2000, something happened in the Cocktail World that you should be aware of and its the second Golden Age of the Cocktail. The first golden age was in the late 1800s until 1920. Bartending was taken seriously and cocktails were crafted with real ingedients.

Today, the second golden age can best be described by comparing and 4-5 star chef crafting an incredible meal with a classic foundation then using the freshest ingredients and imagination.

The man credited for this shift in the cocktail world is Dale DeGroff. His website is KingCocktail.com. Starting in about 2000 and all the way to today this rebirth has exploded. Craft and classic bars are no longer limited to big cities. They are trinkling into the the smaller cities worldwide. Dale started the Museum of the American Cocktail and also helped start the world's largest cocktail festival held every July in New Orleans called Tales of the Cocktail. Since, there are cocktail weeks popping up all over the world. There is now The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, San Francisco Cocktail Week, Portland Cocktail Week, London Cocktail Week, and so many more.

With so many websites and information, it's hard to know how to get started on the right path, but the links I've provided will get you started.

Make sure you become facebook friends with as many as these people as possible and that will lead to more connections.

Join Gary Regans' Bartender Database.

Join Tobin Ellis' Social Mixology.

Join Simon Diffords' newsletter.

Join Liquor.com.

When you are checking out drink recipes sites then there are two that you should use as guidelines. Ted Haighs' Cocktail Database, and David Wondrichs' Cocktail Database.

A new recipe database that is more modern is Kindred Cocktails.

Well, this should be enough to get you started in the right direction.