Anybody can make a delicious drink. It just takes learning some basic bartending abilities. If you want to learn more about the bar—whether at home or as a professional—then a crash course in bartending is exactly what you need.
There are a few things that beginning bartenders should be aware of. You’ll want to get acquainted with the standard materials and jargon used in bars, essential mixing methods, and equipment that can help you put it all together. It’s a lot to absorb at once, but we’ll go over everything you need to know to get started.
Your next cocktail recipe and mix drinks may be better than any you’ve ever made if you have the right equipment and a few helpful hints. If you keep at it and discover how much fun it is to create your own cocktails from scratch, you’ll be hooked for life.
Bar Terminology to Learn and Master
When you begin learning about bartending, you’ll encounter a specialized lexicon of words and phrases. Some are obvious common sense, while others might be deceptive, so some explanation is required. Whether you’re simply visiting the bar for happy hour or a seasoned bartender, it’s useful to know some lingo.
Well or Call Drink
The term “well,” in bar jargon, refers to a section of the bar where spirits from the “house” are kept. These are typically used by bartenders since they are the most cost-effective and result in a healthy profit.
“Well drinks” are ordered when the customer does not specify a brand, so the barkeep will pick up whiskey, rum, or tequila from the well. On the other hand, if you “call out” a certain brand of liquor, you’ll be served a “call drink.”
You may, for example, ask for a Jack and Coke (with Jack Daniel’s) rather than a Whiskey and Coke.
Neat, Up, or Straight Up
This is a contentious issue in the bar. These words are frequently confused with one another, and they designate how a beverage is served. Brush up on the distinctions to come out victorious in the next debate over this one.
On the Rocks
Ice, or “rocks,” is a term used to describe ice. A drink served “on the rocks” is one that is served over ice. It’s easy enough, but make sure your ice isn’t old. Although it’s the most underappreciated ingredient in the bar, its importance cannot be overlooked.
When it comes to alcoholic beverages, the phrase “top-shelf” refers to the finest brands available. They are more costly and (in theory) of higher quality than other brands. The term is derived from the fact that these bottles are kept on liquor store shelves in this order: the “cheap stuff” is at the bottom, and the “top-shelf” liquor is at eye level or above.
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In the context of bartending, a top-shelf bar is one that uses only the finest ingredients, whether it’s premium spirits or fresh fruit juices.
Bartending Techniques Every Bartender Should Know
We’ve broken down the fundamental bartending skills and words you’ll need to create your own cocktails at home, as well as a tip each to ensure you master the new techniques. After all, practice makes perfect!
Bartenders at bars use two pouring techniques when mixing beverages. One demands the use of a jigger (a bartender’s measuring device), while the other involves gently pouring to fill the glass/shaker without measuring. There are several reasons for both of these methods.
Free pouring is the quickest method to make drinks, according to most people, since you may pour multiple bottles at once with both hands. Free pouring, on the other hand, is also thought of as less precise.
It’s crucial to remember that even minor mistakes can accumulate fast and distort a cocktail’s flavor profile. So, depending on where you work, accurately weighing alcohol may be essential.
The jigger makes it a breeze to get quantities correct. At the very least, you’ll know you’re precise. Despite the fact that there are skilled free-pour bartenders who can accurately measure their pours down to the millimeter, it takes time to reach that level and usually entails some type of intensive free-pouring training & evaluation
Although it isn’t always necessary, frosting glassware is a best practice. It doesn’t need any particular talent; all you have to know is why and how to do it.
We chill glassware since it helps keep cocktails fresh and cold for longer. This is particularly significant for classic cocktails served without ice, such as a Martini or Manhattan.
When it comes to chilling glassware in the mixing process, there are two primary options.
- Pre-chill the glasses in a freezer for at least 15 minutes (but no more than an hour).
- Fill the glass with ice and let it sit for about 30 seconds before dumping it out and proceeding with the pour.
Spanking the leaf with your other hand is a harmless way to make the oils in it more apparent. It is one of the basic bartending skills that you will learn early in your career. This method may sound odd, but it’s not nearly as harsh as it sounds. Simply take basil or mint leaf (or another delicate leaf) and smack it on your palm. This preserves the leaf’s beauty while still releasing the essential oils.
Muddling is a bartending method that involves bruising an ingredient in order to extract its juice and components. It’s frequently employed for fresh ingredients like citrus wedges, softer fruits, and specific spices like ginger.
A muddler (a long stick) is a tool bartenders use to muddle ingredients. However, the end of a bar spoon (typically used for substances like ginger) may also be used.
This is quite simple to do. In the bottom of your mixing glass, place the substance you wish to muddle, then use the muddler to smash and crush it until all of its fruit juices have been extracted.
Muddling is frequently done for classic cocktails like Mojito, Caprioska, and Capriniha.
Building a cocktail is the process of adding each ingredient to the mixing glass one at a time in the order listed in the recipe. It’s a lot more about the process than it is about the mixing approach. As opposed to preparing the drink in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass ahead of time, the building method is making cocktails by pouring all of the components into the glass you’ll be serving.
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It’s essential that you add each ingredient slowly and deliberately so that they have time to mix together before you add the next one. This bartending technique is known as layering, and it allows bartenders to create distinct flavor profiles in their drinks.
It’s a fast and simple approach to preparing mixed drinks, and it’s frequently employed with straightforward beverages that only include a few components. The tequila sunrise and the Negroni are excellent examples of cocktails in which the building technique is utilized.
Shaking is required for the majority of cocktails you’ll make throughout your bartending career, thus it is an essential technique even professional bartenders need to master. The reason we shake drinks is that it’s one of the fastest methods to combine ingredients together while simultaneously cooling and diluting the drink.
Some bartenders believe that the method you shake a cocktail is significant, but this isn’t true. It doesn’t matter how you shake a cocktail as long as you vigorously shake it for 10-15 seconds and follow the correct drink mixing techniques.
You must also be acquainted with the dry shake. A dry shake is used when you’re using ingredients like egg whites or cream, and you want to make a thicker foam. Dry shaking involves shaking the mixture first before adding ice, which allows for deeper aeration and thicker foam.
Another typical bartender technique that many enjoy is stirring cocktails. When we think of a drink that needs to be stirred, the Martini immediately springs to mind.
Like shaking, stirring is used to mix ingredients together and cool the drink down. The difference between stirring and shaking though is that stirring is done at a much more gentle pace and isn’t as heavily diluted as shaken cocktails.
To stir, fill your mixing glass with ice, grab your bar spoon/metal rod, insert it into the glass, and STIR! Holding the stem in-between your middle two fingers and circling with your wrist (as opposed to your arm) will help you achieve mastery (see video below).
Stir until the alcoholic “bite” in your throat has somewhat faded. Usually, it takes around 30 seconds.
Rolling is a mixing technique that sits between shaking and stirring. It combines things more thoroughly than shaking, but it’s still less vigorous than stirring. This is an excellent way to mix liquid ingredients effectively while avoiding over-dilution.
To roll a drink means to transfer the mix from one vessel (usually a shaking tin) to another. This should be done 6-10 times, depending on how strong you want your beverage to be.
The rolling technique is frequently utilized to make a Bloody Mary.
Straining a drink separates the solids from the liquid using strainers to prevent unwanted substances from entering your cocktail. Ice cubes, ice shards, pulp, and muddled fruit are all potential solids that could be strained out.
Straining equipment include three distinct straining devices that bartenders frequently utilize – julep, hawthorn, and fine strainer.
- The julep strainer is typically used in Boston or Japanese mixing glasses while stirring cocktails.
- The hawthorn strainer is frequently used in tandem with the fine strainer to double-strain (also known as fine-straining) a cocktail after it has been shaken.
- The fine strainer is required because the hawthorn strainer can’t keep the smaller particles (ice shavings, fruit pulp, etc) from entering the drink, but the fine strainer can.
Almost always, double straining is used with shaken drinks that don’t require ice in the last glass (Cosmo, Margarita, Aviation, etc).
To do the double strain, set the Boston shaker on top of the hawthorn strainer with a finger on top and hold the tin in one hand. With the other hand, hold the fine strainer over the glass and pour the mix through it.
The hawthorn strainer may be used to make single-strain beverages, such as juleps. This is most often done when making a mix over ice without pulp, mashed fruit, or ice shards in the drink.
You should never strain a cocktail with the bottom of your cocktail shaker. It’s not only unsanitary, but it also makes you look lazy and unprofessional.
Layering is a bartending method in which you layer different-colored liquids on top of each other to reveal the separation between them. The Pousse-cafe cocktail is an excellent illustration of this.
To create this look, hold a bar spoon millimeters away from the top of the drink and slowly pour (layer) the liquid onto it. This effect may be difficult to achieve since it requires a high level of finesse, making it easy to make a mistake.
The order in which you layer liquids influences the density of each liquid. This implies that some liquids will float on top of one another, while others won’t. As a rule of thumb, the greater the amount of sugar in a liquid, the heavier it is. In addition, the more alcohol there is in a liquid, the lighter it becomes.
It’s as simple as combining drinks by putting the components in an electronic blender and pushing GO! It’s a great way to combine heavier ingredients (fruit, ice cream, etc) to create a thicker or fuller texture. Clearly, it doesn’t need any expertise, so it’s an easy one to get right!
To make frozen cocktails, like frozen margaritas, crushed ice is added to the mix.
Garnishing is the practice of adding something to the final drink to make it look nicer and/or add something extra to indulge the senses of taste and smell. Examples include a citrus peel, lighting the drink on fire, or dropping in an olive.
Some techniques under garnishing include rimming, floating, dropping and twisting.
So, that’s about it for the bartending techniques many bartenders master! Of course, there are many other techniques out there that you could learn, but these are some of the most essential ones.
Bartending Life Skills
Up next, let’s talk about bartending life skills that can help you serve customers better and get through challenges you may face while working.
Be in a good mood
Set aside all other concerns not related to your job. Think positively about it and make every effort to make things easier for yourself. You can generate a mood by smiling, making jokes, and upbeat chatter.
Pay close attention to the other person – your client.
It’s critical to understand and feel what’s going on with the individual in front of you. It’s sometimes better not to ask any questions, and it’s occasionally much better to chat.
This is one of the most endearing bartending talents. Who knows, perhaps this person may have exciting information that can improve your life. Life is full of surprises, especially when you’re in good company and drinking well-made cocktails.
Know your Spirits
Preventing failures and mistakes is always a good idea when mixing drinks. Make your research paper to act and perform as a professional bartender. This is a helpful bartending habit that will benefit your chances of success.
It should work well for you when you need to gather and recall information at a later time. You must know all of the names correctly. To prepare drinks properly, you’ll also need to understand the ingredients used in these cocktail recipes.
If you want to enhance your effectiveness, you’ll need to understand and memorize strategies. You’ll be able to create more cocktail recipes and prepare them without making any errors in this manner.
To help yourself, imagine the process of preparing cocktails step-by-step, like arranging and mixing the ingredients in your head. By breaking down the task into manageable steps, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
Train yourself physically
Bartending is a physically demanding job that requires a lot of effort. This is something you should emphasize and pay close attention to in your hands, back, knees, and joints in particular. To keep alert longer, you’ll need to increase your stamina.
Do some stretches or moderate exercises regularly to be in tiptop shape. Also, don’t forget to warm up before starting your shift. It would help if you did some finger and wrist exercises to loosen up while you perform these bartending techniques.
Of course, these bartending life skills are just a few of many that can help you be successful in this career! With time and experience, you’ll develop your own unique set of bartending techniques and life skills.
You may improve your performance by mixing these bartending techniques together in your cocktail creation once you’ve mastered them all. You might shake two beverages at the same time, stir one while shaking another (a display of amazing physical agility!), and garnish while shaking or stirring.
You can also become a flair bartender. A flair bartender is one who performs bartending techniques and tricks, such as spinning bottles or flipping them into the air and catching them behind their backs. This is an excellent way to show off your skills and style while making drinks.
If you’re not interested in becoming a professional bartender but would like to learn how to make cocktails at home, bartending classes are available in most cities. You can also find many bartending books and online resources that can teach you the basics.
With a little practice, you’ll be impressing your friends and family in no time!