A friend of mine is working the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland this summer and fanagled her way behind the stick. I’m pretty excited for her. Here’s an excerpt from this morning’s messages. Because she’s an American being paid under the table overseas, and I don’t want her Visa getting revoked, the names herein (except my own) have been changed to protect our respective interests:
Dear Ricky,I need your advice. I’ve managed to get my way into a bar shift on Friday, and despite having worked in restaurants and coffee shops I’ve never actually worked in a bar. This is going to be a fairly straightforward affair, no fancy cocktails as far as I know, but I’d still love some advice from a pro so I can pretend like I know what I’m doing. Pro tips?Hope all is well!
Ethyl (<==See what I did there? –ed.)
42 minutes ago
Hmm, I can’t really claim to be a pro but there are a few things that I’ve learned to be best practices.PROTIP: Looking people in the eye, saying please and thank you go a long way, and in combination will turn the biggest, most belligerent asshole into one of your biggest tippers. Never lose your nerve or your smile.Keep your glassware clean. Its fucking embarrassing to have no glasses and a crowd of thirsty people.Know where everything is, even if it means coming in for one day on your day off to belly up at the bar and stare at the stuff behind it. Do you have Laphroig 12y Single Malt? In Scotland? Fuck yes, I have- but the taste is ruined if you spend ten minutes trying to find it. Those are ten minutes you could have spent earning your living.
Conversely: put everything back where you found it. Seriously.
For you, in particular, try to pick up on people’s accents and learn how to say cheers and thank you in their native languages. It establishes a bond between them and you. This translates to them being more lenient about things you’ve missed, and them tipping a compatriot better; you did take the time to recognize them apart from the crowd, after all.
Never stop moving, except to smoke. You know how steam wand handles can get sticky and make you feel weird? You remember how when everything is clean when you first come on shift how everything flows smoother? Same thing behind the bar. Bottlenecks get nasty and sticky. Soda guns especially. Bus some glassware, You’ll look like a professional badass.
Most cocktails at their very, very basic are 2 parts hard spirit base, one part sweet, one part modifier:
Lemon drop: 2:1:1 Vodka,Triple Sec, Lemon Juice
Margarita: 2:1:1 Tequila, Triple Sec, Lime Juice
If you can remember that most cocktails are 2:1:1, 3:1: dash bitters (Like a Manhattan or Martini) , or 1:1:1, you’ll be fine.
Also learn that lots of cocktails are just the same as another, but with a different base spirit. A Manhattan is just a Martini with Whisky instead of Gin, A lemon drop is just a whisky sour with vodka instead of whisky. Easy.
And finally, don’t be so proud that you can’t ask questions. Some of the best bartenders I know didn’t know how to make something, said so, but asked if knew what went in it. A server who spoke little English last night at Sea Garden downtown did just that and mixed my group up a round of Duck Farts, and after telling him what was in it, we were served chilled, layered shots. We tipped accordingly.
Good Luck, Ethyl!Post-Script: http://rumdood.com/2011/05/26/5-things-ive-learned-behind-the-bar/ Matt Robold’s invaluable insight.