Tag Archives: booze

Things I’ve Learned Behind the Bar [Part I: The Basics]

1. When pouring draft beer, tilt the glass anywhere but toward the customer/s. Better to give yourself a beer facial when the keg kicks than your paying customers.

2. When shaking with glass, keep the (metal) shaking tin facing customers.  Same logic applies as in rule #1 with regards to glass facials.

3. Chill glassware whenever possible. If your bar lacks a glass chiller, fill serving glass with ice water and allow to chill. Disregard this rule entirely when in the weeds.

4. “In the weeds” means deliriously busy in service-industry-speak. Service industry professionals invariably employ this vernacular to elicit empathy from fellow pros with regards to a busy service. Use interchangeably with “slammed”, i.e. “We were slammed Friday night.”

5. Build glassware first. Whether at home or behind the bar with a line of tickets in front of you, building your glasses keeps you aware and prepared. Rim your glasses, fill with ice cubes, chill, etc. Do this first, then fill your shaking tin with ice, then build your drinks. Once you’ve shaken/stirred, you’re ready to go.

6. Build cocktails at room temperature. Soccer moms may keep their vodka in the freezer, but bartenders do not. Spirits are stored at room temperature and you must build your drink as such in order not to dilute the final product. Add ice immediately before shaking/stirring. The exception to this rule are highballs (i.e. booze + mixer), which can be built over ice in final glassware due to their simplicity and quick pickup time.

7. “Pickup time” or simply “pickup” refers to the time it takes, in realtime circumstances, to produce a product. This terminology stems from the kitchen and can invariably be heard barked by expediting sous chefs at mere line cooks.

8. Ring drinks in before you make them. Disregard this when in the weeds. Accordingly, you must check that all beverages have been rung in before printing tables’ checks.

9. Strain fruit juices and syrups. You may like your orange juice with pulp but your customers don’t want it in their cocktails. Why? It looks ugly sticking to the inner walls of their emptied glasses. Strain syrups because steeping matter will invariably get stuck in your cheater if you don’t.

10. Receptacles used for storing juices, syrups, infused spirits, etc., ideally equipped with speed pouring nozzles, are called “cheaters”. These must be labeled and dated. Said nozzles are referred to as “speed pours” (truncated form of “speed pourers”?).

11. Simple syrup is a mixture of sugar and water at a 1:1 ratio. All syrups are, in essence, a simple syrup with some sh*t added to them, usually boiled, cooled, then strained out or allowed to steep in quart containers and strained out before being poured into cheaters. Agave, honey, maple, demerara and any other viscous sweeteners should be “cut” by hot water at a 2:1 ratio and allowed to cool. Ratios can be adjusted according to sweetness, but you want all syrups at the viscosity of your simple syrup. This is so you can measure all syrups equally.

12. Use a jigger. Always. Night club bartenders may look cool raising bottles high in the air and doing hazardous sh*t like holding multiple bottles at once while pouring Long Island Iced Teas, but that style of drink preparation is inaccurate. Counting is effective but can’t ultimately be relied upon because speed pours invariably differ in their rate of liquid dispensing, i.e. they get f*cked up and start pouring out a wimpy stream, etc.

13. Metal speed pours are preferable to plastic speed pours for aesthetic purposes. Plastic speed pours are preferable to metal speed pours for utilitarian purposes because they don’t get f*cked up as easily.

14. ALWAYS pour with your index finger covering the cap of the speed pour, at the base of the nozzle. This is to prevent a faulty speed pour from detaching from your bottle of spirit, depositing said spirit all over your bar mat/counter top.

15. Never order Long Island Iced Teas unless you’re at a night club. Never order anything more complicated than a highball when at a night club, except for Long Island Iced Teas.

16. Never visit night clubs.

17. Mix with syrup and citrus at equal ratios. There are exceptions, but in general this is an excellent rule to follow. In general, build drinks with two ounces of base spirit. Keep recipes simple whenever possible. I.e. Moscow Mule- 2 oz. vodka, 3/4 oz ginger syrup, 3/4 oz. lime juice. Dark & Stormy- 2 oz. dark rum, 3/4 ginger syrup, 3/4 oz. lime juice. Margarita- 2 oz. tequila, 1/2 oz. orange liqueur, 1/2 oz. agave syrup, 1/2 oz. lime syrup. Large volume? Adjust ratios accordingly, i.e. 1 oz. citrus, 1 oz. syrup. Try not to exceed 2 oz. booze or 1 oz. citrus/syrup in any drink, except for vermouth-based cocktails, i.e. martinis, Manhattans, etc.

18. Mix martinis, Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, etc. with 3 oz. total booze. For the classics, ask customers about spirit, vermouth, rocks/up and garnish preferences.

19. If a middle-aged or older lady asks you to make a Cosmopolitan, refuse the urge to make jokes about late 90’s HBO dramas and kindly comply. Substitute Pom Juice, grenadine or anything else that’s red or purple for cranberry if you don’t have it. Ideally make house grenadine by adding sugar to pomegranate juice and cutting it with hot water.

20. Be kind to your barbacks. They are the lifestream of the bar. You can’t do sh*t without ice, fresh juice and syrups, bartender.

More later. Happy tending!

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