It’s important to understand, first and foremost, that bartending is serious business. It would be absolutely impossible for one aspiring bartender, one without experience, to walk into a bar or a club and immediately get the job. Bartending is a combination of knowledge of alcohol, agile skill, an instinct for taste, and most importantly, a knowledge of people. Those things you cannot just learn from a book or an instruction manual, but one definitely has to start somewhere.
While bartending goes beyond rote memorization, knowing famous drinks by heart is a good place to start. Recipes vary depending on many things, but the Internet can be of great help on that department to an aspiring bartender. Drinks like the Screwdriver, Kamikaze, Tequila Sunrise, among others, are crowd favorites, and if one knows how to do it well, can keep your customers coming back for more. Practicing with the easy drinks and escalating to the more difficult ones can help an aspiring bartender to gain the skill he or she needs for the actual bartending.
Once you’ve somehow mastered the easy cocktails (using resources at breakintobartending.com), the next step is to know your customers. By knowing your customers, you’ll understand better their tastes and their behaviors. This will give you a good advantage once you’ve started bartending professionally—you’ll know what to prepare beforehand, what drinks to stock up on, what to have scarce, etcetera. In order to do that, you must be amiable, have great personality, and always ready for a chat. The best way to get to know your customers is to always engage them in small talk, no matter how small that talk may be.
Multi-tasking is also an important skill that a bartender should have. Popular bars or clubs will always be packed with people, and the bar will never be out of clients. A full bar means waiting customers, but in a bar or a club, people will not be willing to wait very long for their drinks. Multi-tasking means more often than not mixing up a cocktail while entertaining the order of a different customer. Quick calculations in your head is also required, thus speedy math ability would be a great addition to your pool of bartending skills. In a nutshell, you have to be quick but careful with both your mixing, pouring and accounting work for smooth sailing.
All these that were mentioned are some of the important skills that one needs in order to be an efficient bartender. Cocktail recipe books and the Internet are very good places to start learning, but these aren’t enough. Practical experience will always be the best teacher, and for an aspiring bartender to get the necessary experience to make it into the bartending business. In order to learn to become a bartender, one can observe those already mixing up drinks behind the bar. Befriend your favorite bartenders and ask them for some advice, or if possible, lessons.
One starts with text, but experience must always come after. It’s no different for bartending. Drink up!