6 Things I Learned Working Behind The Bar
In the last few months I've met more bartenders than honestly I've probably met in my entire life. This sober girl has been walking into a loooooot of bars lately which seems a little weird to say. But, I'm on a mission to see how we can serve the non-drinkers better - in restaurants, in bars, in homes. And who would know better than the people behind the bar?
So, in an effort to educate myself I've been interviewing bartenders and I even worked behind the bar at a small private event (with a bartender by my side). It's been interesting because the one thing all of the bartenders have in common is that the customers are their favorite part of their job.
As I always say, it's always about the people. :)
So, what's it like to work behind the bar? My favorite part was getting to look people in the eye, greet them, and have conversations with them. The 'Bartender In Training' lessons were:
- New Knives, Bring Bandaids: Yep, I learned this the hard way.
- You don't always have to measure ingredients: Since this was my first time I wanted to do things perfectly but in the interest of keeping people moving through the bar line, we didn't measure ingredients. We only served one soft cocktail which made it easy for us to have a general idea of quantities (repetition). No two drinks probably tasted exactly the same but that was also part of the fun.
- Prep as much as you can ahead of time: Most bars will have a Bar Back who helps cut and slice fruit, makes sugar or salt rims, etc. In our situation it was just us and we both work full time jobs. We ended up doing our slicing and dicing when we arrived at the event and it was okay but it would have been much less stressful for me to show up with everything ready to go.
- Wear an apron: How do people work without aprons?? Working with fruit, sodas, and sugars made for sticky hands. Wiping your hands on your apron takes a little getting used to (kind of like wiping your nose on your sleeve, it feels kind of gross and like bad manners) but once you do you'll always have an apron with you in the kitchen! This one is my favorite.
- Set up a workflow: This was a small event that my bartender friend could have easily handled on her own but she had me - the rookie - to train. :) With two of us at a small station it was really important to have an efficient workflow not only with layout of ingredients and tools but also who was doing what job. This kept us out of each other's way and kept the drink line moving.
- Enjoy the experience: :) It really is fun being behind the scenes and getting to watch everyone have a good time. People are generally just happy to be there, happy to be a part of something, and having a pretty soft cocktail in their hand is a bonus.
And on that last note, the best advice I received that evening was "you can't really screw this up". You're there to help people have a wonderful experience, your drink was thoughtfully made (with love no less!), it's hard to go wrong.
While these tips were from my bartending experience at an event I want to remind you that these all apply for your home bar too. Especially the last one - enjoy the experience! :)
If you need more tips for your home bar setup I've got a list of my favorite bar tools here. While they aren't always necessary they do make your life a little easier.