How to be a good bartender? A great bartender or server is a great host and one of the greatest attributes one can carry is a big, warm smile.
Making people feel at ease is a huge part of the role and I think those that grasp that quickly, climb quickly. Time management is also a huge factor – ensuring each customer is getting equal attention and levels of service, whilst retaining composure and control in stressful situations are all qualities you want in a bartender.
The great thing about this industry is we’re forced to constantly adapt and evolve, as there is never a topic or subject, spirit or cocktail, technique or ingredient that we can’t learn more about. It’s important we take inspiration from both sides of the coin – researching and revising older recipes but implementing new technologies or techniques.
Great bartenders and servers are great storytellers, they see the food, drinks, venue, and atmosphere as additional tools in their arsenal to craft great experiences. I don’t see it very different from other forms of entertainment, except that you may be don more hats; for one guest or group, you may be a tour guide, chef, and comedian before making a drink.
When I’m hiring or building a team I look for people with a good education in all aspects of the industry and with an ability to apply this knowledge locally. A general inquisitiveness and curiosity reward you in this game, I like staff who question the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ we do.
I will always rate consistency very highly as a bar is only as good as its weakest link. I expect the standards to be upheld and the same quality of drinks to come from every member of the team. Education, application, replication, innovation. This mantra breeds success.
There are plenty of new career options out there for anyone coming from the industry. Brands and distributors are traditional routes but are encompassing even more roles now between sales, marketing, advocacy, and education. Bartending is both artistic and entertainment, so I think there are many similar sectors you can pivot to. I’ve friends who have gone into education, media, fitness, and even baking. Not in that order, though.
Two books I would highly recommend are ‘The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks’ (David Embury’s) and ‘Spirits Distilled’ (Mark Ridgewell).
My advice for growing your career is to keep your ears open, listen, and learn. Don’t settle; there’s so much to learn that we should always be hungry and that’s what I look for when hiring.