Bartenders are Saturday night celebrities. Just like a stand up comic on stage or a band preforming a gig, the public are coming out to be entertained, and its your job to make sure they don’t go home disappointed!
Think about how you work. Are you living up to the celebrity bartender model?
Add some Flair
The origin of flair is generally recognised as the Blue Blazer, in 1862 published by Jerry Thomas, which describes how to turn a hot toddy made with Scotch into a blazing “stream of liquid fire” poured between two metal cups. Flair was not popularised until the later half of the 20th century and while it was not unknown before, the Tom Cruise Cocktail movie, while only showing some very basic flair, certainly took flair to the next level, at least in the public perception. I personally didn’t find Cocktail until I’d been called Tom Cruise for almost a year over the bar, and didn’t know what everyone was talking about!
I personally learnt my first flair from a Greek guy called Aris at the first nightclub I worked at, Reynolds Nightclub in Stafford, where I studied. He would flip ice cubes from those horrible bar top ice buckets with those horrible ice tongs into glasses in his hand. He was the rockstar of the Reynolds bar in Stafford. I was instantly hooked and found every bit of flair bartending I could find online. There was not a lot, as this was 2001. I learned my first moves from tiny postage stamp sized clips of video that was so fuzzy it was untrue, but it was enough to be the best in my town. I broke a lot of wine bottles (much cheaper than buying spirits for practice equipment for a poor student) and then discovered the secrets of insulating tape to save shards from attacking my feet (see the Free Flair Kit article for more details).
While I personally have a long background in flair bartending, flair is by no means the only way that you can keep your guests entertained behind the bar each night.
Dancing on the Bar
I know, before you say it, this is not for everyone, but nothing here is for everyone. If it was, no-one would stand out!
If your bar has a party atmosphere, a long (and sturdy) bar, this could be for you – ladies will make a lot of tips (its not sexist, its just they way it is) but I’m not suggesting some pole dancing style, more party dances where the bartenders lead and the crowd follow – it certainly works in Reflex where I bartend on weekends, so if you have a fun, maybe retro feeling bar give it a try! Everyone is looking for a leader on their night out.
The Fountain of Knowledge
Are you the bartender everyone comes to when they want something different? When they want to know the difference between Tia Maria and Kahlua? Being the bartender in the know makes you a rockstar and gives you huge value. When you can recommend an amazing drink and tell the story of how you visited the Gin distillery their drink came from, you’ll keep them at the bar all night.
Know your stuff, that’s your recipes, your ingredients, be a storyteller, but keep it relevant, and you’ll keep their attention and their custom.
Are you always coming up with new drinks, using crazy ingredients that no-one else would think of? Do you have smoking guns, various wood chips, hand infused spirits and your own syrups all around the bar? You’re the Professor, always experimenting and creating something new and unusual for your guests to try.
It’s All About Standing Out
It really doesn’t matter what you do to make your guest’s nights memorable, as long as you do something! What is a customer’s incentive to come back if they barely remember their last visit? Give them a great story to tell to their friends about the night out, it will make them feel good for having a great story, and that story will feature you and your bar.
Be a legend in your own town.