Setting up your bar
Your station at the bar can be more efficient. No doubt about it, your station is not perfect, so let’s work out how to make it better!
While this post is aimed at bartenders in professional bars, the points here are equally valid for making your home bar a nicer place to make drinks.
Here’s the checklist:
- List your most popular drinks.
- Identify the ingredients that cross over.
- Identify equipment and extras you use a lot.
- Understand the working order.
- Then, start moving things!
List your most popular drinks.
This is the reason that I know without a doubt your bar station could be set up better. What’s popular changes all the time, you’ll make different drinks in the summer to the winter, different drinks come in and out of fashion and your customer’s tastes change! If you’re not sure what drinks your bar sells the most, ask a manager, anywhere with a point of sale register should have an easy to access breakdown of sales. If not, write a list before a shift and run a tally list of what you sell – you might be surprised what your best sellers are! For home bars you’re unlikely to have a huge range (if you do I’m jealous!) bit you will have a good idea of what you and your friends drink most often.
Identify crossover items:
Now you know what you make most often, look through what each contains, and which ingredients are used in multiple drinks. These are vital to keep close to hand to make mixing drinks as easy as possible. Also bear in mind not just cocktails but popular drinks like gin and tonics or scotch and soda when making these lists if they are popular in your bar.
Once you’ve checked what you use the most, try to arrange the bottles so that your most popular drinks can be made with multi bottle pick ups – for example, having your vodka, rum, triple sec and gin as a block in the speed rail so you can grab two in each hand for really fast service (don’t feel you have to if you’re not comfortable with this, spillage isn’t a good trade off for speed!). Order the bottles so that those on the ends are paired with a bottle for another drink – for example place peach schnapps next to your vodka if you make a lot of Woo Woos or Sex on the Beaches, tequila by your triple sec for Margaritas if they’re popular. If you’re lucky enough to have a double speed rail, the possibilities for this are huge as you can pair in multiple directions.
Identifying equipment and extras you use a lot:
This is also huge. If you have to put a bevnap in front of every guest for their drink (and you should) then make sure they’re spaced at arms length all the way around your bar. Same for soda straws and sip sticks, though these can just be on your stations. Is your garnish caddy in easy reach? If you have a well for ice, be sure to have a good (and large) ice scoop to hand. Nothing will slow you down more than tongs for ice, and encourage you to either use too little or scoop with a glass (which you should NEVER do!)
Understanding the working order:
The working order (aka calling order) is derived from when waitresses taking drinks orders would have to call these to the bartender making drinks for their tables. The calling order is the most efficient order to make these drinks and ensures that every drink is perfect when it leaves the bar.
- Ice cream
Admittedly this doesn’t seem to mean much at this stage, but think about it, ice cream and frozen drinks made in the blender need time to blend, so start those first, while the blender does it’s thing you can prepare your shaken (mixed) drinks and others. Hot drinks need to be made just before they are taken to the table to ensure they’re piping hot, and draught beers last as they’re served cold but without ice, and will keep their head and look great when they hit the table.
Of course not all of these drink types probably apply if you’re at a home bar, but hopefully you can see the logic behind it. The order isn’t hard and fast, you may find switching some items faster, if for example your draught beer fonts are next to your blender, you can do these together, but remember you don’t want those drinks dying on the bar while you prepare the rest of the order!
Rearrange your station
So, now you’re armed with all of the information you need, start moving things! Bear in mind in a commercial bar that bartenders should not need to step away from their own station to make 95% of drinks, if you have a back bar with premium spirits, make sure this is replicated behind each station. Bartenders who walk a lot don’t take as much money as they have the potential to, and if you’re that bartender, you’re basically walking away from tips if you’re leaving your station!