Learning recipes as a bartender can be a daunting task. There are literally thousands of cocktails that have been created over the years. How many drinks should you know? Which drinks are vital and which are nice to have? Are you spending time on learning when your hospitality suffers?
Relationships Vs Knowledge. You know the drill.
We serve people, not drinks. Our task is keeping guests at the bar happy in whatever way we can.
Which drinks MUST you learn?
The drinks on your menu are the number one priority. There is no excuse for needing to look these up when a guest orders. All of these should be second nature to make and your bar’s layout should reflect this.
Be sure that you’re able to grab these bottles without looking. These are drinks you’ll be making at volume so you’ll need to mix them at pace.
Learning Recipes: Beyond the Menu
Depending on your market, the additional drinks you’ll need to know will vary greatly. That said, I would say the following should be known by most bartenders who make a decent number of cocktails.
- Old Fashioned
- Tom Collins
- Whiskey Sour
- Long Island Iced Tea
This list covers the majority of cocktails called for around the world. Of course, if you’re in a party nightclub you might not make many stirred Manhattans, but might be sending out Woo Woos all night long.
In most bars there will be a core of 20 or so drinks that might be ordered often. These will normally be a mix from the menu and a few classics. If you’re new to a bar, check with the experienced bartenders in case there’s anything tricky that the locals love.
The More You Know, The Better?
While this is certainly true to an extent, it depends what you give up to learn them. While your guests will benefit from you having a huge repertoire that you can reccomend, each will probably only ever sample a handful.
If you spend more of your time learning about the guests themselves, you’ll be able to serve them far better. When someone orders an old fashioned, find out why they like it. Do they love boozy drinks, whiskey, the sweetness, the orange oils from the twist? Did they first try it on a vacation that they love to be reminded of, or was it their Grandfather’s tipple? When you know what the drink means to the guest, you’ll be able to connect far better.
In today’s world of Smartphones information is at our fingertips. We can look up a strange request in a matter of seconds. Building a genuine relationship with your guests is far more valuable. When they walk in and you wish them a happy birthday without being told, or congratulate them on their anniversary, that is powerful.
By all means, make sure you know the drinks you make regularly or have on your menu. Knowledge is always useful, but relationships can’t be faked and will take you much further.