Bartending is a balancing act, which requires the ability to juggle several responsibilities while under some serious pressure. So, that’s why December’s hacks series is all about tricks of the bartending trade and we’re kicking it off with some time management tips that will make your life so much easier!

Keep a cheat sheet behind the bar

While most bartenders should have the typical recipes down pat, there are those times that the mind skips a beat and you forget. There are also those particular customers who want their esoteric, rarely-seen cocktails that can take a bartender off their game.

For this reason, have a handy cheat sheet to help you instead of taking precious minutes to ask someone else or look it up on your phone.

Whiskey, on the fly

Bartenders are responsible for a plethora of knowledge, the most basic of which is knowing their liquors. Here is a quick guide to the variations of whiskey to help you quickly explain a particular type to a customer:

USA: “Spicy-oak firmness”. Tennessee whiskies tend to have a caramel taste.
Canada: “Light, new, perfect for mixing”
Ireland: “smooth, spicy, fruity”
Scotland: “smokey, peaty” (if Islay). “Sweet and fruity” (If Speyside). “Spicy, salty” (if Cambletown).
Japan:“quality, perfected” Japanese whiskeys are detailed and carefully crafted for structure.

Acknowledge customers ASAP

As many of us know, when you’re bartending, you can’t always get to everyone as soon as they want a drink. When that’s the case, simply acknowledging your customer can go a long way. It assures them that you’re aware of them and that you’ll be right there.

It may even clue them into the fact that they are not the only customer at the bar…crazy!

This little trick will buy you some extra time, relieving some of that pressure we’re all too familiar with. Plus, it will do wonders for your customer satisfaction. And your tips!

When in the weeds, breathe

Your bar is piling up with guests, you’re in the middle of making six different drinks, trying to handle a credit card payment and need a new bottle of well vodka. Welcome to “the weeds” my friend.

All of us who work, or have worked, in the industry has experienced it at least once. So, what to do in this situation: just breathe. It’s almost counter-intuitive but absolutely effective because the best thing you can do is slow yourself down.

Taking 2-5 minutes to step away, collect yourself and regain your thoughts will help immensely. Despite leaving your responsibilities for a couple minutes, you will benefit in the long run by returning to work with a clear head.

Don’t know the drink? This Hail Mary will save you

Say someone comes in and orders a drink you’re unfamiliar with. What do you do? For some, this can cause a major brain fart and send you into a tizzy trying to figure out the ingredients and how to properly mix the drink. A quick fix for this:

“I’m sorry, we actually don’t have all the ingredients to make that here.”

While this is a cop out, it’s a handy last resort that can save you from getting backed up and spinning out of control. When taking this route, be sure to be apologetic and have a go-to suggestion to tell the customer.

Most importantly, while working behind the bar, keep your cool, keep your pace and help yourself to manage your time with these sweet and easy tricks.

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