Bartending – the Profession
Bartenders are the rarest of hospitality employees in that they create the product and serve it.
There is no one else to blame if someone at your bar isn’t happy. Making guests happy has to be
your number one priority. Bartending is a noble profession because there is no greater good
than happiness and nobler calling than making others happy. Great bartenders aren’t there
because they think that they’ll have to walk less than waiters. They come to work to support their
real passions – mixology, and more importantly, service. As Jerry Thomas, arguably the most
important bartender of all time, once wrote,
An efficient bartender's first aim should be to please his customers, paying particular
attention to meet the individual wishes of those whose tastes and desires he has already
watched and ascertained; and, with those whose peculiarities he has had no opportunity
of learning, he should politely inquire how they wish their beverages served, and use his
best judgment in endeavoring to fulfill their desires to their entire satisfaction. In this
way he will not fail to acquire popularity and success.
People have been serving alcoholic beverages in inns and taverns for thousands of years but
bartenders, as we know them in this country, have only been around for a little less than two
centuries. The first American bartenders astonished patrons with their ability to blend harsh
ingredients into delicious elixirs while combining the traits of those earlier innkeepers –
facilitating relief from toil and being a wealth of information and hub for camaraderie.
It’s not easy though to create really appealing cocktails and make people feel like their stool is
their stool. It’s never effortless to draw people to the bar, get them to stay longer than they
planned on and get them to come back sooner than they expected, but the great ones, then like
now, made it look effortless. The ease with which some have learned to perform the work and
the enjoyment that they get from it draws many to the profession but few do it well and stick
around. Those who do it well will find their way to the money gigs and can turn a bad gig into a
good one. Great bartenders love their work and people flock to share that love.
Great bartenders have mirrored this nation’s determination and daring. There are few better
venues to exhibit these traits than at Tryst. The restaurant’s diversity provides many
opportunities. You will be drawn to certain aspects of the menu and segments of the clientele.
We expect that you will facilitate growth in these areas. Being a bartender on 18th street NW, in
Washington DC provides certain opportunities and necessitates certain skills and responsibilities
as well. All sorts of people come here for all sorts of reasons. Therefore, you will have to meet
many different expectations.
The bar propels the profits and energy of the restaurant and, as a bartender, you’re in the driver
seat. You need to lead by example for the rest of the staff and be the go-to person on anything
alcohol related. There may be some scoffing, especially by coworkers who don’t understand why
you would want to put the extra effort in, but don’t be deterred by others’ insecurities or
jealousies. Work hard, read the Joy of Mixology and Imbibe! and magazines like Imbibe, and
taste and note everything you possibly can.
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Today is arguably the most exciting, time in American history for bartenders. Never have there
been so many great ingredients and such interest in culinary arts. Microbrews, specialty coffee,
even gourmet cupcakes have all led the public to expect more from their bartender. We need to
be on our game aware of what’s going on in the business. The best bartenders tend to specialize
in one of three categories – historians, scientists, and supporters of culinary seasonality &
sustainability – but are well versed in all three. Along this line of thinking, we at Tryst are guided
by the following manifesto:
We are here to serve quality drinks in order to bring enjoyment to the
community. To this end, we know that fresh things taste better than artificial
neon liquids, a giant v-shaped glass of chilled vodka is not a martini and that in
certain situations a cold can of beer may be more satisfying than a fancy
cocktail, cognac or wine. We build our menu around a few old truths and
universal tastes while reflecting modern advancements, refinements, global
accesses, freedoms, and whimsy.
Every bar has different ways of doing things which should be driven by a mission such as the
one you have just read. It’s imperative that you buy into this one and are capable and willing to
subscribe to our standards and practices.
This business isn’t about you. It’s about the guest. If you ever seek confrontation, this job is
not for you. Never actively seek friends, sex or drugs through your place of employment.
Impress others by showing how smart they are, not how smart you are. Don’t check your
phone while at work.
Everyone deserves respect and dignity. Don’t always expect it return. A firm belief in Karma
can be healthy for a bartender. Don’t ever be driven by tips. They will eventually even out
and come to the deserving.
Every reasonable attempt should be made to accommodate any request, however, not every
drink and every bar is for everyone. Sometimes, this needs to be explained to a guest but
only when phrased in the context of providing satisfaction and never in a way of showing up
the guest. If you feel like the customer will never be satisfied, discretely bring in a manager
to handle the situation.
A clean and uncluttered mind leads to an organized workspace, speed and accuracy. Come
to work early, prepare and set yourself up for success. A good chef has their own knives. You
should own your own bar tools.
You should be able to make a perfect, laborious cocktail and be able to serve people
efficiently when guests are four-deep at the bar. No one should expect you to do both at the
same time. Working shifts where you only have time to provide beer, wine, highballs and
pre-batched punches and cocktails doesn’t mean that you can’t provide a good product or
make you any less of a bartender.
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The drinks you make are not the end goal but a tool for providing an
exception customer experience
All guests needs have equal priority.
Everything is done in the best interest of the restaurant.
Every shift, you will be focused, professional, knowledgeable, skilled, and
strive to be better than the day before.
It’s your job to figure out how to make every person who sits at your bar
happy and facilitate the servers in making their guests happy.
Jerry Thomas pouring a Blue Blazer.
Scotch and hot water…yum?
Don’t try this at home.
Rules of Service
Service can only truly be learned on the job, but that being said here are some helpful
suggestions and standards that you’ll be expected to live up to. It’s my job to set a fun, polite,
humble, intelligent, and friendly tone and your job to project this to the clientele. A lot is
expected of you because the bar drives the profits and energy of the restaurant and you’re in the
driver seat. You need to lead by example for the rest of the staff and be the go-to person on
anything alcohol related. There may be some scoffing, especially by coworkers who don’t
understand why you would want to put the extra effort in, but don’t be deterred by others’
insecurities or jealousies. Put the hard work hard in, do your research and taste everything you
possibly can on your own time. This is your profession.
Sequence of service
Follow the restaurant’s sequence of service for servers. In addition keep the following in mind.
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• Immediately greet all new customers. Make • Keep up with the FYI's and 86'd lists
eye contact with them if you’re busy with
another guest. • Take care of multiple tasks on the same trip .
• Smile. People are here to have a good time. • Make a check or enter the drinks into the POS
Show them a good time. immediately after making them for guests at the
• Clean as you go. You’re not only responsible
for keeping your station and section clean, but • Drop all checks off in check books.
the entire restaurant.
• Keep your head up and eyes roving.
• Remove empty bottles and glassware from the
bar promptly • Communicate - we work as team.
• Express gratitude to customers. • Validate customers’ choices.
• Create rapport with customers. Connect. • Make drinks in front of guests whenever
Learn their name. possible.
Set personal sales and tip percentage goals.
• avoid long, involved conversations.
• Emulate employees who make good tips
• Leave from behind the bar w/out alerting
• Be somewhere else mentally or bring a bad the MOD and other servers.
attitude or problem to work.
• Eat where a customer may see you.
• Don’t neglect a customer because you are
in conversation. • Be too proud to ask for help. If you start to
lose it, stop and sk for help. Take a minute.
• Say "no" to a customer. It will save you time in the long run. We can
cover for you.
• Argue with a customer.
• Get involved in personal or controversial
• Give the customer an excuse. subjects.
• Leave empty or dirty glasses, plates, etc. • Let conflict or problems get personal.
on the bar. Offer to get them something else Realize that we get angry at things going
when the drink is 2/3 finished. wrong in the restaurant because we all care
about the restaurant. That’s a good thing
• Walk by a mess, a problem, or a customer
needing service w/out acknowledging it and
making sure it's taken care of.
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Bartending is more than standing behind the bar, looking good and making drinks. Bartending is
about excellent customer service.
Come to the bar ready to work and looking profession. This includes being awake and
energetic, in clean and profession attire, with clean hands and nails, with all necessary tools
equipment, and a conversational knowledge of current affairs and the news.
Make your customers feel good about being at the bar – have fun. Smile. Watch your
body language and facial expressions. Leave your troubles behind when you come to work.
Your temperament sets the tone for the bar. Be relaxed, in control, fluid and confident behind
the bar. This is your stage. Have stage presence.
To make sure you have your guests’ attention, place a cocktail napkin in front of
customers to show acknowledgment and that you’re ready to start helping them.
Think ahead. Predict what will happen, what people will need, when things will be ready,
when to stall, when to approach customers, be ready before things happen, etc. etc. etc…
Ask or bring every conceivable item that a person could want to go with something.
Know what these things are (e.g. – the Stephanie: mayo, ketchup, mustard? the martini: gin
or vodka, olive or twist, rocks or up, dry or sweet?).
Save legwork. Take care of multiple customers on the far end of the bar.
Don’t rely on bussers and counter staff to get the right order to the right customer.
Keep all checks organized and closed out as you go.
Treat All Guests Equally. Anyone who has spent time in bars knows that regular customers
are a big part of the business but great bartenders find a balance between building a regular
clientele, and making the new or occasional guest feel immediately welcome. No matter who
they are, what their demeanor is, or who they’ve come in with, anyone who steps in the door
should be made to feel that they’ve just stepped into a place that welcomes them. Great
bartenders have intuition about a diverse range of people, and can engage anyone. If you’ve
been hired as a bartender at Tryst, chances are that this comes to you naturally. A warm and
dynamic personality coupled with a sense of professionalism will create a magnetism that
will nourish the bar-going public (and consequently, your pocket.)
Be polite, friendly, sociable and inclusive. A great bartender can raise the spirits of even the
moodiest person having the worst of days (who, ironically, can often be the easiest to
appease by simply remaining friendly throughout the interaction) just by being pleasant and
attentive and never judgmental.
Be equally sociable with any guest. Don’t give friends or regular customers preferential
treatment. Take interest in everyone for a couple minutes, then move on to someone else.
Don’t keep returning to one person or one group only to look up at the others when you think
of it. This is not a good method of providing service, and it is exclusive behavior that will
alienate some people from the bar even if you don’t realize it.
Don’t let friends and co-workers have expectations at your bar. They will expect free
drinks, and you’ve just wasted your comp tab that you might use more constructively
otherwise. If a friend drops in on their own, they will likely be prepared to pay. Most people
can recognize that you have a job to do and will respect that. Visits from friends should never
impact the attention paid to the rest of your guests.
Don’t tailor service based on past tips, or expected tips. Some people are going to tip
better than others, and occasionally someone won’t tip at all even if you’ve given good
service. That’s just how it is. Your job is not to reward people for tipping, it is to provide
great service. If you are consistent in this approach to guests your overall tips will be greater.
Be judicious with complimentary items. Extending a free drink can be a great way to
cultivate bar business, but this is not because someone has paid less money for what they got,
but because they felt like the bartender liked them! Giving a guest a free drink or snack
should always come across as a special circumstance. No one should get free items every
time they come in. You only complicate your job by creating the expectation that they will
always get something free, because you will feel compelled to every time, even when your
comp tab will be more appreciated elsewhere. This practice will also have the effect of
putting-off the guest another time if they come in expecting not to have to pay, only to get
the bill and feel shunned by whoever charged them for what they’ve ordered.
Smart ways to use a comp tab includes: offering a complimentary drink or dish to someone
who seems like a potential new regular customer, someone who hung out for a while with a
group, had a few drinks and seemed to really enjoy themselves (it will make the experience
that much more notable in their mind), or someone who has a magnetism of their own who
would be nice to have in again. When a complimentary item is unexpected is when it has an
impact. For instance, offer to comp a drink or dish that you have suggested because you
really want them to try it. This creates the sense that you are working to please them, and will
always leave a good impression. Let the guest know “I bought you that last drink” or I picked
up a round. Otherwise they might not even notice it wasn’t on the check.
Always serve equal portions. There are problems with pouring someone a stronger drink
than usual as a favor. First, drink recipes are designed to taste good! Don’t ruin a drink
because you want to hook someone up. Secondly, you may just be setting up other bartenders
for a hassle when they have to explain why a drink that was made correctly tastes weak or
looks smaller. Thirdly, over-pouring is one of the biggest ways that bars lose money over
time so it is seriously frowned upon by management and can result in retraining or if
persistent, loss of shifts or eventually termination. Finally, it is your and the other servers job
to track consumption for everyone’s safety and being inconsistent with portioning
Obviously, the more you sell, the higher the check, the bigger the tip, the more money you make,
but I believe that it’s better to be a server than a seller. You can sell the most expensive items on
the menu, but if the customer doesn’t really want those items they won’t come back. It’s better to
make $3 off a customer 4 times a week than make $10 off a customer once.
The more you know about the products that you sell, the more credibility you’ll have and the
better sales person you will be.
Increase the check by finding out what the customer wants. Just ask. Ask them what they’ve
been craving, what they like, what they ate as a kid. Don’t forget too that you were hired for who
you are and people frequent Tryst because of the people. The customers are here because they
like you. Once you have their trust, they will do what you tell them. Use what yo’ mamma gave
you. Turn on the charm and suggest that what they really want is… (fill in the blank).
Suggest obvious pairings like coffee and chocolate or cheese and wine. There are also obvious
questions that follow certain orders; e.g. – “Would you rather have a green salad instead of the
bean salad with that?” or “what kind of gin would you like in that gin and tonic?”
Don’t forget to keep the pace of consumption moving along. Most people won’t sit around with
nothing in front of them because they are no longer technically a customer. So bus things off the
table as soon as possible. They will usually order again or leave, freeing up your table for a new
customer. Anticpating guests and getting things out to them as quickly as possible will also
Build Repeat Customers! Pay attention. Remember customers’ names, drinks and what’s been
going on in their lives. Ask if they need a light if they’re going out to smoke. Have cards made
up with your name and Tryst’s info on them. Write your schedule on the back. Stay abreast of
local events, interesting places to visit, good nearby restaurants and special local places. Get to
know other local bartenders, concierges and desk help who you can refer guests to and who will
do the same for you. As you make the recommendations give them your card (or several cards)
to present to the managers or owners whom they will visit and have them keep the extra cards to
give to people who might also visit you.
Tips and Tricks
Crowds – One of the keys to becoming an exceptional bartender is having a very good short
term memory. It’s important to be able to make service drinks while serving 3-4 people at a
time and do it all in order. A bartender should be able to hold at least 12 items in their short
term memory, such as drinks and total cost of each round. It can be hard to remember faces
when you’re slammed. Sometimes it helps to remember what section of the bar the drink is
going to. Knowing how much it costs and asking for payment upon delivery when it’s
slammed can save you trips as well. Serving 2 patrons at a time can help to speed through
crowds. USE BOTH HANDS! If possible never let one hand do nothing. If you're pouring a
beer, use the other hand to set up glasses and clear the bar. Pour rum with one hand, and coke
with the other.
Big Tickets/Multiple Drink Orders – Line up all your glasses first. If you get sidetracked,
seeing the glass will remind you whether it’s a rocks, martini, or etc. Knock out beers, wine,
sodas and waters first. Fill as many shakers as you need so they’re ready for the liqueur. Pour
all the drinks containing the same base liquor at the same time, then all sodas and juices at
the same time, rather than finishing a drink at a time.
Be prepared – I always like to use sushi chefs as an example of excellent organization and
cleanliness. Watch a good sushi sometime and watch how efficient they are with their
movements and how much care they give their equipment. Watch how much prep they have
on hand and how much prepping they’re doing when it’s slow. Proper preparation allows you
to focus on just one thing; making drinks. Whenever you are not in the process of helping a
customer or making a drink, you must be assisting co-workers with guests’ needs or
preparing to make a drink (e.g. filling ice bin, polishing glassware, organizing, etc). Make
sure your bar is well stocked and you know where everything is. Keep a wine key, bar towel
and beer opener on you. Wandering around in the bar looking for things is a big time
Blending – Despite popular belief, the blender is a bartender’s friend, not enemy. An electric
blender is needed for recipes containing fruit or other ingredients (like ice or berries) which
you want broken down more than you can by shaking or muddling. The result will be smooth
Cracked Ice – Cracking ice cubes into jagged pieces increases their surface area, allowing
them to melt faster and mellow the alcohol's bite while also making the drink easier to stir.
Hold a large piece of ice in your hand with a clean towel and whack it with a muddler or
Flame – Applying fire to citrus oils enhances their flavor and adds toasty caramel notes to
whiskey- and gin-based cocktails like the Rob Roy and Sazerac. Cut a thick, 1" circle of rind
from a fresh orange. Light a match or lighter and hold it above the glass; grip the piece of
rind by the edges, hold it skin side down above and to the side of the match, and warm the
peel to start releasing the oils, then sharply pinch the peel to spray the oils through the flame
and onto the surface of the drink..
Bruising – slap fresh herbs between your palms to release essential oils.
Layering – To layer or float lighter ingredients on top of heavier ones, use the back of a
spoon and rest it against the inside of a glass. Slowly pour down the spoon and into the glass.
The ingredient should run down the the glass and remain separated from the ingredient below
Roll – Ingredients are poured from one glass into another and back again to mix. You’ve
probably seen drawings of old-time, handlebar mustached bartenders “rolling” a cocktail
from glass to glass, maybe on fire, at arms length. The reasons that these are drawings and
not photos, are that it’s a really old technique and also difficult and impractical.
Portion control is every bit as important for bartenders as it is a cook. Can you imagine how
pissed a manager or restaurant owner would be if half the steaks going were one and a half times
bigger than what they were supposed to be? Well, don’t be surprised if someone flips out on you
if they see a 3 oz. pour go out when it should have been 2 oz. You can effectively kill the
profitability of the bar by over-pouring (and, of coarse, giving the bar away). You need to
practice in order to master the pour. Do the following regularly.
1. Fill an empty 1 liter bottle with water and a few drops of grenadine of blue curacao and
put in a speed pourer. Line up a series of 1 oz jiggers or shot glasses over a bar mat or
sink. The baristas have back-up 1 oz. shot glasses. Grab the bottle by the neck with your
pointer finger wrapped around the base of the pourer. The pourer should tilt left if you’re
right handed. Pour into the jiggers/glasses, counting for each. Always count at the same
2. Pour each oz measure into different bar glasses. See what 1, 2, and 3 oz looks like in each
like and remember this.
3. Now, line up 5 old fashioned, snifter, and wine glasses. Try to pour 2 oz into the old
fashioned glasses and snifters and 5 oz into the wine glass without stopping. Now,
measure the water of each glass to make sure that you poured the correct ammount.
4. Next, you need to learn how to pour different quantities. To pour 2 oz, all you need to do
is to double your 1 oz count. If you want to pour other measurements, just modify your
count to achieve the measurement desired. Measure your attempts.