Things Bartenders Must Do

  • Greet your customers.  Few things get under my skin more than rudeness.  Countless fellow bartenders I've worked with over the years have clearly had very poor upbringings. You must always say hello and goodbye to your customers in some way and always thank them for their business upon their departure.  When I serve them food, drinks, the check or just about anything, I always utter some kind words and smile.  This is  plain good manners – not just bar manners. It's shocking how many people don't do it.  
  • BevNaps or coasters.  Every drink gets one or the other.  If it's a really busy moment at a club, I get how you can, on occasion, let this slip.  But in general, you must make every effort to put something under every single drink.
  • Straws.  Every drink with ice gets one unless it's a drink with just a cube or two- like a Whiskey.  Drinks without ice generally do not get straws, ( e.g. cocktails up).
  • Shake your drinks.  Technically, anything containing juice must be shaken. While not always possible or absolutely necessary, it's a good idea, particularly with complicated drinks.  Never, ever, ever skip shaking something containing sour mix.
  • Wipe your bar down after every guest.  I mention this in my filth article, but I need to stress this  again.  Keep dry rags around to wipe your hands.  Keep damp rags around to wipe the bar down frequently.  Rinse and ring out your bar rag once in a while and change it every couple of hours.  A dirt-ass bartender is straight-up disgusting.  Imagine a customer rolling up to a bar and sticking their elbows in sticky sugary mess.  
  • Know your booze.  You must understand and be able to clearly explain to customers things like (1) your beers and the differences among them – stouts, lagers and ales (2) subtleties between Rye, Scotch, Irish, Bourbon and sour mash [Jack] (3) basic wine skills and recommendations – dry,semi-dry, full-bodied, fruity, sweet, grape varieties, regions, etc.  You don't need to be a sommelier, but at least have a basic knowledge if you work anywhere other than a nightclub.  I've worked with PYTs behind the bar who can't differentiate between even reds or whites.
  • Know your drinks.  If you don't know how to make basic standards like Long Island Iced Teas, French Martinis, Rusty Nails, etc. along with your house specialties, you're in the wrong business.  Few things are worse for your customers and your income than an incompetent barkeep googling basic recipes on their iPhones.  It's downright unprofessional.  If someone orders something really obscure (e.g., Scooby Snack, some other Wrong Coast idiotic shot, or house special from another bar), kindly tell them you haven't heard of it before. Follow by explaining that you'd be glad to prepare it if they could tell you the ingredients.  As with other professions, it's your job to continually keep your skills sharp. 
  • Mind your beeswax.  It's one thing to have an appropriate dialogue or conversation with a customer. It's quite another to inject yourself into someone's conversation while you're working.  Evaluate and be mindful of the level of engagement your customers are expecting. Respond accordingly while taking into account your other work responsibilities.  Let your customers set the pace of interaction.
  • Be engaging.  This goes hand in hand with manners and greetings.  When the bar is not busy, you should not be standing around, ass leaned against the back bar, mouth agape, watching the Giants game with your hands firmly in your pockets for minutes at a time.  Walk around. Talk to people.  Get to know your customers.  Hell, juggle some bottles, spit some fire, make a fancy flaming free drink for some regulars, do a little dance or backflips.  Just don't be a lame, boring, inanimate speck on the wall.  You'll suffer financially.
  • Get the manager or bouncer, when necessary.  You're often charged with, not only serving drinks, but playing pseudo-law-enforcement for a variety of situations.  You can't do everything, nor is it appropriate for you to try (depending on the type of establishment).  In most cases, it is not in your best interest to personally man-handle customers, yell at them,  or argue about the bill.  You have things to do (read: make money).  When things have escalated beyond your capacity, get help and move on.  That's what those folks are there for.  Now, if you're running solo in a pub and you are the judge, jury and executioner, the situation is obviously a bit different.


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