So you want to be a bartender, eh? Oh, it’s not that hard – or is it? Like many other of life’s pursuits, the job is what you make of it. Meaning: you make it difficult or you make it easy. The more you study (not necessarily books), the more knowledge you absorb, and mostly – the more experience you acquire, the better you will be at bartending and easier your job will become. Notice, I didn’t say “…the better you will be at slinging drinks.” If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you’ll know that there’s a shit-ton more to being a great bartender than just memorizing index cards with drink recipes that you gleaned from (God-forbid) Mr. Boston.
Got the bartending bug, have you? Got bit by the Jon Taffer / Bar Rescue bug (I DVR and repeatedly watch every episode)? You think to yourself: (a) I could bartend – look at those goons on that show. They don’t know a god-damned thing. They’re inept, inattentive, and not terribly cute. I could run circles around them and (b) I would never let that happen at my bar. Chances are, you know squat. In my experience in New York, the overwhelming majority of my fellow bartenders would fit right in to those oblivious crews you see on the show. I’ve been witness to some horrendous waste, marginal aptitude, treacherous attitude, ungodly levels of theft, and complete lack of dedication to the craft. Those things will positively bury your income – whether your just a bartender or a bar owner.
Unless you’re an entirely decrepit, silver haired, limping, bow-tie wearing schmuck who primarily pours 7&7′s and Scotch at an exclusive old man’s parlor, one of the key skills you will need to master, is your ability to pour shots. You must have the skills necessary to efficiently and quickly pour multiple shots – consistently, artfully, repeatedly and without excessive waste.
You know I’ve been beaten with the O.C.D. stick. So I’m gonna break things down for your reading pleasure. Firstly, here’s what not to do under any circumstance:
This guy is breaking all kinds of cardinal rules. Rarely, if ever, do you build drinks in your tin shaker. You can’t see what the fuck is going on. You do not add ice first – you add ice last. Lastly and most importantly, to facilitate pouring three mixed shots, you do not use three freaking shakers – you use one. Granted, he’s demonstrating Flair. But, Flair Bartending is stupid, wasteful, and takes money directly out of your pocket. If you’re a fan of Flair, I highly suggest you stop watching Tome Cruise in Cocktail on AMC at 3:00am and pursue something more productive and rewarding in life – like Patrick Swayze’s Roadhouse. Unless you’re alone after closing – showing off to fellow staff, or at some retarded Las Vegas flair competition, don’t do it. Focus on servicing as many customers as you can, as efficiently and as cleanly as you can, smiling and continuing customer engagement. Your pockets will wind up far fatter, I assure you.
That said, if you’re in a busy bar, chances are you will eventually get some crazy order like 28 B-52′s for a bachelorette party. Yes, I’ve actually been victim to an order of this size and complexity. Sure enough, I was simultaneously responsible for some of the bartop customers as well as the Service Bar. While I initially cringed, I got to work as quickly as possible and layered each and everyone of them perfectly – much to the delight of my boozy ladies. Needless to say, they ordered several more rounds. The big picture: parties who place such orders are out to spend substantial dollars. Unless the server/bartender spits in their food or backhands them silly, they’re also likely to tip 20 – 30% on a several hundred or several thousand dollar check – bankable.
Let’s look at a specific, multiple shot example. I’m discounting simpleton orders like a dozen shots of whiskey – not much skill required in those instances. Imagine you get an order for 6 Kamikaze shots. Easy, right? There is a right and wrong way to fill this order.
Firstly, the recipe – what you’d normally pour on the rocks, more or less:
- 1oz Vodka
- 1/2 oz Triple Sec
- 1/2 – 1oz Rose Lime juice (do not use fresh lime juice – it’s a different drink if you do)
- Many places throw in a splash of Sour Mix for froth – personal choice
Break out a single Boston Shaker (16oz pint glass) and begin mixing your ingredients. Here’s the important thing to keep in mind, particularlly if your target container is a 1.5 to 2.0z shot glass as opposed to a rocks glass. You must account for meltage. That’s critical and along with proper measuring, it’s where most bartenders fail. They wind up throwing away a lot of liquor… most of which is unaccounted for.
This is a somewhat dirty little industry secret actually. When customers order shots that require chilling with ice, and the target containers are shot, glasses, what they’re getting is 20 – 25% ice water – yep. When you’re out, if you want the most value (read: drunkeness) for your hard-earned dollar, order spirits neat and in a rocks glass. Don’t be a douche about it. Just be succinct and friendly with your order.
Therefore, for six 1.5oz Kamikaze shots, you’re going to pour only about 7oz of liquid (6 * 1.5 * .8, or 6 * 2oz *.8 – depending on your bar’s policies). For argument’s sake, let’s say your bar pours 1.5oz for any preparation. In our example, that equates to about: 3.5 oz of vodka, 1.75oz of Triple Sec, and 1.75 oz of Roses. Shaken and chilled (and with practice), that will yield exactly 6 1.5oz shots.
You need to be able to perform those calculations quickly in your head. Don’t attempt to make more than 5 or 6 mixed shots in your 16oz mixing glass. You won’t be able to chill it properly. In those instances, I use a beer pitcher – where I can easily batch 20 – 25 shots at a time.
Line up your six shot glasses, side by side. Add ice to your mixer, slam on your large tin shaker and shake away 15 to 20 times to get the proper dilution and chill. Crack open your concoction (tin shaker side down), cap it with a spring strainer, and begin pouring. Here’s the critical part: Do not pour full shot glasses consecutively. If you do, what will happen is that the first one will be the strongest and the last will be half water – yuck. This issue is exponentially pronounced as the shot count grows. Imagine you were making 30 Kamikazes… the last few would be nearly entirely water.
What you do want, is to pour half full shot glasses from left to right (as pictured above in Step A), then double back and fill the same shot glasses in the reverse order (Step B). The final glass (Glass #6) should be the first one completely filled. The glass you first started with (Glass #1), should be the last glass filled. Pouring mixed shots in this manner that each one is consistent in temperature, taste and strength. With practice, you can pour the most monstrously large orders spot on (sans measuring), without wasting single drop of booze, much to the delight of your Bar Manager hovering by the condiment tray.