So, you’re ready to make the great leap from cocktail server to bartender, but you don’t know how?
I get it. I’ve been there myself. Cocktailing can be fun, but it can also hard because you’re on the floor all night, often pushing through crowds of people, waiting for service bartenders to make your drinks, tipping out 30 to 40 percent of your earnings and sometimes dealing with the not-so-pleasant, touchy-feely customers.
In order to make this transition, you have to first position yourself as ready and capable.
Here are six suggestions you can utilize to help you secure a bartending position:
Know what your venue offers:
As a cocktail server you are probably already well acquainted with the menu your venue offers, but are you also familiar with all of the non-listed liquor your venue has in stock? If not, now is a good time to begin memorizing the inventory offerings beyond the menu.
Once you’re a bartender customers will expect you to have answers to their questions such as, “do you carry mezcal?” and “what single malt scotch options do you have?”
Use slow shifts to learn:
You know those shifts that seem to never end because they are so slow? Those shifts are now your best friend.
Ask the bartender on duty to train you on a few new cocktails during the down time and learn about history, origins, ingredients and proper portions.
Practice, practice, practice:
The more your practice making cocktails, the easier it will become. During down times, ask the bartender if you can make the cocktails your customers are ordering. Have him/her walk you through the steps until you master each one. Also, spend some time familiarizing yourself with how your venue’s bar is set up.
When you are behind the bar, pay attention to where the bar tools are placed, how the well is organized, where the liquor types are, where the garnishes go etc. This will help you with your speed and efficiency while you’re crafting cocktails— both of which are crucial to bartending.
Make yourself available:
If there are already enough bartenders currently staffed at your venue, then ask the manager if you can pick up slow shifts or be on call. Working slow shifts and being on call is typically unattractive to seasoned bartenders, but for someone who wants to transition from cocktail waitress to bartender these shifts will offer you the perfect opportunity to practice what you’ve learned and get used to being behind the bar. In addition to this, if one of the current bartenders leaves your venue then you will be in a good position to fill the void.
Know the bar lingo:
On the rocks, straight up, neat, shaken, stirred, double etc. are all bar terms you might already be familiar with as a server, but if you aren’t make sure you learn them. In addition to understanding what these terms mean, also be aware of how they impact aspects of the drink such as the price, glass it is served in and how it is prepared and presented.
For example, if a customer asks for a double vodka martini shaken and served on the rocks, this cocktail will be prepared and presented differently than a classic martini. If you don’t understand what the customer is communicating because you aren’t familiar with bar lingo, then you might end up preparing and serving the drink incorrectly.
In the beginning, you will be soaking in a lot of new information and it may seem overwhelming to retain all of this newly acquired knowledge. So practice asking more bartending related questions during every shift.
For example, if you are preparing for your first bartending shift, a good question to ask one of the seasoned bartenders is, “why is the well liquor organized this way?” Questions will help you learn and show your coworkers and managers you’re serious about understanding the ins and outs of bartending.
Ultimately, as a cocktail server you are already at an advantage because you come equipt with hospitality experience and know how the service industry works. By implementing these five suggestions you will prepare yourself for an easy transition into bartending.
“Lonely cocktail waitress” flickr photo by Grey World https://flickr.com/photos/greyworld/15874079034 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license