Most private bartending events have a lot in common. You’re serving similar drinks, your setup is the same, and there are probably even some common types of guests who you see over and over again.

If you can find a way to think outside the box to make the experience extra memorable, you will set yourself apart from the other bartenders they may have hired in the past. The event will be that much better, and you might just get a repeat client for all of their future events!

What’s in a Name?

If you are bartending a celebration, perhaps think of names you could use for a special drink for the event.

For instance, I once worked a graduation party, but the plot thickened: it was a dual celebration for a pair of sisters, one graduating from high school and the other from college. They had a special drink at a party a few weeks prior and wanted the same drink. They knew the recipe but couldn’t remember what the drink was called. I said I’d come up with a name (not really knowing what I would call it). I asked for their first names, but there was no way I could form a blend of the two that sounded good. Then it hit me!! I suggested we call it ‘The Milestone.’ They loved the idea and we ran with it and I ended up having to make pitchers of The Milestone all night. The cocktail was great, but the name really made it special.

On another occasion, I had someone ask for a mixture that was not common but I had the ingredients. It was good and contained lemonade. Then a few people asked for it but didn’t know how to tell me since they only tasted it from someone else. It was a birthday party for Justin, so it became ‘Justin’s lemonade.’

Here are a few holiday related suggestions:

Obviously you’ll want to tailor the name to the type of celebration or venue where you are working. If it’s a very formal event, you may choose a less whimsical, more formal name. For fun parties with a mix of ages, corny names can be a perfect choice.

  • Halloween: The Kiss of Death, Misty Midnight, or Elvira
  • Valentine’s Day: French Kiss, Lover’s Lemonade or A Long Walk on the Beach
  • Christmas: The Ho Ho Holiday, The Mistletoe, or Holiday on Ice

But you’re certainly not limited to holidays – don’t forget to think outside the box! Perhaps you’re bartending for a group of lawyers or a law firm. If you think you can create a special drink with the items you have, a good name might be: The Jury is Still Out.

Bespoke Cocktails

Thinking outside the box can mean many things, and sometimes making a custom cocktail a la minute can really be an incredible experience for your guest. You will probably be somewhat limited in what you have to work with (as you’ll only have what’s at your bar), but if you are familiar with the flavors you have and cocktail technique and balance, you can create something that’s exactly what your guest wants.

Start by asking a few questions:

  • Do you prefer sweet, tart, bitter or boozy?
  • What’s your favorite cocktail?
  • What’s your favorite spirit? Are there any spirits you don’t like?

Now let your creativity run wild and see if you can create something they will truly love! (By the way, A Bar Above’s Mixology Certification is a great way to learn how to do exactly this!)

By the way, be careful when doing this – if you aren’t skilled at this sort of thing, please don’t start experimenting with your customer’s liquor. Tossing one or two drinks a night isn’t the end of the world, but it’s important that your client sees you are not wasting their liquor on experimental drinks that just don’t work.

Tasting Tip:
If you need to taste a drink, then do the following: Dip a straw 1” into a drink, cover the top with your finger to trap the small amount of liquid inside, they lift it out and hover the stir stick over your tongue, releasing your finger to taste. This allows you to taste without getting your mouth anywhere near the drink – so it can still be served to guests. It’s also a matter of image: it shows that you are only testing something to make sure it’s good and not trying to drink while working.

Out of the Box Problem Solving

While ideally your creativity would be used to create awesome guest experiences, sometimes you’ll need it to avoid the bad instead. Hopefully you have everything you need for your event, but if you don’t you may need to get creative:

  • Perhaps you don’t have a serving tray and need to pick up glasses. The boxes you would be saving from unpacking during setup can be utilized for this (If the boxes look good and it’s not too tacky.)
  • Need a muddler and didn’t bring one? See if you can find something you did bring that can serve the same purpose

Making Memories

Always remember that for you the bartender, it’s just another gig to work. But for the client, it’s a very important event and should be treated as such. I like to think of it as attending the party myself. It gets me in the party mood for the event it is and my creative juices start to flow.

So whatever you do, remember to think outside the box to get creative and making it a memorable, amazing night for your clients and guests!

Lisa Freeman

Lisa Freeman has been bartending private parties as a side hustle for 3.5 years, working events from small birthdays to large 350-person weddings. She's also a former accomplished ballroom dance competitor, enjoys martial arts, and is always looking to try new things (hobbies, side hustles, and otherwise!)