Be a Better Bartender

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Every customer that orders a drink from a bartender, whether at your local dive bar or a black tie soiree, understands that the man or woman serving them drinks is working a job—but why have bartenders so frequently been heralded as the ultimate listeners—someone who can provide a service while as well as a genuine connection? Because the best bartenders understand that their job isn’t to mechanically take orders and mix and distribute drinks—in addition, it is to set the mood and make the customer feel valued and welcome. Here are some tips to ensure that you leave your customers satisfied and grateful on top of satisfyingly buzzed.

  1. Connect to Your Customers: Yes, you may be the only man or woman behind the bar as a rush of customers are vying for your attention, but this is not an excuse to be short or perfunctory with customers. Even with a limited amount of time and a mounting load of stress, take a moment to make eye contact, smile, and politely ask what you can get them. While this may sound obvious, it is easy to forget or ignore during a busy shift. Establishing a rapport, no matter how brief, ensures that your customers understand that you are viewing them as human beings worth as respect, not just a potential tip in the jar. If something is wrong with their drink, apologize whether it was your fault or not, and do your best to make it up to them, whether this is through a free cocktail or more personalized attention. If the bar isn’t slammed, make sure that you’re making conversation with the customers—memorize their drink orders, try to remember their names, and ask how they’re enjoying the event. The more fun you have, the more fun they’ll have!
  2. Keep the Crowd Updated: Things will get hairy when you have dozens of customers vying for your attention or trying to shove dollars in your face. The simplest way of keeping them satisfied? Keep them updated. While busy with an order, select your next customer and tell them that you will be right with them—this will be a sign to the other customers that your next order has already been selected, and it should ensure that people are willing to be a bit more patient while waiting for you to finish measuring shots or finishing cutting a garnish.
  3. Clarify Your Orders: If your customer requests a drink that you’re uncertain or unfamiliar of, don’t assume they misspoke or pour them a drink with similar ingredients. There’s no shame in admitting you’re unfamiliar with a drink or uncertain if you heard them correctly—asking for clarification is far less embarrassing than failing to give the customer the cocktail that they really wanted.
  4. Organize Your Bar: Depending on the location and the style of the gathering you’re bartending for, it should be relatively easy to get an idea of what types of drink choices are most popular, especially as the event is a few hours deep. Organize your bar so that ingredients that are most often used and mixed together are stored close, thereby saving you from wasting time running from one end of the bar to the other. 
  5. Keep the Bar Clean: No one enjoys leaning on a bar and coming back up sticky. Although you may be slammed by drink requests, keep an eye on the state of your bar, and keep a rag and a small bucket of distilled disinfectant handy—a quick soak and wipe of the bar takes seconds and keeps your customers happy. Make sure to dispense of empty glasses, abandoned straws, and used napkins as soon as you spot them.