Welcome to your totally free training in the basics of becoming a bartender.
I wrote this because I know how it is to want to learn and having nobody to teach you or being unable to find the information you need. Here you will find everything to help you start as a bartender. If you need more info just ping me.
This “course” will help you grasp the basics or refresh your knowledge.
So let us get started.
P.S: You can find here some basic recipes.
Introduction into the arts of bartering
How do you start? Usually from the bottom and that means 99% of the time you are being overworked & unappreciated and most certainly underpaid. But do not worry, it will not last forever.
Where do you stand?
Depending on where you work, it can be different from bar to bar, country to country and that will bring different responsibilities. As a beginner you might have to work around another bartender. And this brings me to “fake it till you make it”. It is crucial to get along with your co-workers even if you like them or not. You will spend most of your time with them and if you care about your mental health it is important not to feel stressed out around them or continuous feeling like vomiting.
- Neat: without ice
- On The Rocks: with ice. Rocks means ice.
- Shaken: When you shake a cocktail, it dilutes it heavily and breaks off chips of ice into the cocktail and also adds air bubbles.
- Dry shake: no ice: usually when you have egg whites or aquafaba
- Wet shake: add ice
- Stirred: When you stir a drink you don’t disturb it nearly as much but you do still chill and dilute it.
- Chilled: They want you to shake or stir it with ice to make it cold and to dilute it a bit.
- Build: When you build a drink, you put all the ingredients directly into the glass that it’s going to be served in, you do not need to shake or stir the mix.
- A “Back” or a “chaser” : that means the customer wants the beverage to “back” up their liquor. You can also hear: “to put it out”
- A part: measurement/ unit of ingredients ex: 1:2 water to sugar= 1 part water two parts sugar and in translation this means you use double the amount of sugar.
- A double: a drink with double the amount
- Rim: the edge/mouth of the glass. You usually use a lemon or lime wedge to make the rim wet and then roll it/tap on the sugar or salt(if you want to make something more inventive you can add chilli flakes, coconut flakes, chocolate flakes, etc)
- Well drinks: the cheapest that you have
- Top shelf drinks: usually they refer to the most expensive and good of your drinks
- Mixed drinks or Hi-ball: spirit mixer, just two ingredients
- Cocktail: combinations of liquors, syrups juices, bitters, fruits or herbs and
- Liquor: high alcohol drink
- Liqueurs: not as high in alcohol, can be fruity, sweet, bitter or dry
This is a jigger. This tool helps in measuring the precise amount of liquid that you need to put in a drink.
You should always use it when preparing drinks. It is accurate and it looks like you know what you are doing!
Speed pour/ free flow. It does exactly what it says in the name.
You attache it to your bottle and it helps you pour more freely and accurate
The shaker, or the place where most of the magic happens. You will use this a lot. This is the tool that you will use to shake your mixes.
This fancy looking tool is called a mixing glass. You will use it when you want to stir drinks. It doesn’t create the same amount of air bubbles like shaking the drink and also keeps dilution to a minimum(more or less).
Bar spoon. Just another confuting and twisted utensil.
You use it to stir or pour on top of it for layering a cocktail.
This is a cocktail strainer, keeps ice and some of the pulp(if you use juices) away. To have a perfect drink with no pulp you should “double strain it”. Use this in combination with a tea strainer.
This tool helps you when you need to press herbs or fruits.
In my opinion there are six main glass types that you need to know. I am saying this because nowadays there are a lot of places that want to be creative and they go to extra lengths not to serve their drinks in the usual, old, traditional glasses.
Wine glasses, different depending on the type of wine you need to serve. For red wine you need the glass that has a bigger opening because that wine needs to breath. Also the flute(the long narrow one) is used to serve sparking wine.
A martini glass, or how I like to call it “try drink from it without spilling”.
Now this is the fancier sister of the martini glass. This is a coupe glass. Has more elegance and it is way easier to drink from it.
Back to basics.
This is a Collins glass.
The snifter glass. A posh name indeed. I usually use this type of glasses to serve cognac. Make the glass hot, put in your drink, put some coffee beans on top so they get infuse with the alcohol vapors and voila, you can feel like a boss.
The rocks glass. Just another glass that will make you look important just by holding it.
Basic spirits and drinks
Liquors – drinks that are really high in alcohol
Liqueurs – drinks that are not as high in alcohol
- Examples of sweet liqueurs:
- Peach schnapps
- Creme de banana
- Chambord(black raspberry)
- St. Germain (elder-flower liqueur)
- Triple sec
- Examples of bitter or dry liqueurs:
- Dry vermouth/ sweet vermouth
There is no need to stress yourself to learn from day one all of these names. Once you get to work and you will see what the bar offers you it will be easy. It is all about practice. Also keep in mind that it depends a lot on the place you work and what do they like to work with.
Syrup and juices
- You can get inventive here, and also those may differ based on your country for example.
- Some basics that you will find in every bar:
- Simple syrup(sugar syrup)
- Sour mix/lemon lime/sweet and sour
- Grenadine syrup
- Sparkling water(soda water)
It is a concentrated infusion made out of herbs, roots, fruits and a flavorless alcohol base. The most popular one is Angostura, but there is no need to be boring, go full on and search for new ones like the plum bitters or banana flavored ones. Delicious.
It stand for double the percentage of alcohol in a solution
- Spirytus vodka, Everclear, Stroch
Basic cocktail knowledge
Types of structure:
- Mixed drinks: 2 ingredients drinks
- Neat cocktails: cocktail served without ice. They usually come in a martini or a coupe glass but feel free to serve it in whatever you think looks better.
- Martini style: shake or stir(usually referred to this) your mix and strain it in a martini glass.
- Hot cocktails: when I say this I think about hot apple juice, rum and cinnamon and the smell of Christmas. Those should be served in a glass that has a handle.
- Measurements: is important to get it right that why you should always use a jigger. There is also the counting technique but that is not always reliable. If you are working in a fast bar then you can use it.
Get to mixing
Techniques: shake, stir, roll or just build
When to do what?
Stir: when you want to keep the integrity of the ingredients. It does dilute the drink but it doesn’t add air bubbles.
Shake: when you use a lot of juices, syrups, or citrus juice. It adds more air bubbles. Develop your own type of shake(you can search and look at other bartenders on how they do it and build from there).
When mixing in a shaker add your drinks with a jigger before the ice(because the dilution) then shake. If you make one cocktail at a time don’t use a big shaker.
There are two types of shakes: dry shake and wet shake.
To dry shake means to shake the ingredients without ice. Used when making drinks with egg whites, aquafaba or even cream. The wet shake is when you add ice.
Those 2 are the main techniques to make a shake but there are others that can step up for the game.
Rolling : this is when you mix a drink between two glasses, basically you roll it. You use this to aerate (create bubbles), mix a drink without diluting. A good example for this technique is Bloody Mary.
Muddling: you use your muddler to press the flavors out of fruits and herbs. The most common is the Mojito.
Floating: Pouring a liquid ingredient slowly on top of a cocktail, you would be using the back of a spoon to make it float on top and create a visually pleasing aesthetic. You can name that layering. A good example is Tequila sunrise.
Those tiny glasses filled with a high concentration of alcohol. They can be a mini cocktail and be served really fancy or just pour the alcohol in a glass.
After you master the layering in a small glass you can try flambating. But this is an advanced technique and some bars do not allow for safety reasons so we will not be getting into it.
Beer and wine
The beer is relatively easy. Learn the names that your bar is working with and what type of beer it is. People usually know what beer they want.
A really important piece of info that you need is the difference between lager and ale. so here it goes
Lager beer: the process of cool fermentation, followed by maturation in cold storage.
Ale beer: the process of warm fermentation method, gives a sweet, full-bodied and fruity taste.
Now this is harder and it’s a lot of studying is you really want to know how to present a wine and the undertones or what food pairs with which wine better and why, all that fancy things. But there is a way to cheat that will make you look like you know what are you talking about.
Use the label!
You have all the information you need on it. You can see on it:
- The region
- When it was made
- Grape type ( ex: pinot noir)
- Alcohol content
PRO TIP: When pouring wine into a glass twist at the end the bottle. it will help you not to dribble on the table or leave marks on the glass.
You have reached the end! good luck in finding you next gig and keep rocking!