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Basic Bartending Tips

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Bartending is a career choice for some and a hobby for others. Whichever route you take, there are a few tips, tricks and techniques that you will need to begin making great drinks. Once you learn the basics and become familiar with popular cocktails you can take you new found knowledge to begin creating great spirited concoctions of your own.
  1. Bartending Basics
  2. Cocktail Terminology
  3. Bar Tools
  4. Advanced Bartending
  1. Distilled Spirits
  2. Mixers and Homemade Liquor
  3. Garnishes & Drink Embellishments
  4. Going Pro

Bartending Basics

Rimming a Glass - Photo Credit: Colleen Graham

As you begin your journey in the world of cocktails you'll most likely come across many recipes that ask you to shake this and muddle that along with a few other common bartending techniques. These methods are the commonly required in the majority of cocktails. With a little practice, by making drinks for yourself and friends, these drink preparations will become second nature.

Cocktail Terminology

Lemon Drop Martini

Just like any trade or craft, there are words that are specific to mixology that you will come across often. Some of these terms take on a completely different meaning than when they are used outside of the bar and may be confusing when first experienced. Learning their "spirited meanings" will help you get along in a career or in your experiences as a bar and lounge patron.

Bar Tools

Cocktail Shaker - Photo Credit: Colleen Graham

There are a few essential tools of the trade that are necessary for every serious and aspiring bartender. A cocktail shaker, bar spoon, muddler and jigger are just a few devices that will help you create the best drinks possible. The tools used in bars do not have to be ordinary either, there are many designer and novelty bar sets and tools available to fit every personality.

Advanced Bartending

Boston Shaker and Hawthorn Strainer

Once you have the basics of bartending down you can begin a deeper study of the craft. When put into practice these small bits of knowledge will help you produce cocktails that are a step above the ordinary and help you achieve drinks equal to those professional bartenders mix up. Also, there are a few articles here that will help you manage the stock of your bar because a good drink begins with good ingredients.

Distilled Spirits

Bulldog Gin - Photo Credit: Shannon Graham

There are five liquors, or distilled spirits, that are either sipped straight or are used to create the base for the majority of cocktails and mixed drinks. Each of these liquors (brandy, gin, tequila, vodka and whiskey) have defining qualities which distinguish them from all other alcoholic beverages and are often used as the base for many liqueurs, or cordials.

Mixers and Homemade Liquor

Bottles Behind the Bar - Photo Credit: Shannon Graham

If you've ever been in a bar you know that there are many bottles behind the counter that bartenders, seemingly unconsciously, pull out, pour from and return to a designated place. What is in all those bottles? What is needed to stock a bar? And what could be contained in those long, unmarked plastic bottles with a curved spout, that seem to accent many drinks (sour mix, simple syrup, etc)? Those questions are answered as you explore this section of bottles you'll find behind many bars.

Garnishes & Drink Embellishments

Cutting Lime Slices - Photo Credit: Colleen Graham

Not only does the liquid of a cocktail need to taste great, but the presentation should be spectacular and you'll find that many drinks depend on a particular garnish served in a certain way. Garnishes are not just there for looks, they typically add subtle flavor to drinks or are on the glass's rim to allow the drinker to add the fresh zest, juice or essence according to their own personal taste.

Going Pro

Tim Laird of Brown-Foreman with the drinks he made during a Canadian Mist Whiskey cocktail session

Depending on the local market and type of establishment getting a position as a bartender can be as easy as an interview and a little initiative or as hard as years of working your way up the ladder of an establishment's ranks. Bartenders are truly multi-talented, they must make great drinks, manage cash and multiple orders at once, play counselor, mediator and sometimes "the bad guy" when dealing with patrons and so on. It is a difficult, yet rewarding, career that can be a great opportunity financially and personally if you have the right knowledge and personality. Good luck!

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