By: Dan Gentile
Just like servers and baristas, bartenders make mistakes. But instead of acting like another entitled patron and telling them how to do their very demanding jobs (which really pisses them off), we thought the only way to get real insight into the pitfalls of the profession was to ask people who are actually in the weeds. Here's a list of the most common mistakes bartenders make, straight from bartenders' fernet-loving mouths.
"There are a lot of things that bartenders do wrong every shift, but one of the main ones that I've noticed is shaking Manhattans. Manhattans are delicate and should always be stirred to complement the bold flavors of the rye whiskey, never shaken. Another issue is flipping the small shaker tin upside down and dropping it into the large tin to strain, instead of using the correct strainer. Not only is this technique a sign of laziness, it's also extremely unsanitary and should never, ever be used by any bartender." -- Kris Rizzato, bar manager at Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant (San Diego, CA)
Follow trends instead of instincts
"I see a lot of these lists of trends/predictions in cocktails for 2016. Suddenly every bar who reads the article is now making a barrel-aged low-abv cocktail that's on tap with nitro. What I'm trying to say is, don't follow the list! Stand out from the rest of the pack. Break the rules, Instead it should be a guide of what to not do for 2016, and that's how you set the trend for 2017." -- Ran Duan, 2014 North American winner of the Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender Competition, The Baldwin Bar at Sichuan Garden (Woburn, MA)
Take the job way too seriously
"Nowadays bartenders are too busy trying to make the perfect drink and cocktails and they are losing the connection with people at their bar. I'm from Dublin, and where I come from you have a responsibility to your patrons to make them laugh and to have a good time. A lot of bartenders are just taking themselves too seriously and that kills the energy of the bar." -- John "JOD" O'Donnell, lead at CRUSH, La Cave Wine & Food Hideaway, and La Comida (Las Vegas, NV)
Use a straw to sample from the glass
"There can be great joy in watching a bartender carefully measure out each ingredient, fill the mixing vessel with hand-cracked ice, go into an elaborate shake or elegant stir, and artfully pour their concoction into a cold glass for me. What ruins that experience? Watching said bartender stick a straw into the glass to taste it just before serving it to me.
"Don't get me wrong, I am all for straw-tasting drinks to ensure all the ingredients are in there and that the temperature and dilution levels are on point. But tasting the drink in the glass is like watching a chef plate a dish, then check if the sauce is seasoned correctly. Whaddya gonna do if it ain't? You already frickin' plated it! Straw-taste in the tin or the mixing glass, where you can still make any minute adjustments to ensure the $15 cocktail I am getting is worth every penny. Otherwise, you're just doing it for show." -- Joaquin Simo, Pouring Ribbons (New York, NY)
Lose their cool
"The mistakes I see bartenders make range from improper use of a jigger to making inappropriate remarks in front of guests. Our jobs can be so demanding, stressful, and fast, but sometimes you need to slow down and think about how it looks to a guest when you are yelling at a co-worker, or making rude comments. Even made in jest, an inside joke to you might lead to an uncomfortable situation for the guest. That guest will recall that feeling when making a recommendation or a return trip, and your bar may suffer for it. -- Abigail Gullo, Compere Lapin (New Orleans, LA)
Assume customers are experts
"Many bartenders out there have become hyper-focused on using modern techniques to produce esoteric ingredients that will leave the consumer's mind blown with its almost surreal level of deliciousness. The reality is that these rockstar moments of jaw-dropping amazement are few and far between, and most guests don't know anything about gin, nor do they care. Bartenders need to place greater importance on striving to create a setting and mood in which every guest feels comfortable, welcome, and will enjoy themselves no matter what they are drinking.
"Although learning modern techniques to produce delicious craft libations is important, a cocktail drinker doesn't know anything about the process of making gin... all they know is that they like it. I always tell new bartenders to reach for Danny Meyer's Setting the Table before they reach for Dave Wondrich's Imbibe!. That way they will understand that a great, awe-inspiring drink made to suit an individual's taste buds is but a small topping when serving guests warm and sating hospitality pie." -- Justin Lavenue, 2015 North American winner of the Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender Competition, The Roosevelt Room (Austin, TX)
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