The Comprehensive Bartender Training Checklist: Mastering the Art of Mixology

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: January 20, 2024
  • Time to read: 18 min.

In the dynamic world of hospitality, bartending is a profession that marries creativity, customer service, and a deep understanding of beverages. This comprehensive bartender training checklist will guide new hires and experienced bartenders through the essential steps to mastery.

Key Takeaways:

  • Bartending is a multifaceted profession that goes beyond just mixing drinks. It requires a range of skills, including customer service, product knowledge, and proficiency in using tools like the POS system and jigger.
  • Continuous learning and adaptation are crucial to success in bartending. This can be achieved through channels like bartending books, podcasts, and industry blogs.
  • A well-structured bartender training manual is an invaluable resource for new bartenders. It provides a clear roadmap to acquiring the necessary skills and understanding of the bar business.
  • Hiring the right people for your bar and retaining them is essential. This involves checking off skill sets, fostering a positive work environment, and offering growth opportunities.

Table of Contents

Basic Bartending Skills

Advice for New Bartenders

A strong foundation in the basics is crucial to becoming a skilled bartender. Here’s what you need to focus on as you begin your bartending journey.

Knowledge of Drinks

Understanding the different types of beverages you’ll be serving is the first step in your training. This includes knowing the various types of alcohol, such as whiskey, vodka, rum, gin, tequila, and more. You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with non-alcoholic mixers, liqueurs, bitters, and garnishes. Learning the basic cocktail recipes popular in most bars is also crucial.

“As a bartender, you are a craftsman of experience. The better your understanding of the ingredients at your disposal, the more enchanting the experiences you can create.”

Mixing Techniques

Bartending is as much an art as it is a science. Mixing drinks requires learning techniques such as stirring, shaking, muddling, layering, and building. Each technique is used for different kinds of drinks, and knowing when to use each one is essential for making quality cocktails.

“In the realm of bartending, your shaker is your paintbrush, and your glass is the canvas. Master the techniques, and you can paint a masterpiece in every glass.”

Glassware Knowledge

Different drinks are served in different glasses for a reason. Whether it’s a wine glass, a beer mug, a cocktail glass, or a highball glass, each type of glassware is designed to enhance the drinking experience of a specific beverage. Understanding which glass to use for each drink is an important skill.

“The right glassware doesn’t just hold your drink; it enhances it, presenting your cocktail in its best light and optimizing the drinking experience.”

Customer Service

In bartending, your interaction with customers plays an important role. Good customer service includes greeting customers promptly, taking orders accurately, and serving drinks with a smile. Engaging in friendly conversation, handling difficult situations gracefully, and making customers feel welcome can make a big difference in your success as a bartender.

“In bartending, your customer service skills are as important as your mixology skills. The best bartenders understand that they’re not just serving drinks; they’re serving experiences.”

Operating the Bar

Efficiency and organization are key to operating a busy bar. This includes knowing how to use a point-of-sale (POS) system, restocking the bar, cleaning, and maintaining bar equipment. It also means knowing how to manage the pace of work during busy hours without getting flustered.

“Running a bar smoothly is like conducting an orchestra. It requires focus, coordination, and a keen sense of timing. When done right, it’s a symphony of service.”

Mastering these basic bartending skills is the first step in your training. As you gain more experience and knowledge, you’ll be able to develop your unique style and flourish in the dynamic world of bartending.

Mixology Techniques

Mixology is the art and science of creating cocktails. It’s a fundamental part of bartending and involves mastering various techniques to mix, stir, shake, and garnish drinks. Here’s an overview of some essential mixology techniques that every bartender should know.

Shaking

Shaking is one of the most common techniques in mixology. It’s used to mix ingredients quickly while also chilling and diluting the drink.

Stirring

Stirring is a more gentle technique used for cocktails composed mostly of spirits. It helps preserve the drink’s clarity while properly mixing and chilling the ingredients.

Muddling

Muddling involves pressing ingredients against the side of the glass to release their flavours. It’s commonly used for fresh fruits, herbs, and spices.

Layering

Layering is a technique used to create a visual effect in a cocktail by layering ingredients of different densities on top of each other.

Straining

Straining removes solid residues from the drink after shaking or stirring. Different strainers are suitable for different types of drinks and mixers.

Garnishing

Garnishing involves adding decorative elements to a cocktail. This could be a slice of fruit, a sprig of mint, or a cocktail umbrella. Besides adding visual appeal, garnishes can also enhance the flavour and aroma of the drink.

Mastering these mixology techniques is crucial for any bartender. It’s not just about mixing drinks—it’s about creating a sensory experience that leaves a lasting impression on your guests. With these techniques in your arsenal, you’re well on your way to becoming a mixology maestro.

Advanced Bartending Techniques

While mastering the basics of bartending is essential, learning advanced techniques can elevate your cocktail game and impress your patrons. Here’s an exploration of some advanced bartending techniques.

Fat Washing

This technique involves infusing spirits with fatty flavours like butter or bacon. The process includes mixing, infusing, freezing, and straining.

Clarifying

Clarifying is the process of removing cloudiness from a drink for a clear, smooth cocktail. This can be achieved through filtration, distillation, or using agents like milk.

Smoking

Smoking involves infusing cocktails with smoke for a unique, smoky flavour. This can be done by smoking the glass or the cocktail itself.

Molecular Mixology

Molecular mixology applies molecular gastronomy to cocktail making, which could include creating cocktail caviar, foam, or edible cocktails.

Barrel Aging

This technique involves mixing and ageing cocktail ingredients in a barrel for several weeks or months, resulting in a smoother, more complex cocktail.

These techniques require a deeper understanding of ingredients and processes, but they offer an opportunity to create truly unique cocktails and stand out in the bartending world.

Hire and Retain Great Restaurant Employees

The success of any bar largely depends on the team; here’s how you hire and retain a team of top-notch bar staff. As bar managers, you should look for employees with good hard and soft skills. Retaining these employees can be achieved through supportive management and ongoing training programs.

Product Knowledge

A bartender’s encyclopedia of knowledge about various spirits, beers, wines, and mixers sets them apart. This knowledge is not only about the types of liquor but also includes understanding different cocktail recipes and the nuances of wine and beer.

POS System and Cash-Handling Procedures

The Point of Sale (POS) system and cash-handling procedures are crucial aspects of bar management that every bartender needs to be adept at. It’s not just about making the best drinks; it’s also about accurately recording sales, giving correct change, and ensuring the financial integrity of the establishment.

Understanding the POS System

A POS system is the central hub where all the transactions happen. Bartenders need to know how to use it effectively.

Handling Cash

Handling cash is a basic yet vital skill. Bartenders should be able to give correct change quickly and efficiently, keeping in mind that accuracy is crucial to prevent losses.

Implementing Cash-Handling Procedures

Every bar should have cash-handling procedures in place. These procedures ensure the money is handled correctly and can include guidelines on giving change, managing cash drawers, and handling end-of-day cash counts.

End-of-Day Procedures

At the end of the day, bartenders are often responsible for counting their cash drawer, reconciling sales, and preparing deposits. This requires accuracy and integrity.

Understanding the POS system and mastering cash-handling procedures are skills that go beyond the bar. They are critical to the financial success and efficiency of any establishment and are valued skills in the restaurant and bar industry.

Train With a Restaurant Employee Handbook

Using a restaurant employee handbook as a training tool is an essential step in the onboarding process. This comprehensive guide offers valuable insights on a variety of topics:

  • Understanding the Rules and Policies: The handbook serves as a guide to the establishment’s rules and policies, from dress codes (including hair) to standards of conduct.
  • Learning About the Restaurant’s Culture: It offers insights into the restaurant’s culture, mission, and values, fostering a sense of belonging among staff members.
  • Knowing Your Benefits and Rights: The handbook details your benefits, rights, and compensation, ensuring you’re fully informed about your entitlements.
  • Handling Workplace Situations: It offers guidance on handling various workplace situations, from customer complaints to conflict resolution.

In short, the restaurant employee handbook is an invaluable resource, laying the foundation for success in any new hire’s role.

So, Why A Bar Training Manual and Restaurant Training Manual?

The importance of a well-structured bar and restaurant training manual cannot be overstated. These guides are invaluable for new hires and experienced staff, ensuring consistency in service and operations.

Consistency in Training

A training manual serves as a blueprint for all employees. It provides a standard set of guidelines and procedures to follow, which ensures consistency in operations and service.

With a detailed training manual at their disposal, every employee, whether a newcomer or a seasoned professional, knows what’s expected of them. It provides a clear, consistent roadmap for success in their roles.

Efficiency in Onboarding

A comprehensive training manual significantly improves the efficiency of the onboarding process. It allows new hires to learn and understand their roles and responsibilities quickly and effectively.

How Do You Train a New Bartender?

Training a new bartender requires a well-structured program covering theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to effectively train a new hire.

Start with the Basics

Introduce the new bartender to the basic tools and techniques of the trade. This includes familiarizing them with different types of drinks, teaching them how to use bartending tools like shakers and jiggers, and demonstrating basic mixing techniques.

Use a Training Manual

A bartender training manual can be a valuable tool for new hires. It should cover everything from the bar’s history, the drinks menu, recipes, and pouring techniques, to handling cash, customer service, and cleaning procedures. This is one checklist we found online that can be printed out.

Hands-On Training

While theory and guidelines are important, nothing beats hands-on experience. Allow new bartenders to practice making drinks, using the POS system, and interacting with customers under the supervision of an experienced bartender.

Shadowing Experienced Bartenders

Observing experienced bartenders can be a valuable learning experience for new hires. They can learn how to manage a busy bar, deal with difficult customers, and make drinks efficiently.

Regular Feedback and Evaluation

Provide regular feedback to help the new bartender improve. This can include praise for things done well, constructive criticism for areas of improvement, and open discussions about any challenges they face.

Encourage Continuous Learning

Encourage new bartenders to update their knowledge and skills continuously. This could be through reading bartending books, attending workshops, or participating in mixology competitions.

Training a new bartender is a process that requires patience, guidance, and a well-structured training program. With these steps, you can ensure that your new hire becomes a skilled and confident bartender ready to deliver excellent service.

Train for Food and Drink Pairing

Understanding the subtle art of food and drink pairing can add another dimension to a bartender’s skill set. Bartenders who can suggest menu items to pair with drinks offer an enhanced customer experience.

Listen to Bartending Podcasts

Podcasts can be a great resource for continuous learning and staying updated with industry trends. Many restaurants and bars encourage their staff to tune into popular bartending podcasts.

Restaurant Bartending

Bartending in a restaurant setting comes with its unique challenges and rewards. These include coordinating with the kitchen staff, understanding the menu, and managing the busy bar during meal times.

Mixology Presentation

The presentation of a cocktail can be just as important as its taste. How bartenders present their craft cocktails can greatly influence a customer’s perception and enjoyment of the drink.

Train With Jiggers

The jigger, a vital tool in mixology, ensures precision and consistency in your cocktails. A jigger dispenses exact amounts of liquor, preventing over-pouring and maintaining the balance of flavours in the drink.

Train for Free-Pouring Skills

While jiggers are great, the skill of free pouring is a must-have for speed and efficiency. However, this requires significant practice and precision, as over-pouring can lead to wasted liquor and inconsistent cocktail flavours.

How Do You Retain Bartenders?

Retaining your best bartenders can be a strategic advantage. Let’s explore how to achieve that. Providing a positive work environment, competitive wages, and growth opportunities are some ways to retain your skilled bar staff.

Craft Cocktails

The resurgence of craft cocktails offers bartenders an opportunity to showcase their creativity and knowledge. Creating these craft cocktails involves a deeper understanding of mixing drinks and pairing flavours, making it an exciting part of bartender training.

How Do You Hire the Right People for Your Bar?

Hiring the right people for important roles in your bar goes beyond just checking off skill sets. You should look for individuals who are passionate about the bar industry, have good customer service skills, and are willing to learn and grow.

Learn From Bar Blogs and Websites

In today’s digital age, bar blogs and websites can be a wealth of knowledge for budding and experienced bartenders alike. They offer insights into the latest trends, best practices, and innovative cocktail recipes.

Host In-House Tastings and History Lessons

Hosting in-house tastings and history lessons can deepen your team’s knowledge and appreciation for the beverages they serve guests. This also enhances their ability to sell and suggest drinks to guests, improving overall customer service.

Cocktail and Bar Books

From timeless classics to modern mixology guides, cocktail and bar books can be a bartender’s best friend. They are excellent resources for learning new cocktail recipes and understanding the history and culture of bartending.

Resources and Tips to Grow as a Bartender

Let’s delve into various resources and practical tips that can aid your growth as a bartender. These include attending bartending school, taking online courses, and learning from experienced bartenders.

Take Bar Training Seriously

Bartending is a profession that demands continuous learning and practice, making serious bar training necessary. This applies to all aspects of the job, from serving guests to cleaning up at last call.

Customer Service

Excellent customer service is the heart and soul of any successful bar operation. This involves more than just serving customers their drinks; it includes engaging with them, understanding their preferences, and creating a memorable experience.

Join the United States Bartenders’ Guild

Becoming a member of the United States Bartenders’ Guild can open up many opportunities and benefits. It provides access to a community of professionals, educational resources, and industry events.

Essential Bartender Checklist

Every new or experienced bartender should have a checklist of essentials. This list ensures that they are well-prepared to provide excellent service and create an unforgettable drinking experience for their guests.

Bartending Tools

Having the right tools on hand is a key part of efficient bartending. This includes a cocktail shaker, jigger, strainer, bar spoon, muddler, and a variety of glasses for different types of drinks.

“Your tools are an extension of your skills. Knowing how to use each one effectively can elevate your cocktail game to new heights.”

Knowledge of Basic Drinks

Bartenders should have a firm understanding of how to make the most common drinks. This includes classic cocktails like the Martini, Old Fashioned, and Mojito and understanding the basics of serving wine and beer. Here are some ways you can memorize drinks.

Customer Service Skills

Bartenders must be prepared to provide excellent customer service. This includes communicating effectively, handling difficult situations gracefully, and making customers feel welcome and valued.

“Great bartenders understand that their role isn’t just about mixing drinks—it’s about creating memorable experiences for every guest.”

Cleanliness and Organization

Keeping your bar clean and organized is essential. This includes everything from cleaning glasses and tools to ensuring your bar is well-stocked and your workspace is clean and tidy.

“A clean and organized bar isn’t just about aesthetics—it’s a sign of professionalism and respect for your craft and customers.”

Knowledge of Local and State Laws

Bartenders should be well-versed in the local and state laws regarding alcohol service. This includes understanding the legal drinking age, how to check IDs, and when to refuse service.

It goes without saying that staff should have the proper valid certifications to serve alcohol in your jurisdiction.

Ability to Work Under Pressure

Bars can get busy, and a good bartender should be able to stay calm and efficient under pressure. This includes managing multiple orders at once, dealing with challenging customers, and maintaining a positive attitude.

“In the heat of a busy night, a bartender’s ability to stay cool under pressure is their superpower. It’s what keeps the drinks flowing and the customers happy.”

Continuous Learning

Finally, an essential part of any bartender’s checklist is the commitment to continuous learning. This includes staying up-to-date with the latest drink trends, refining your skills, and always striving to improve your craft.

“In the ever-evolving world of bartending, the thirst for knowledge is what separates the good bartenders from the great ones.”

Related Bar Business Resources

Here are some additional resources that can help you run your bar or restaurant business more effectively. These include books on restaurant management, online forums for restaurant owners, and training manuals for various restaurant roles.

Work Other Jobs in Restaurants and Bars

Gaining experience in various roles within the hospitality industry can give you a holistic understanding of the business. Many bartenders find that working in different jobs, such as a server position or kitchen staff, can provide valuable insights into the overall functioning of bar staff within a restaurant.

Questions to Expect in an Interview for Bartending Jobs

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, but being prepared for the kind of questions you might face can help ease your anxiety. If you’re interviewing for a bartending job, here are some questions you might encounter and how you might approach them.

What interests you about bartending?

This question seeks to understand your passion for the job. You might talk about your interest in mixology, the social aspect of the job, or your desire to provide great customer service.

“Bartending is a unique blend of creativity, customer service, and expertise. I’m drawn to the excitement and energy of the bar scene and the opportunity to create memorable experiences for guests.”

How would you handle a difficult customer?

This question is about your problem-solving and customer service skills. You could talk about a time when you handled a difficult situation professionally and calmly.

“In such situations, patience, empathy, and professionalism are key. I would listen to the customer’s concerns, apologize if necessary, and do my best to resolve the issue to their satisfaction.”

Can you describe a time when you had to work under pressure?

Bartending can be a high-pressure job, especially during busy hours. This question demonstrates your ability to stay calm and efficient under pressure.

“During a particularly busy night at my previous job, I had to manage multiple orders simultaneously. Despite the rush, I stayed focused, prioritized tasks effectively, and delivered excellent service.”

How do you stay updated on the latest drink trends?

This question gauges your passion for continuous learning and staying relevant in your field. You might mention industry blogs, books, or workshops you follow or attend.

“I regularly read industry blogs and books, and I’m also part of a few bartending communities online. I also love experimenting with new recipes and techniques in my spare time.”

How would you check a customer’s ID?

This question assesses your knowledge of legal responsibilities and your commitment to the safety and well-being of your customers.

“I would ask for the ID politely but firmly and check the date of birth, the expiration date, and the photo. I understand the importance of this process in maintaining a responsible drinking environment.”

How would you upsell a drink or a food item?

Upselling is an important skill in the bar and restaurant business. This question allows you to demonstrate your sales skills and knowledge of the products you’re selling.

“The key to upselling is knowing your products well and making personalized recommendations. For example, if a customer orders a gin and tonic, I might suggest trying it with a premium gin we have on offer.”

Preparing for these questions can help you confidently and professionally present yourself in your bartending job interview. Remember, every question is an opportunity to showcase your skills, passion, and commitment to the role.

5 Tips for Your First Day as a Bartender

A Journey to Mastery: Final Thoughts

Embarking on a career in bartending can be exciting and rewarding, provided you arm yourself with the right knowledge, skills, training and mindset. This comprehensive guide has covered the key aspects of bartender training, offering both new and experienced bartenders a path to mastery.

Bartender Training Checklist FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions about bar staff training and restaurant training manuals.

What are the 5 Ps of bartending?

The five Ps of bartending is Preparation, Presentation, Professionalism, Passion, and Profitability.

  1. Preparation involves being ready for service with a well-stocked bar, clean equipment, and a good understanding of the menu.
  2. Presentation refers to the appearance of both the bartender and the drinks they serve.
  3. Professionalism involves behaving courteously and responsibly, even under pressure.
  4. Passion is the love for the craft and the desire to learn and improve continually.
  5. Profitability involves efficient operations and good customer service that drives repeat business.

What are the five important attributes of a bartender?

The five essential attributes of a bartender are customer service skills, knowledge, efficiency, physical stamina, and personality.

  • Good customer service skills ensure patrons have a positive experience.
  • Knowledge of drinks, mixology, and bar operation is crucial.
  • Efficiency is needed in managing orders, especially during busy times.
  • Physical stamina is required as bartending is a physically demanding job.
  • Personality traits such as friendliness and good communication skills help create a welcoming environment.

How do I teach my new bartender?

Training a new bartender involves combining theoretical instruction and hands-on training. Start with a comprehensive bartender training manual detailing the key responsibilities and procedures of the role. Supplement this with hands-on training during off-peak hours, allowing the new hire to learn the basics, such as operating the POS system, making basic drinks, and understanding the bar’s layout. Mentorship by experienced bartenders can also be beneficial.

What do I need to practice bartending?

To practice bartending, you will need a basic set of bartending tools such as a cocktail shaker, jigger, strainer, muddler, bar spoon, and a variety of glasses. Additionally, you will need a selection of spirits, mixers, and garnishes to make various drinks. Knowledge of cocktail recipes and bartending techniques is also necessary.

How do I prepare for my first day bartending?

Preparing for your first day of bartending involves understanding the bar layout, menu items, and the POS system. Ensure you know the most commonly ordered drinks and how to make them. Arrive early to prepare your workstation and be ready to learn and adapt quickly.

What are the 4 competencies of bartending?

The four competencies of bartending are technical skills, customer service skills, product knowledge, and salesmanship.

Technical skills involve making drinks, operating bar equipment, and managing the bar area (including cleaning). Customer service skills are crucial for providing a positive experience for patrons. Product knowledge allows bartenders to answer customer questions and make recommendations. Salesmanship involves upselling and promoting specials to increase revenue.

Do you pour liquor or soda first?

Typically, you pour the liquor or wine first and then top it with the soda. This order helps to mix the ingredients naturally without stirring, maintaining the carbonation of the soda.

What are the 4 parts of a cocktail?

The four main parts of a cocktail are the base (the main spirit), the modifier (secondary spirits or mixers that complement the base), the accent (small amounts of flavorful ingredients), and the garnish (used for decoration and slight flavour enhancement).

This is sometimes simplified as spirits, sugar, water and bitters as the basis of most classic cocktails.

How many counts are in a shot?

A standard shot in the U.S. is typically 1.5 ounces, which is usually counted as a “4-count” pour in bartending terms. This means you’d count “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, four-one thousand” while pouring to get the correct amount.

What is a 4-count pour?

A “4-count pour” is a bartending technique to measure a shot without using a jigger or other measuring tool. As you pour, you count (yes, “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, etc.”) to four. Each count is roughly equal to half an ounce, aiming to stop on the fourth count to achieve a 1.5-2 ounce pour, which is a standard shot.

What are the six basic drinks?

The six basic drinks, also known as the “six basic cocktails,” are the Old Fashioned, Martini, Daiquiri, Sidecar, Whiskey Highball, and Flip. These classic cocktails cover a range of spirits and mixology techniques, and many other drinks are variations.

What is a jigger pour?

A jigger pour refers to using a jigger, a bartending tool used to measure spirits and other liquid ingredients in cocktail recipes. Jiggers come in various sizes but most commonly measure 1.5 ounces on one side and 1 ounce or 0.75 ounces on the other. Using a jigger helps ensure consistency and accuracy in cocktail making.