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The Mixology Talk Podcast, Episode #130

Brand reps are a key part of any successful bar – but they aren’t all perfect. Here’s what to do if you’re not getting what you need from your reps.

Click here to Subscribe on your Smartphone and never miss an Episode!
On your iPhone:
  • Look for the iPhone’s default “Podcasts App”. It may already be there, or you may need to download it. It looks like this:
  • In the app, click “Search” in the bottom-right corner and search for “Mixology Talk Podcast
  • Click on the icon under the “Podcasts” section, and in the next screen click the purple “Subscribe” button.

Note:
If you prefer, you can also subscribe using the “Stitcher” app, also free & available in the App store.

On your Android Phone:
  • Download the “Stitcher” app from the Play store by searching for “Stitcher”
  • Click on the “Search” icon and search for “Mixology Talk Podcast
  • Click “+” to add the show to your Playlist.
Watch Now:

Saving Face: Making the Most of a Bad Brand Rep - Mixology Talk Podcast - YouTube

In today’s Episode…

It’s all about the brand rep. Got a good one? Great! Not so much? Let’s talk.

There are definitely things you can do to improve your existing brand relationships and the first and most important step is communication. Chances are pretty good your rep wants you to be happy with them and the service they are providing! Give them the opportunity to serve you better by communicating what you need.

If that’s just not working, you do have options – watch the episode above for a few more ideas and some thoughts on how to navigate this issue gracefully.

Was this Podcast helpful? Click Here to Give us a Rating in iTunes!
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Your reviews really matter – they help more people find us in iTunes and help us improve this Podcast!

Thanks for Listening!

Let’s hear your stories in the comments – tell us about your best and worst reps!

Saving Face: Making the Most of a Bad Brand Rep is a post from: A Bar Above Mixology

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If you are looking to make the next step in your bartending career or you just love geeking out on new techniques for cocktail design, becoming a lead bartender could be a really good move for you.

The lead bartender role can be the perfect “Goldilocks” scenario for many bartenders. Depending on the arrangement you make with your bar, you could get a bump in pay, preferential shifts, creative freedom with the menu, and potentially reimbursement for further educational events like Tales of the cocktail or classes like our Mixology Certification.

I know all of this sounds great, but it is not all fun and games. There are also additional responsibilities that come with this role and new skills that you will need to develop.

Role and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of a lead bartender can vary from place to place. Often the bar manager or another manager will assume many of these responsibilities that would be covered in the role of a lead bartender if the position does not exist. And in many craft bars, this specialized role is vital for staying up to speed on what’s popular and trending in the bar community as well as establishing strong ties in the craft community as well.

Below are some of the duties a lead bartender should be prepared to fulfill on a day to day basis. (These are just some of the duties that would exist if you were to include them in the job description – but will differ from bar to bar.)

  • Drink Creation
  • Drink Pricing
  • Communicating recipes, cocktail names and descriptions with owners and managers for printing new menus
  • New menu roll out
  • Syrup/infusions and other ingredient production
  • Staff tastings and training
  • Act as main bartender during busy shifts/ private events
  • Organizing systems for production and day to day operations (checklists, prep sheets, ordering sheets, etc.)
  • Negotiating pricing with distributors.
  • Representing the bar / restaurant to the media about drinks and trends
What skills will you need?

All of these new responsibilities will take time to fully understand and master. As you move up the ladder towards management, your cocktail shaker and strainer will start to take a back seat to a computer, a phone and spreadsheets.

Drink Creation

If you are applying for a position of lead bartender (or are about to talk to your employer about adding this role), most likely you are passionate about this part of the job. You know the basics of syrup production, how to infuse and how to put a few ingredients together to make a tasty cocktail. Being able to spend some of your time developing new cocktail recipes is one of the biggest benefits to a bar program and one of the key duties of the lead bartender position.

As with any skill, you don’t learn mixology once and then move on – there are always new techniques and technology being created to make this part of the job easier. Check out our Mixology Certification Program if you want to learn more about drink creation. This would also be a great addition to your resume to stand out from the other applicants.

Developing Training Material

Now that you’ve come up with the next batch of cocktails, you will need to be able to communicate to other bartenders/managers how to make these new, delicious drinks. That means documenting how to make the syrups/infusions, the recipe for the cocktail, glassware, garnish and any relevant history/stories about the drink itself. You may even have to make new par sheets, vendor lists, and side work checklists for the new menu.

Communication

Communication is one of the biggest skills that a lead bartender will need to develop in order to be successful in this role. There will be a lot of in person meetings, emails and phone calls that you will need to be prepared for and to efficiently get your needs/points across.

You are now starting to take ownership over some of the critical business processes and other people are relying on you to get your portion of a bigger job done. You’ll want to be able to communicate clearly with the right people and by the right medium (in person, emails, phone, etc.) to get the message across and keep the bar running smoothly.

Organization

Organization is the next critical skill that you will have to develop for this role. You may have to put some time and energy learning new technology like spreadsheets, ordering software, analytics software, and task management software. While you could always go the old school “paper and pen” route, many of these processes are just faster once you learn the new programs – and they are great skills to invest in learning for your own development as well.

Spreadsheets will become more and more important as you develop in your career. Many bar managers are ninjas when it comes to spreadsheet creation and can develop spreadsheets that examine critical parts of the bar program. Mastering spreadsheets early will have long term benefits for your career and potentially many other aspects of your life. While Microsoft Excel is by far the most widely accepted, Google Sheets is a great alternative and it comes with the added benefit of being free. I highly recommend watching some YouTube videos and learning the basics of how to work with spreadsheets.

Many bar programs also use ordering/inventory platforms like Bevspot, Partender or Bevager. These platforms are very intuitive to use and offer a ton of support materials to become more proficient at mastering the software. They also have strong data gathering abilities which is always a good thing to become familiar with. Be warned: they can also take some time to learn. If you have the opportunity, invest the time in learning about the platforms your bar uses. You’ll quickly see the benefit of the insights they provide.

There are quite a few task management/project management platforms out there. Asana, Evernote and Slack are just a few examples of the types of software that I’ve heard of being used in bars and restaurants to help keep tasks, responsibilities and communication organized.

Leadership Skills

Once you move into the role of the lead bartender, you are no longer just responsible for you and your station, you now are the leader of your bar team. You have to lead by example and not only look after yourself but after the whole bar team now.

Skills like how to motivate and inspire a staff sound easy, but it can be one of the hardest parts of this job for many. Luckily there are many books and resources available if you want to develop this skill. (This is one of my personal favorites.)

Creating the Role

If you work at a bar that already has this position established, then it’s much easier to work towards this position. If however, you work at a bar that does not have this position already, you may be able to make the case to create the position, and step into it yourself.

Benefits of the lead bartender position for the business:

  • Creates a specialized role in the bar to enhance the bar program. (The result of this is usually a better bar program for the guests)
  • A better trained staff
  • The staff will have an increased sense of ownership over the beverage program, sidework, cleanliness, etc
  • The above may allow you to increase your price point on drinks (due to improved guest experience)
  • Frees up many of the responsibilities of other managers, so their time can be more focused on creating new strategies for increased revenue, higher profitability, decreased costs, etc.

While it may not make sense in every bar, the lead bartender position is a great stepping stone for any bartender looking to get his/her feet wet with “light” management duties and more responsibility over the cocktail menu. It can also give you an opportunity to flex your “mixology” skills and have some fun! As you look forward in your career, think about whether this role may make sense for you, and start working on growing the appropriate skills in advance so you can step in when the opportunity arises.

Taking the Lead: How to Get Promoted to Lead Bartender is a post from: A Bar Above Mixology

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In the previous article, we explored the history and concept of apprenticeship and how it applies to tending bar. While there is no textbook for apprentice bartenders, there’s no shortage of ways to learn a new set of skills. In this article, we’ll examine what the back of house has to teach the front of house by looking closer at an age-old kitchen tradition: The Stage Shift.

What is a “Stage Shift”?

Much of bartending comes from traditions of the kitchen, and it’s no mistake that chef coats, knife skills, and back-of-house lingo are all common threads. Checking and double-checking mis-en-place is a pre-opening ritual. Drinks are a la minute and always soigné AF, (be it a can of Miller High Life or a sparkling Negroni). Our rushes are to be handled with composure, and the boards are to be cleared ASAP, with no misfires.

One kitchen term in particular, “stage” (pronounced stahhdge), is especially important to bartending.

“Stagiaire”, French, pronounced “stazhjer”
Translation: trainee, apprentice, or intern.

The word has French roots, as does most tradition in modern kitchens. “Stagiaire” translates roughly to trainee, or, apprentice. In practice, a stage is a generally an unpaid working interview or a learning exchange. Would-be line cooks or bartenders get a chance to see what real service looks like, and the chef-de-cuisine or lead bartender gets a chance to see how the candidate performs in a “real life” situation.

Not limited to job interviews, stages are also sometimes extended as a professional courtesy and community building exercise, for those looking to examine different techniques or styles of service. (This is more common at higher-end cocktail bars and restaurants.) While some may raise an eyebrow at the level of experience gleaned from a night of service in a strange bar, it all depends on your point of view, and where you stage.

Straight to the Source

For those willing to make the journey, different markets or destination bars and restaurants can offer techniques and lessons beyond the bar down your street.

Sean “Admiral” Enright, GM of Spork in Pittsburgh, PA, has been in the restaurant industry for over 25 years and had the opportunity to stage at molecular-mixology mecca, Aviary, in Chicago. “There are really no other opportunities to experience something like that unless you go straight to the source as I did at Aviary,” says Enright. As the world of food and beverage continues to evolve, it’s the bartender that’s keeping their professional mis-en-place tight that often makes the most of opportunity.

“With all the unique, different styles of bartending available to the consumer now, I think stages are invaluable tools,” says Enright, “any education raises the quality of service that you provide to your guests.”

While your home bar might not be ready for an extensive draft cocktail system, ice program or barrel-aged cocktail calendar, any successful bar will always have something you can bring home and adapt to your own systems. “Try to use the knowledge gained as it will be most useful in your setting,” says Enright.

Seizing the Opportunity

If you have your eyes on a prize like a night of service at Aviary or another top-shelf destination, coming correct is a priority. You’re not only representing yourself, but you’re representing your home bar and market. Treat these interactions as you would any job interview.

If you’re reaching out to a place you have no prior relationship with, work the appropriate channels. Emails and phone calls should be professional and succinct.

Leaning on your Network

If you’re looking to your own social network to help make a connection, remember to pay these kinds of favors forward. The strongest relationships are premised on mutual value, so bring something to the table and help build community.

If you’ve cultivated good relationships around your city, asking for a few hours of instruction behind someone else’s bar is often an easy order to fill. Many are happy to teach what they have learned, and having a new face behind the bar can break up the monotony of a mid-week shift. Additionally, at the end of a successful stage, you’ve either landed a job or cast yourself as someone to call should a position open up.

Cultivating this same work ethic and goodwill when reaching out to bars on a national or even international level will not only help get you what you want, but expands the potential for future career moves. At the very least, you’ve added a new technique or two to your arsenal.

Starting the Connection

If you don’t have a personal network to leverage, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out directly by email.

An example of an email might look something like this:

Hello (Bar Manager),

My name is Jane Bartender. I’m a colleague of (former stage, work connection, former employee, etc). After hearing about their experience as a stagiaire with your program, I was intrigued. We’ve since had many conversations on the subject, and they’ve introduced me to some new techniques. I expressed a desire to seek out a stagiaire position and follow their lead, and they suggested that I contact you.

I was hoping to visit your market in the next few months, and was wondering if we could discuss a potential stagiaire arrangement. My home bar is wine-focused, and I was hoping to broaden my knowledge base during my visit. Your draft cocktail system is something both myself and my bar’s owners are curious about.

I know running a program such as Fancypants puts a lot on your plate, and I thank you for your time.

I hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience.

Best,
Jane Bartender

All in the Family

If you work for a bar that is part of a larger restaurant family with multiple concepts, you may be ahead of the game. A stage may be as easy as contacting the Beverage Manager at a sister restaurant. If you’re curious about a stage in a sister restaurant, schedule a meeting with your manager and start the process.

Not only does it give you some of the knowledge you’re looking for, but the intimidation factor of being a fish out of water is diminished if the person overseeing your stage is someone you may know or have worked with in the past.

In these instances, a phone call or setting up some face-time can get the ball rolling. Even if you have a casual relationship with your colleague, keeping your professional game face on is never a bad call. Don’t be overly familiar or disrespectful. You’re asking to be a guest behind their bar.

A simple email or phone call would look something like this:

Hey (Beverage Manager,)

I mentioned to my General Manager that I was interested in learning how you run the barrel-age portion of your beverage program and he said to ask you for a tour. I was hoping to come by sometime next week if you’re not busy! If you’ll be loading a new barrel any time soon, I would also love to see how you build your drinks and potentially help out if you need an extra set of hands.

Thanks,
Joe Bartender

Making the Pieces Fit

A stage is a great way to apprentice yourself while beefing up your resume and skill set. Getting outside of your comfort zone and visiting new markets and bars will only make you a better hospitality professional. After you’ve completed a turn or two behind a different bar, take some time to marinate in the experience.

“I recommend reflecting on the experience for 1-2 weeks after your stage,” says Enright. It can be tempting to put your new knowledge to work right away, but, he adds, “not all the pieces will fit, no matter how hard you try and force them. It’s best to have a full, well mapped idea of how you’re going to use your new knowledge.”

In the next article, we’ll examine a less formal cousin to the stage, the guest shift. While traditionally more free-wheeling than the stagiaire, the guest bartender has every opportunity to learn a few new tricks while making a few dollars besides.

The Stage Shift: A Shortcut to Experience at the World’s Best Cocktail Bars is a post from: A Bar Above Mixology

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The Mixology Talk Podcast, Episode #129

“Inventory” isn’t a bad word! Here’s how to do inventory without the frustration so you can start seeing the benefits for your bottom line.

This week we’re partnering with BevSpot for an episode all about inventory. Trevor Bernatchez is BevSpot’s Customer Success Manager and also has years of experience behind a wide variety of bars. In short: he’s done inventory a lot. He’s here to help us learn more about inventory, how to do it well and how to make it a part of your bar’s regular operations.

Click here to Subscribe on your Smartphone and never miss an Episode!
On your iPhone:
  • Look for the iPhone’s default “Podcasts App”. It may already be there, or you may need to download it. It looks like this:
  • In the app, click “Search” in the bottom-right corner and search for “Mixology Talk Podcast
  • Click on the icon under the “Podcasts” section, and in the next screen click the purple “Subscribe” button.

Note:
If you prefer, you can also subscribe using the “Stitcher” app, also free & available in the App store.

On your Android Phone:
  • Download the “Stitcher” app from the Play store by searching for “Stitcher”
  • Click on the “Search” icon and search for “Mixology Talk Podcast
  • Click “+” to add the show to your Playlist.
Watch Now:

In today’s Episode… We’re going over some of the common misconceptions and pitfalls of bar inventory. In short: it doesn’t have to be awful!

Watch our chat in the video above to learn more from Trevor’s experience behind bars and working with bars. We discuss:

  • Why is inventory an important task for bars to prioritize?
  • Why should a bartender care about inventory?
  • Where to start if your bar isn’t doing inventory today
  • Tips & tricks for making inventory easier and faster
Stuff we Mentioned:

BevSpot has a lot of great resources and free tools on their website. Here are some you may find particularly useful:

And of course, you can find BevSpot on Instagram (@BevSpotHQ), Twitter (@BevSpot) and Facebook.

Was this Podcast helpful? Click Here to Give us a Rating in iTunes!
Click Here First

Then click “View in iTunes” under the Podcast Image on the left and enter your rating on the “Ratings and Reviews” tab in iTunes.

Thanks!

Your reviews really matter – they help more people find us in iTunes and help us improve this Podcast!

Thanks!

Thanks again to BevSpot for sponsoring this episode, and Trevor for taking the time to join us! I hope you learned a lot from this discussion – I certainly did.

Bar Inventory: Why it’s Important and Where to Start with Trevor Bernatchez from BevSpot is a post from: A Bar Above Mixology

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Updated: July 2 2018

They are two of the best known classic whiskey cocktails, and it’s safe to say that you can order them at pretty much any bar.  The Manhattan and the Old Fashioned are both delicious cocktails made with whiskey – so what’s the difference anyway, and how should you know which one to order the next time you stop by your neighborhood cocktail bar?

Disclaimer: Old Fashioneds are one cocktail that are made very differently by different people. The following article is based on the “traditional” recipe of the Old Fashioned, but may not be what you get if you order one at your local watering hole.

TL;DR: The Manhattan vs The Old Fashioned:

Want a quick recap? Here’s a very high level overview of the differences between these two iconic and classic whiskey cocktails:

The Manhattan is:
  • Made with whiskey (usually bourbon), Sweet Vermouth & Angostura bitters (no syrup).
  • Typically served “up” (in a stemmed cocktail or martini glass) and garnished with a cocktail cherry.
  • A strong cocktail with slight bitterness and some herbal undertones from the bitters and vermouth. Seasoned drinkers may pick up underlying sweetness from the Sweet Vermouth & whiskey.
  • Choose a Manhattan if you’re looking for something multi-dimensional with very little sweetness.
The Old Fashioned is:
  • Made with Whiskey (often Bourbon or Rye), bitters, and sugar.
  • Typically served in an “Old Fashioned” glass (think: rocks glass without ice) and garnished with a slice/peel of orange and / or cherry.
  • Another strong cocktail that’s definitely on the sweeter side. A seasoned drinker will also pick up slight herbal and bitter undertones from the bitters.
  • Choose the Old Fashioned if you’re looking for something a little on the sweeter side.
What’s in the Glass

While the Manhattan and Old Fashioned share 2/3 of their ingredients, the final cocktails are quite different. Here’s why:

Manhattans are made with Bourbon whiskey, Sweet Vermouth and Angostura Bitters.

Old Fashioneds are made with Bourbon or Rye whiskey, Angostura Bitters and sugar (or simple syrup.)

The key difference between the two is the sweetener – and it makes all the difference! The Manhattan uses Sweet Vermouth and the Old Fashioned uses plain sugar.

Sweet Vermouth is a type of aromatized fortified wine. In plain English: It’s wine that’s had alcohol added and been infused with other flavors. (Typically herbs and botanicals that add flavor, aroma, and usually some bitterness.) It’s also not terribly sweet (despite its name).

How Does the Taste Compare?

The result of using Sweet Vermouth instead of syrup or sugar in the Manhattan cocktail does two things: first, it keeps the drink fairly dry. Experienced drinkers will certainly notice the sweetness from the Sweet Vermouth, but folks who are used to a Whiskey Sour or Mojito may find this a much drier option.

Secondly, the vermouth adds a lot of additional flavor. Manhattan drinkers will often tell you the reason they love this cocktail is for its complexity. That layered flavor comes (at least in part) from the infused botanicals in the vermouth.

Old Fashioneds, on the other hand, are traditionally made with a simple sugar cube muddled with bitters in the bottom of the glass. It’s sweet, yes, but the sugar brings very little else to the cocktail. As such I’d argue the Old Fashioned is not anywhere near as complex of a cocktail – but that’s not a bad thing. I think it lets the flavor of the whiskey shine through nicely. Sugar is also much sweeter than Sweet Vermouth, so the final cocktail tastes sweeter than a Manhattan as well.

Glass & Garnish

Glass: Sitting next to each other, these two cocktails look pretty different! That’s because the Manhattan is traditionally served “up” in a Martini, Cocktail or Coupe glass and the Old Fashioned is typically served in an Old Fashioned glass. (No surprise there.) If you’re not familiar, and Old Fashioned glass is very similar to a rocks glass.

Garnish: As for garnish, the Manhattan is pretty consistent: you’ll usually receive your cocktail with one or three cocktail cherries for garnish. (Not two: that’s bad form.) Garnish on the Old Fashioned varies quite a bit – from the “fruit salad” approach (several cherries + a large wedge of orange) to the more traditional (and simpler) piece of orange rind. In short: if there’s citrus, it’s probably not a Manhattan.

What about ice? Neither of these cocktails are traditionally served with ice. That’s because they are both “spirit forward” drinks and designed to taste fairly strong. Adding ice would water down that strength.

How to Make Them:

If you’ve read this far then you’ve probably made up your mind about which cocktail you’d like to enjoy this evening. If you’re at home and looking for a recipe, look no farther!

The Manhattan Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 oz Angostura Bitters

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and add ice.
  2. Stir to chill.
  3. Strain and serve “up.” Garnish with a brandied cherry.
The Old Fashioned Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 oz Whiskey (typically Rye or Bourbon)
  • 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
  • 2 dashes Bitters
  • 1 twist Orange Peel
  • 1 each Maraschino (Brandied) Cherry (Optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine syrup and bitters in a mixing glass and stir to combine
  2. Add whiskey, then ice. Stir.
  3. Strain into an old fashioned glass or bucket with fresh ice
  4. Garnish with an orange peel and (if preferred) a Maraschino Cherry.
Cheers!

The Manhattan vs. The Old Fashioned is a post from: A Bar Above Mixology

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Is “dive” a complimentary term for a bar? Or is it a wretched place that swims so far below decency you’d never admit to working at one?

Playboy defines “dive” with a touch of elegance:

A church for down-and-outers and those who romanticize them. A rare place where high and low rub elbows — bums and poets, thieves and slumming celebrities. It’s a place that wears its history proudly.

Dive bars come in two styles. Some are comfortable, anti-fancy, non-pretentious, come-as-you-are joints you can slip into like your favorite slippers. Others are dirty, dingy, uncared for, dilapidated holes that smell like, well, old footwear.

Even the saddest ones have regulars who love them. The best dives give you all of what you want and none of what you don’t: a relaxed atmosphere, cheap drinks, graffiti on the walls and a bartender who knows your name. Throw peanut shells on the floor. Show up with your dirty work shirt untucked and your hair rumpled. A dive bar doesn’t judge.

But what’s it like to work at one? Can you find a good career at a dive?

Dive versus Non-Dive

How does working at a humble dive compare to working at a restaurant bar, a hotel bar or any higher class drinking establishment?

  1. Your checks will definitely be lower. The same pint will be cheaper at a dive then at a swankier place. The 15 to 20% you earn is obviously more on a bigger check.
  2. You’ll probably work later, but this can be an advantage if it fits in your lifestyle. Depending on your state laws, you may work with gambling games such as pull tabs. These may turn you off, but it’s another source of income.
  3. It may change the perception of your resume: How does Fizzy McDrinksalot look on your resume? Maybe local employers recognize it, but it means little if you are job hunting around the country. A big name chain may catch more eyes.

Furthermore, are you looking to move up in your career? Working for a bigger organization may teach you more and provide more upward mobility. At a stand-alone bar with a dozen employees, there’s not far to go.

Working at a dive is not for everyone. You’ll have a rougher crowd, but at the end of the day why do we do this? To have fun and earn money, right?

So… is Fancier Better?

I’ve been guilty many, many times of judging a job by its facade. I bring my resume only to the places with quality names, desirable locations, high prices and cache. I want people to say: “Ooh, you work at the Maison D’ivresse*? How chic.”

I’ve been turned off by places with low-end wells that pump out vast quantities of domestic yellow beer. If I looked in the window and saw (yuck) pull tabs, I was probably never walking in.

And I’ve been wrong. Trust me, there’s money to be made in a humble local tavern. In the right one, you’ll find steady work, loyal regulars, freedom to be yourself and room to grow.

Big name restaurants, hotels and bars have a strong idea of how things should be done. They have rigid management structures. They have corporate standards. They’re not very forgiving and it’s hard to be an individual working there.

And at the end of the day, will you make more money at a fancy place? It’s hard to say. The check averages may be higher but you may be one cog on a large team and once everything is split up, you could find yourself disappointed in how much you fold into your own pocket.

Scouting Potential Employers

When deciding if a particular dive bar will be a good employer, first determine which of the styles I mentioned in the intro your target lands in: Is it a comfortable, humble place or is it just a dump?

Go there and hang out on the sly. Use the bathroom. (It probably looks just like the kitchen.) You likely won’t find marble but you shouldn’t find neglect and filth. You don’t have to be a swanky saloon to scrub the toilet.

Talk to the guests. Do they hang out there often? What good and bad things do they say? Do they live or work nearby?

Making money on Thanksgiving or Mother’s Day isn’t hard. Making it on an ordinary Tuesday can be, and you have a lot more Tuesdays. What you need is a core group of neighbors that drops by for no reason at all.

So walk the neighborhood. Note the proximity of homes and businesses. Who is only a stroll or short drive away?

The Hospitality Crew

You know who the best bar patron is? You are, and workhorses like you. Restaurant and bar people who just busted their butts and have a pocket full of tips are great customers.

You understand them. You’re one of them. They’re patient and cool because they’ve been in your shoes. They tip well, maybe better than fancier diners. They just want to chill.

You might find the best chefs in your town slumped in your stools. After sculpting delicate plates all night, they crave the rumpled simplicity of a good dive.

Being in the midst of restaurant row is a very good thing, especially if you’re the last place open.

Stay Open Late

I used to think that being the last bar open meant you’d see everyone’s worst behavior. This can be true, but being open as late as the law allows is a competitive advantage.

At 5:00 every place in town is open. That list shrinks by 10:00. After midnight, even fewer places have the lights on.

As legal last call approaches, finding a drink can be hard. When they see you’re still open (and cheerful to be open) they’ll be grateful. And you can’t spell gratuity without grateful, (err, sort of.)

You can make your whole night in the last hour. But look out for folks who’ve been to every other bar in town.

I like to ask “What have you been up to tonight?” while checking their ID or dropping a coaster. If they say they’ve been working, they ain’t been drinking (probably) and you have a conversation starter.

If they say they’ve been here and there and then there and then over there, maybe they’ve had enough. May your ax be sharp and swift.

Pull Tabs

I admit I was once prejudiced against pull tabs. I thought they brought in the wrong type of customer. I was incorrect.

You know how to never lose at pull tabs? Never play. Just deal them out. Winners usually tip but losers never charge.

(When you’re scouting the bar, watch to see if winners are leaving 5-10% for the bartender.)

You sell food and drinks, but pull tabs give you another product. If your players get on a lucky streak, you might make half of tonight’s tips from the tabs.

One dude pulling a $500 winner and leaving you $50 at the end of the night will change your shift.

My Dive

My current job I took reluctantly. It didn’t seem to be my type of place. Every table needed a belt sander. It wasn’t in the good part of town. It had those pull tab thingies.

But what sold me were two points: I’d be working mostly by myself and I’d get the late night restaurant crowd.

Let’s do it.

The worn out decor of the place means I’m never worried about polishing. They ain’t here for the furniture.

  • I can make half my tips pulling tabs.
  • I can have one good basket save my night.
  • I now treat counting tabs like the speed well.
  • I take pride in being swift and accurate while keeping my head on a swivel.

And the restaurant folks are the best part. I’ve always had an after work spot, and now I’m that spot. I still have fun and they all tip over 20%. Well, almost all but the fifty-percenters make up for everything.

While I don’t make as many craft drinks as I used to, I’ve convinced some people to let me wing it. They all know I can do it, even if they have a shot and a beer tonight.

I guess it’s a romantic church for the high and low.

In short, it’s the simplest, lowest stress job I’ve had in a long time. A bad night still pays well and the income ceiling is high. The biggest challenge I face is simply volume. Working mostly alone, sometime I have to put on my track shoes.

But we’re built for that, right?

*Maison D’ivresse = House of Drunkenness

The post Working in a Dive Bar: The good, the bad and the sticky. appeared first on A Bar Above.

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The Mixology Talk Podcast, Episode #128

Have you used crab apples in cocktails, adjusted your citrus or tried to replicate a cocktail you had in a bar? You’ll like this episode!

Click here to Subscribe on your Smartphone and never miss an Episode!
On your iPhone:
  • Look for the iPhone’s default “Podcasts App”. It may already be there, or you may need to download it. It looks like this:
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  • Click on the icon under the “Podcasts” section, and in the next screen click the purple “Subscribe” button.

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Watch Now:

Listener Questions: Acid, Crab Apples & Copycats!- Mixology Talk Podcast (Audio) - YouTube

In today’s Episode…

We’re going over three different questions from listeners. Check out the questions below and watch / listen to the video above for our thoughts.

As always, we want to hear from you! If you have a different answer (or know more than we do), please let us know in the comments. We’d love to learn from you!

Question 1, from Micah from Wisconsin:

“I am an amateur with a ever-growing home bar, but I love craft cocktails at many bars, lounges and restaurants, and enjoy trying to recreate them at home for myself. For some reason they never turn out quite the same, even when I am using the exact same brands and ingredients. Do you have any tips on how to best recreate a drink you got that you absolutely loved?
Am I just simply messing up the ratios of the ingredients? Maybe my techniques are off, or even my ice? Or is it maybe that the enjoyable atmosphere of the places just can’t be recreated properly at home, leaving me wanting more? Thanks for any tips you can give.”

Question 2, from Travis from Alberta, Canada:

“Hi guys, love the podcast! I was just wondering what you think is the best way to extract a juice or syrup from crab apples. I’m hoping to try out a crab apple whiskey sour this summer. Background info: Living in the cold north means citrus can get expensive so I wanted to try my hand at something I can grow locally since whiskey sours are one of my favorite drinks.”

Question 3, from Mark from Portland, Connecticut

“I’ve been hearing a bunch lately about how Booker and Dax used to “acid adjust” their citrus, especially orange juice, but I’ve been unable to find out what that means exactly and also how to do it. Any inside info?”

Got questions of your own? We’d love to hear from you! Click here to submit your own questions and we’ll answer them on the podcast!

Stuff we Mentioned:
Was this Podcast helpful? Click Here to Give us a Rating in iTunes!
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The post Working with Crab Apples, Adjusting Acid & Replicating Cocktails: Another Listener Questions Episode! appeared first on A Bar Above.

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In the previous article, we talked about some of the types of bar apprenticeships available to bartenders. While there are not many examples of “textbook” apprenticeships in our industry, there’s no shortage of ways to learn a new set of skills. Whether you work a guest shift here and there, seek out a stage, or apply to be the boots on the ground for a massive cocktail conference, you’re taking part in the tradition of apprenticeship.

In this portion of our exploration of apprenticeship, we’ll be looking at how to set your career on that fast track by finding apprenticeship opportunities that align with your career goals.

The Basics: Choosing a Path

Before you hit the pavement looking for an apprenticeship of your own, it’s worth taking a moment to step back and think about your goals. What are your professional and personal aspirations? Do you want to win mixology competitions or own a local dive bar someday? Your path forward will depend heavily on where you want to end up.

Planning is a huge part of the process, agrees bartender and St. Germain Brand Specialist Amanda Carto. Hailing from Austin, TX, Carto is a two-time Cocktail Apprentice at Tales of the Cocktail and is manager for the Prep Crew at San Antonio Cocktail Conference.

“Set clear, achievable goals with a time frame,” says Carto, “whether it be a week, a year, three years or a decade. You are allowed to edit these goals as you continue your journey. Always be kind to yourself and be kind to others along the way.”

As Carto suggests, don’t get bogged down in the details. You can always change your goals and direction as you learn more about yourself, your preferences, and your industry.

As you outline your goals, look for patterns. These will help establish the best apprenticeship route for you. Your focus will often dictate the people you seek out or befriend. Be careful of walking a path that’s too narrow. Staying open to new ideas and styles of service keeps your options open, whether you’re repping spirits, shaking Daiquiris or slinging beer.

Setting the Stage

If you have your eyes on a prize like a night of service at Aviary or another top-shelf destination, coming correct is a top priority. You’re not only representing yourself, but you’re representing your home bar and market.

For some, a stage may be as easy as contacting the Beverage Manager at a sister restaurant. Many restaurant families have multiple concepts with varying levels of service. If you happen to work in a restaurant group that has a beverage program you’re curious about, schedule a meeting with your manager and start the process. Not only does it give you some of the knowledge you’re looking for, but it helps acquaint you with some of the systems being used at sister restaurants. Additionally, the intimidation factor is diminished if the person overseeing your stage is someone you already know.

If you’ve cultivated good relationships around your city, asking for a few hours of instruction behind someone else’s bar is often an easy order to fill. Many are happy to teach what they have learned, and having a new face behind the bar can break up the monotony of a mid-week shift. Additionally, at the end of a successful stage, you’ve either landed a job or cast yourself as someone to call should a position open up.
Cultivating this same work ethic and goodwill when reaching out to bars on a national or even international level will not only help get you what you want, but expands the potential for future career moves.

If you’re reaching out to a place you have no prior relationship with, work the appropriate channels. Treat these interactions as you would any job interview. Emails and phone calls should be professional and succinct. If you’re looking to your own social network to help make a connection, remember to pay these kinds of favors forward.

Guest for Success

While usually more informal than a stage, treating the experience of a guest shift with the same reverence and effort is a great investment in your future.

Start with asking around town if someone needs a free set of hands. It’s not only a great way to make some quick beer money, but it helps build your reputation as a utility person, a jack of all bars. Being willing to take on duties such as barback shifts also shows humility and helps keep bartenders grounded.

Some bartenders will take time off in between steady jobs and work a series of guest shifts to keep their skills sharp while learning new ones. When it comes time to pick a new bar to call home, they have a much better idea of their strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, they have a strong idea of the style of service and bar they most enjoy.

As a guest bartender, the real currency you earn is the experience. Being able to work a variety of levels of service or handle different styles of bartending keeps your options wide open. When bar managers are having trouble covering shifts, it’s the proven guest bartender that’s on the top of the call list.

Being known as a utility bartender can help when it comes to travel as well. A few well-placed emails or calls and you can set up a few guest shifts to help defray the cost of travel. Not only is this a great way to make connections in new markets, but it also exposes you to new backbar strategies, drink styles and products.

An email or phone call with a quick introduction and timetable will help get the ball rolling. As you grow your professional network, these conversations can become easier and less formal. That said, it’s important to never take the opportunities you’re yielded for granted. If you’re not a good guest, you’re making yourself and your market look bad, and it’s unlikely you’ll be invited for a return engagement. At the end of the day, bars are a business, and while these experiences can be enjoyable, remember to enjoy yourself in a professional fashion.

Apprenticeship at Conferences

While singular stages and guest shifts dole out a shot of experience, apprenticeships at major cocktail events provide a mega dose. With hundreds of attendees, dozens of events, seminars and parties, there’s a lot to be learned. Many cities have cocktail events, such as Thirst Boston or San Diego Cocktail Week, and some have taken a page from Tales of the Cocktail’s organization methods and created an apprentice program that supplies the skilled hands needed for a successful large-scale event.

Applying for SACC’s Team Taco, (the semi-official moniker for the Prep Crew), is more than just an excuse to enjoy San Antonio and tattoo a taco on your body, it’s a very serious affair for serious professionals.

“Team Taco’s mission is to serve as a team of hospitality professionals for the production and execution of seminars at San Antonio Cocktail Conference,” Carto explains. “Every year, we choose roughly 70 individuals from different parts of the world who are at different points of their beverage career. We structure the teams and carry over a culture from year to year where our prep crew members can all mentor one another in hopes to take…our Team Taco ways of leadership, strong work ethic, event execution skill and more…to their own markets.” The experience is a gift that keeps on giving, as Team Taco helps develop “working relationships and friendships that ultimately last years beyond the week we came together to work in San Antonio,” adds Carto.

While the application process for these programs can be a little daunting, fortune favors the bold. Most start with a written application process. Read the questions carefully and consider your answers. Bring polished writing skills, save your drafts and have friends read them over. Whether or not you consider yourself a great writer, it’s always a good plan to have an extra set of eyes helping you edit. Having a friend applying alongside you is also a great way to make sure you both stay motivated and see it through to the end of the process.

Application processes are always evolving, and if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It’s not uncommon to be waitlisted or denied several times before getting into your desired program. A great way to get into a program is to begin working with it before the application process becomes formalized. In their infancy, apprentices for both SACC and TOTC were part of an understaffed corps of volunteers who happened to have spare time. There’s no time like the present to start a relationship with a growing cocktail event. Look for new events in your town and offer to volunteer – chances are good that they will jump at the chance!

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: it’s important to always be mindful of your reputation. While applications for these apprenticeship programs are often anonymous, the bartending world is still fairly small, and bad reputations can precede you. If you’re in the hospitality industry, you’re always on the clock.

Into the Fast Lane

No matter the road you take, always try and be a good example. Be a leader, or at least act like one would. The hard work will pay off, even if you aren’t accepted as an apprentice or a stage. There are always opportunities if you look hard enough. Teamwork, batching, event planning and execution are all skills in high demand in the bartending world, and there’s more than one way to learn their finer points.

As with most things in life, you can only go as far as you’ll let yourself. It’s not always an easy road, but it is a rewarding one. “Believe in the process,” advises Carto, “because there are people who believe in you, your achievements, and your successes yet to come. As you continue on your journey, remember to raise people up along with you.”

The post Your First Bar Apprenticeship: Choosing Where to Start appeared first on A Bar Above.

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The Mixology Talk Podcast, Episode 127

In an age where you can buy strawberries in Alaska in January, what’s the point of a seasonal cocktail menu? And is it right for your bar program?

Click here to Subscribe on your Smartphone and never miss an Episode!
On your iPhone:
  • Look for the iPhone’s default “Podcasts App”. It may already be there, or you may need to download it. It looks like this:
  • In the app, click “Search” in the bottom-right corner and search for “Mixology Talk Podcast
  • Click on the icon under the “Podcasts” section, and in the next screen click the purple “Subscribe” button.

Note:
If you prefer, you can also subscribe using the “Stitcher” app, also free & available in the App store.

On your Android Phone:
  • Download the “Stitcher” app from the Play store by searching for “Stitcher”
  • Click on the “Search” icon and search for “Mixology Talk Podcast
  • Click “+” to add the show to your Playlist.
Listen Now:

Note: We had some technical difficulties with the camera this time, but luckily the audio was saved! We’ll be back to video again next week.

Do you really need a seasonal cocktail menu? - The Mixology Talk Podcast (Audio) - YouTube

In today’s Episode…

Everyone assumes that a seasonal cocktail menu is inherently “better” than a static menu you rarely update. But is that true?

As with anything – it depends!

Things to consider when thinking about a seasonal cocktail menu for your bar (or considering axing it!)

  • Staff Training and Skills
  • Availability of tasty seasonal product
  • Impacts of prep time and other staff availability
  • What makes the most sense for YOUR bar and YOUR customers?

Listen in for a lot more things to think about, and maybe you’ll just rethink whether a seasonal menu is necessarily “better” for your bar after all!

Stuff we Mentioned:

If you’re into this sort of thing, definitely check out our Mixology Certification Program. It’s full of other people like us who care a LOT about great cocktail creation. You might like it here!

Was this Podcast helpful? Click Here to Give us a Rating in iTunes!
Click Here First

Then click “View in iTunes” under the Podcast Image on the left and enter your rating on the “Ratings and Reviews” tab in iTunes.

Thanks!

Your reviews really matter – they help more people find us in iTunes and help us improve this Podcast!

Thanks for Listening!

Are you considering starting (or stopping) a seasonal menu? What factors are helping you choose? Let us know in the comments!

The post Do you really need a seasonal cocktail menu? appeared first on A Bar Above.

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