A Bar Above is a website and video blog about bartending, creating great cocktails and the world of mixology. The blog was created in 2012 by Chris Tunstall, a San Francisco Bartender and Mixologist with more than 10 years of experience behind the bar.
This article is part three in a series discussing the importance of mentorship in bartending. Previously in this series on mentorship, we discussed the importance of a mentor, and how and where to approach one. In the next article, we’ll discuss how to grow and nurture a mentorship.
We know how to find a mentor, but how does one go from being the student to the teacher?
As your career progresses, you may find yourself in a position where you’re being asked questions and advice by those less experienced. There’s little more rewarding than the respect of your community and colleagues, and there is a certain thrill to that validation. While it can be tempting to roam around town and begin dispensing advice, there’s a right way and a wrong way to become a mentor.
Mentor vs. Know-it-All
Mentorship is a natural progression in a relationship based on an equal exchange of ideas. It’s a role that needs to be grown into. Before you can give out answers, you have to have someone asking you questions. If you’ve skipped this step, you’re running a very real risk of doing damage to your career: no one likes a know-it-all.
Owners and management aren’t fans of being lectured any more than colleagues are. It’s even less impressive when the information given by “experts” is incorrect. Not only are these over-eager and would-be mentors missing the point of mentorship itself, but they’re doing a grave disservice to the community by spreading disinformation.
Start with Yourself
There are always moments to shine in the chaos of restaurants, but as we said before, it’s never a good look to be a martyr. It’s also never a good look to allow management to take advantage of your enthusiasm. Be smart, but be fair. Your free time is yours, and especially in a trade where outside research and study is vital to pushing your career forward, it’s an invaluable commodity.
Keep your work and personal life separate and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Doing so enables you to be your best possible self. Not everyone you work with is going to be on the same page, but as a leader, it’s your responsibility to makes sure the entire team gets to the finish line. Stressful moments are par for the course, and keeping yourself equipped to handle them will always make you stand out.
Earning Respect – The Old Fashioned Way
From the first day you step foot into a job until the last, foster a healthy work environment and step up when needed. If you feel the need to vent about a work or personal situation, do it after-hours and/or in the company of close and trusted friends. While restaurant work has a huge social component to it, the people who are able to recognize the difference between work and play will have the most success. The rumor mill is one attraction of the restaurant carnival you won’t often see mentors riding.
The best mentors are those who are known for making sure things go smoothly, whether it’s an offsite event or an understaffed shift at work. There’s a lot of sacrifice, because there’s always slack to pick up. Don’t be a martyr, and don’t go the extra mile with an expectation of praise. Whether you know it or not, people see these kinds of things. Your commitment to team and healthy dialogue goes a long way towards winning the respect of your co-workers.
As your reputation grows, a natural curiosity about you will develop. Bartenders you’ve never met from across town may approach you with questions. This is another great opportunity to be a part of the team; ask questions about that part of town, take an interest, and always remember that a strong community helps every bartender.
Growing Beyond Your Market
Major cocktail events all have a lot of moving parts, and some have a crack team of bartenders behind it all keeping things running smoothly. You can take your leadership skills on the road by applying to be a part of the logistics team at these events. Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, San Antonio Cocktail Conference and Paris of the Plains Festival in Kansas City are all great events, and are led by incredibly capable and welcoming bartenders.
Off-site events are always a great way to sharpen your skills and expand your network. Similarly with regional events, even if they’re not attached to the glitz and glamor of larger, heavily sponsored ones. Simply attending these events will undoubtedly give you some new leadership tools.
Another great example is Camp Runamok, put on by Lush Life Productions. Camp in itself is an incredible experience, but senior campers have the opportunity to apply to become part of the leadership team. Bar Institute, another Lush Life program, happens in cities across the United States every year, delivering seminars across the country.
Learn, Share, and Keep Learning
Being a leader doesn’t just mean being the first in and last out, or shooting off across the country for an exciting event. It can also be as simple as working to establish yourself as an authority on any number of topics.
Have a passion for Single Malts? Read, taste, visit blogs, taste some more, comment on threads and discussions on Facebook. Attend local educational events hosted by brands or your local USBG. If you share your knowledge freely, you’ll quickly become seen as an authority on the subject.
As your experience grows, you’ll be faced with questions you don’t always have the answer to. These are some of the best moments to learn from. It certainly won’t happen overnight, but focused interest in anything from Tequila to Viticulture to being active in your local USBG chapter can all yield invaluable experience and wisdom.
Building A Reputation for Humility
This is probably one of the most important points, and any bartender worth their salt applies it to every aspect of their career. Humility is the hallmark of any great leader.
In my old market a few years ago, there was a young bartender who became known for carting around a stack of books with them. They would sit at bars around town, placing their stack of books on the bartop, and lecture or quiz bartenders. Eventually, they even got around to reading the books. This person built a solid reputation – but it wasn’t a good one. Instead, he was known for being a know-it-all and crowing the answers to questions no one had asked.
That being said, as a young bartender, the discoveries of technique and recipe are especially thrilling. It can be very tempting to allow your ego to become a little inflated. (It happens to the best of us.) Growing pains are never a comfortable and easy process to go through, and there are countless barland stories to be told about humbling moments.
The best mentors I’ve had touch my life are without exception incredibly humble people. Great mentors take their lowest moments and use them not only to teach, but to keep them grounded.
Making an Impact on Others
While it’s tempting to let everyone know exactly how much you know during pre-shift, or a brewery tour, or a seminar, it’s often best to let others have the floor. If you know the answer, the question isn’t necessarily for you. Sometimes it’s best to encourage those with less experience to step into the spotlight.
I remember countless moments with more seasoned bartenders who, rather than lecture me on technique or boast about how they had just been featured in an article, they asked questions about me. Those conversations left an impression on me, and made me think even more highly of them.
If you wish to be the teacher, you have to know your student. Being a mentor isn’t about you, it’s about creating a positive impact on others and the community as a whole.
Be Gentle and Supportive
Your first protege isn’t going to be an ace. Someday they might be. It’s unlikely you’ll ever be approached by someone with a skill set comparable to yours; your goal as a teacher is for your student to surpass your own abilities.
Mentorship works in tiers. Like a champagne waterfall, mentors have mentors, and as you gain experience, so do those you teach. A mentor is someone who can offer the voice of experience. That level of experience can be terrifying to younger bartenders. As cool as it is to even be on the stick, bartenders, especially younger ones, are often jealous of the especially charming, the fast or the truly innovative bartenders. Don’t be aloof. Share your experiences and be an active teacher.
The best bartenders always want to be better, and that often starts from day one. They may have literally everything about bartending wrong. They may be sloppy, forgetful or don’t know the difference between one expression of Cognac from the next.
If they have passion for the job, can show up on time and sincerely want to give the guest a good experience, as Anthony Bourdain said, “Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.”
It’s important to be gentle and supportive and nurture raw enthusiasm into teachable moments. That excitable and clumsy kid could be running their own program in a few short years, keeping the cycle of mentorship going for the next generation of bar aces. It’s up to you to help get them there.
Hard Work and Humility
There are countless ways to position yourself as a mentor, but the themes remain constant. Hard work and humility are the hallmark of leaders in the industry. Understanding that the majority of the job is definitely lacking in glamour is a big step.
Bartenders know how the sausage is made, from walk-ins to prep areas to tear down. Dreaming of success is putting the cart before the horse; those moments are built on hours and hours of consistent and dedicated work. Remember to be the voice of reason you needed as a younger bartender.
Establish yourself as a voice of reason and authority. Analyze your failings as much as your successes. Introspection will make you a more honest teacher. If you’re lucky, you can help someone avoid your own mistakes (like letting a tin of egg-white sours fly across the dining room, or allowing a guest to abuse a co-worker without stepping in.)
We all make mistakes. The first step in becoming a mentor is identifying your own shortcomings and being humble enough to help your own learning experiences to those following in your footsteps.
With St. Patrick’s day just around the corner (sorry, Saturday bartenders), we thought we’d try our hand at something green – without going crazy with Midori. (No offense to the Midori fans out there, of course! Naturally this whiskey drink features Jameson, and the rest is a basic honey sour.
Shamrock Optional… but why not?
Sweet, tart, floral and boozy, this is the perfect cocktail for a springtime holiday celebrating the Irish! Topping it off with a homemade stencil and a green spritz made with Absinthe and food coloring makes for a festive finish that also adds a nice layer of aromatics to the drink as well.
Of course, the stencil is completely optional and you could simply spritz absinthe across the top to get the same aromatic effect – but where’s the fun in that?
The dreaded send-back. It stinks, but it happens. If you’ve been bartending for any length of time, you’ve had a guest send their drink back. And if you’ve been bartending for a while, you’ve probably heard some pretty entertaining reasons too. Sometimes the reasons are completely understandable, and sometimes they’re downright frustrating.
No matter what the reason, here is some inspiration for keeping your composure, making it right with the customer and (hopefully) still making a great tip.
The Order is (Objectively) Incorrect
Let’s start with an easy one. If a customer orders a dirty martini and is served a lemon drop, it’s completely fair for them to send it back. Likewise for details like requesting a particular spirit, garnish, or serve.
If this happens, (and at some point it will) then it’s important not to make excuses – from the customer’s perspective, they don’t really care if it was the cocktail waitress or the bartender who got it wrong. Apologize, replace the drink, and consult your bar’s comp policy for the best way to compensate the customer. Typically if their drink is replaced in a timely manner and correctly the second time, comping isn’t necessary. If they are particularly irate or if it’s a really high end bar, you may decide otherwise.
The Customer Likes the Cocktail Made Differently
I’d have to say the #1 cocktail at risk of this send-back is the Old Fashioned. There are a thousand recipes and they vary more than perhaps any drink. If they’re expecting this and you serve a high end craft drink on the rocks, they might be inclined to send it back and think you made them the wrong drink. But it could happen with any cocktail recipe – there’s no law (in the USA at least) dictating the recipe for named cocktails. If a customer makes it differently at home, they might just think you have it wrong. And you know what? That’s OK.
First: don’t correct them. After all – they aren’t wrong! Acknowledge that you did make what they ordered, but that your house recipe may be different from what they are used to. Then offer to re-make the drink in the way that they prefer.
“I’m sorry you didn’t care for it. This is how we make our Old Fashioneds here, but if you have a particular recipe you prefer, I’d be happy to remake it.”
This gives them an opportunity to order what they really wanted, while letting them know that this is indeed what they ordered. They may keep the drink and have a chance to try the cocktail a new way they haven’t had before, or they may ask you to remake it. Either way, you’ve hopefully still given them a great customer experience.
Wine & Beer: It’s gone bad
Most common with wine or beer (but could happen with cocktails made with vermouth or rarely used liqueurs), a customer won’t usually say “this wine has gone bad”. Rather, they’re more likely to send it back with a strange look on their face and say something like “This just doesn’t taste right.”
Wine: it could be corked or the wine could have been open too long. The first thing to check is to go back to the bottle and taste it. If it’s gone off, the last thing you want is to keep pouring! If the customer’s right and the wine has gone bad, offer to replace it (with the same glass or something different.) If the wine tastes fine, then it’s possible they just don’t care for that style – offer to replace it with something else.
Beer: If the line is dirty or the keg is just off, you could be pouring a beer that tastes terrible and not even realize it. Like wine, taste from the source (not the customer’s glass). If the beer is bad, 86 it. Regardless, offer to replace it with something else.
“I can’t even taste the alcohol!”
Perhaps the personal favorite guest comment of every bartender worldwide, a customer will sometimes send a cocktail back with a thinly veiled request for more booze. They may accuse you of shorting them, or they may imply that you should add extra booze without charging them. Or they may not realize that they’ve been making the drink unusually strong at home. Either way, they’re looking for more alcohol than they ordered.
First: take a deep breath. Yeah, I know it sucks and frankly it’s insulting. They’re accusing you of not doing your job. But defending yourself is a risky move and likely to just make them even more unpleasant. Your best option at this point is to kill them with kindness, without giving away the bar:
“I’d be happy to pour you a double if that’s what you’d prefer.” By offering a double, you’re also suggesting that they will be charged more, which is appropriate if they are asking for more alcohol.
Or, if you’re feeling particularly snarky, you could pour a tiny bit of the base spirit down the straw. Their first sip will taste very boozy and they’ll probably be satisfied. Note: I’m kidding, don’t actually do this.)
They Just Don’t Like it
Last but not least: sometimes the customer just isn’t going to like your drink. Maybe they didn’t realize Campari was bitter (let’s be honest, it looks like candy!) Or maybe they had no idea what Mezcal tastes like. Maybe they thought “cider” is “apple cider”. It’s easy to forget how much we know about the products we serve, and how much the general public does not.
First, see if you can learn from their experience: “What didn’t you like about the drink?” Be careful about your tone – while it may hurt that the customer didn’t love your beautifully crafted creation, remember that the purpose of this question is to make them happy, not to defend yourself. (And I thought your drink was great, FWIW).
Once you have a sense for what they didn’t like, you can start to make suggestions. If it’s too bitter, suggest something sweeter. If it’s too smoky, offer them something with tequila instead.
Warning: it may be tempting to use this as an opportunity to educate the customer, but it’s going to be really tough to pull that off while still making the customer happy. “Oh, well that’s what Mezcal tastes like” makes the customer look bad and feel like they should like the drink when they have already told you they don’t.
If you really want to, phrase it carefully with something like “Oh I could see why you would say that! This is a very smoky drink because the Mezcal really brings a lot of that smokiness. Can I suggest a tequila cocktail that you might like better?” It’s all about your tone – be friendly and welcoming, and offer to make them something they’ll love.
Killing with Kindness
Remember, 99% of people aren’t going to send a drink back, even if they don’t like it. That means if a drink is returned you either have a particularly picky customer on your hands (tread carefully) or you have a guest who genuinely doesn’t like what they’ve been given.
I know a send-back can be really frustrating, but don’t let yourself get caught up in each individual drink that gets sent back. Remember your goal is to provide great guest experiences and turn this guest into a regular. This particular drink is water under the bridge. Use this as an opportunity to give them a memorable experience and a drink they will love!
Starting with the same basic formula as a Negroni, this cocktail marries tequila with sloe gin and sweet vermouth for a balanced boozy drink that’s going to keep you on your toes (in a very good way).
Named after a time when the Americas were divided into territories claimed by the French, Spaniards and English – with loads of territory left over unclaimed. This cocktail is a similar mix of many cultures. It’s a combination of Mexican influence with tequila, some English influence with the Sloe Gin, and a bit of Italian bitterness from the sweet vermouth.
Bitter and Herbal
True to its Negroni roots, this is a bitter drink. But it adds an additional element of aroma with the celery bitters boosts the bitterness and the herbal notes from the sweet vermouth. Plus (if you ask me), celery and tequila are natural flavor partners and work beautifully together in a drink.
As a new bar manager there are certain terms and vocabulary that you need to be familiar with so you can communicate effectively with your team. One of those pieces of vocabulary that you should develop and understand is the term “par”.
We’ll quickly cover what the term par is and how it applies to the bar and restaurant world, and then we’ll discuss one of its most important applications: the Par Sheet.
What are par and par levels?
If you play or watch with golf, then you’re probably familiar with this term. In golf it is how many strokes it should ideally take to move the ball from the starting position into the hole. In the bar and restaurant world, the “par level” means “how much of any given item you will use in a shift or another set amount of time (weeks, months, years).” We’ll cover this in a little more detail throughout this article.
“Par” is how much of any given item you expect to use during a set amount of time.
For an example, if you work on a busy Friday night and you know that you’re likely to go through 4 bottles of Ketel One, then your par for Ketel One would be 4. You can generate a “par” level for every bottle that you carry behind the bar – or you can simply focus on the fast moving products.
What is a par sheet?
Now that you know what the term par means, we can talk about how it is tracked. Behind the bar, we typically track pars in what is called a par sheet, also called a stock sheet. The par sheet is simply a list of either your quickest moving items or your entire inventory with a par level associated to each item. In the example we used earlier, we said that the par for Ketel One was 4, we would record that number in our par sheet with the line that was associated with Ketel One.
Typical items on a par sheet include spirits, beer, wine, mixers and possibly kegs. This will help you keep in stock during your busiest times and allow you to help more customers instead of looking around, trying to fill stock during a shift. You can also include garnish, juice, and any other item that you carry behind the bar. There’s no need to list every single item, but if you always run out of thermal paper on a Saturday night, you may want to add it to your par sheet.
Par for Inventory vs. Par for the Bar
One common point of confusion is that there are often two “pars” that a bar should keep track of.
Inventory Pars: This is the total number of a particular item that you should have in inventory, across your whole establishment. They could be located in the well, on the backbar and in the stock room, but this is the number you have calculated to be the ideal amount of inventory for this product. (Again, it could be done weekly, monthly, or some other frequency. All that matters is that you adjust the number to reflect the frequency that you’re taking inventory.)
Par for the Bar (also called “stock” as in “Stock sheet”): This is what you need behind the bar before you start your shift. It does not include extra bottles in the stock room. The purpose of this number is to prevent you having to go to the stock room during your shift.
Both types of par sheets are incredibly useful and a well-run bar will use both. Typically the Stock Sheet will be used daily but the Inventory Par sheet will be used when calculating orders, typically weekly.
Creating Par Sheets
There are a couple ways you can create a par sheet. While it is possible to get very technical and data-driven, in this article I’m going to suggest a simpler approach that’s likely to get your par sheets created more quickly so you can use them right away.
How to Create a Par Sheet:
First, decide whether this par sheet will be used for checking the bar before a shift or for checking the full inventory. If you’re not going to use it for a full inventory then your sheet will likely be much shorter.
Start with a spreadsheet of your inventory. (You should be able to export this from your POS).
Label the first column “Item” and remove all other columns from the sheet. If not already, organize it into categories (Well, bourbon, brandy, liqueurs, etc.)
Create a second column labeled “On hand” and third column labeled “Par”
As I mentioned earlier, you can get pretty detailed with pulling data from your POS to try to estimate par levels, but I’ve found that you can get 80% of the way there simply through educated estimates. Ask the bartender who works your busiest shift how much of each item he / she would expect to go through on a busy night. In our example we used Ketel One and the par level we established was 4 bottles in a shift, because that was our estimate for what we’d use during our busiest shift.
If you use this method, it’s important to remember that the par sheet will need to be updated from time to time. Ask your bartenders to let you know if there are items they often run out of behind the bar – especially non-inventory items that wouldn’t otherwise be tracked. Typical items include:
If it’s an item that bartenders frequently need for service and running out would require you to run to the back room to grab more, seriously consider including it on your bar’s par sheet.
Using the Par Sheet:
The process for using par sheets is pretty straight forward. Either before and/or after a new shift begins, (either one works, but always do it at the same time) the barback or bartender will grab a new par sheet, quickly go over each item on the list and write down how many bottles of each spirit/beer or wine are needed in order to bring the bar back up to par. They will then hand off the sheet to whoever is in charge of restocking the bar. Now the person restocking the bar knows exactly what they need to pull from the inventory room for the shift.
In theory this will keep the bar stocked for the entire shift without having to keep running to the stockroom to pull bottles for service. Of course, your estimates are just that – estimates. They won’t be perfect every time but they should definitely reduce the mid-shift stock room runs to a minimum.
Par Sheet Pro Tips:
Along the way I’ve found a few tips that have made the process faster and more painless. Here are a few to consider:
Your par sheet does not need to be in alphabetical order. (I know, it’s not as satisfying…) Instead, organize it according to the location of the various items behind your bar and / or in your stockroom. This will make it easier for you to simply go down the list without running all over the bar / room. (Of course, if you have already organized you back bar in alphabetical order, then I guess you’re in luck!)
Leave a couple of blanks for items to be written in. The items that you carry behind the bar can change quickly and updating the par sheet could get overlooked during the change. This gives you some flexibility.
If you have a cocktail menu, either put the spirits that you are using in their own category, or somehow highlight the spirits and liqueurs that are used in the cocktail menu. This way if the bartender is in a hurry, they will be able to prioritize filling out the well and cocktail menu bottles instead of having to go through the whole list. (While this isn’t ideal, it’s better than skipping checking pars altogether… and let’s be honest, it happens!)
Make seasonal changes to your par sheet. This is obvious if you are doing a seasonal cocktail menu, but also drinking habits change when the weather changes. Even if you haven’t changed your cocktail menu, your summer par sheet is very likely to be different from what’s getting ordered and poured during the cold winter months.
I touched on this earlier, but it bears repeating: if you are constantly running out of items during service, add them to the par sheet. Thermal paper was an example that we used, but this could also apply for cocktail picks, napkins, coaster or straws.
Now that you understand the basics of the par sheet, I hope you can see its value behind the bar. Just a little bit of preparation can make a huge difference in the number of times you and your bartenders have to leave the customer and go spend time restocking.
“It’s like a daiquiri and a sidecar had a delicious, delicious baby.”
Or at least, that’s how Chris described this cocktail to me. Looking at the recipe, he’s not wrong! A very simple drink, it features Rum (Havana Club), Grandeza orange liqueur and lime juice. The result is tart, fragranced with orange and intense vanilla. It’s slightly on the boozy side but that’s not a bad thing (in my opinion at least!)
A Sidecar… with a Sidecar
By the way, did you notice that neat little bottle in the top photo above? Grandeza had these tiny little “sidecar” bottles made so you can literally hang it on the side of your glass. How cool is that?
So the next time you’re looking for something just a bit different from a standard sour, think about this one – it’s a simple variation that’s very, very tasty.
Whether it’s due to poor planning, an unexpectedly large guest list or a coworker calling in sick, at some point as a private bartender you’re going to find yourself working a large party completely single-handedly. It makes for a challenging evening, but have no fear. It can be done well, and might even be much more profitable!
Hopefully you will have some advance notice if you’ll be working solo and you can plan accordingly. But even if you don’t find out until you show up at the venue, there’s quite a bit you can do before guests arrive that will make a huge difference in your ability to keep up with guests’ demand.
If there are several cases of wine, open up bottles for a few cases before the event starts, so you will be ready to pour. In some instances, (especially if the event is beer/wine only), pour a few dozen glasses and have them at the bar for guests to pick up. Perhaps even put some full bottles on the bar for guests to refill their own glass as the first drink always goes down fast. Always remember that the beginning of the event will be the busiest time, as everyone needs a drink! You must be ready for the rush.
If it’s possible, have a self-serve area with beer and a bottle opener for guests to use. Check with your client first, but this is a great option for keeping up with demand, and guests tend to love it! (Make sure you tie the bottle opener down somehow so it doesn’t disappear!)
If you’re serving draft beer, have pitchers and / or glasses already poured and waiting for guests at the beginning of the event. But remember to make sure drinks stay cold! If you can have an ice bath for beer pitchers, that’s ideal.
If you can have your pourers on several bottles ready to go, you’ll save yourself valuable seconds in making that transition to a new bottle. We all know that time is precious at the bar! The less time you spend managing your bottles, the more drinks you can pour and the more guests you can serve.
Sodas / Mixers
Like beer, if you can pour these items in pitchers, it will also save you time. If your sodas are in cans or individual bottles, consider a “self serve” area for guests, just like we mentioned earlier with the beer. Every guest who can serve him/herself is a guest that doesn’t have to wait in line at your bar!
The Wedding Toast
Normally at weddings, there will be a lot of wine served and typically a champagne toast. These are great items to prepare ahead of time. Normally at a private party, we try to open only one bottle at a time as not to waste the client’s liquor, but if you’re working alone the client is much more likely to prefer quick service rather than saving a few bottles.
When working alone, your hands should always, always, always be pouring. Use body language to acknowledge each order and signal to the next guest when you’re ready for their order as well. Try to take the next order while you’re still pouring the last.
Staying Positive and In Charge
You will get comments from guests like: ‘They have your working alone?’ ‘Where is your help?’ ‘You’re really outnumbered tonight, huh?’ ‘Can I jump back there to help you?’
Your reply should be something positive and confident: let them know that you are competent, capable and fun! Remember to say it with a smile directly at guest:
‘They have your working alone?’
‘Of course, my middle name is Superman…’ or ‘Of course, these hands are registered in the bartender’s Hall of Fame.’
‘Where is your help?’
‘I locked them in closet, don’t tell anyone….’
‘You’re really outnumbered tonight, huh?’
‘Juuusttt…the way I like it!!’
‘Can I jump back there to help you?’
‘Thanks, but I’m good……my jam is pumping!!’
Asking for Help
Let’s say you’re having trouble opening a bottle, and it’s taking time away from mixing. In many circumstances you’ll find guests offering to help you open it. LET THEM! If they open two or three bottles of wine for you, great! That’s a huge time saver and it builds rapport with the guests.
Of course, this may not make sense in a more formal setting but in most events it’s perfectly OK to let guests help with small simple tasks. Under no circumstances is it a good idea to let them come behind the bar, however. (This can even be illegal in some states!)
Service with a Smile
You should always smile as much as possible, even if you are concentrating on your work.
It’s important to say it again: you must remember to have a smile on your face as much as possible. When you are bartending a massive party alone, it’s easy for your face to look frustrated or annoyed, when in reality you’re just concentrating and working hard. Actively manage your facial expressions to stay confident and positive – it makes a big difference to the guest experience!
Here’s why it matters to you: you are single-handedly working a massive party. If you are super organized and prepared, the guests see this and appreciate that you are kicking it hard to get the drinks out. They will tip you more in appreciation of your hard work and efforts.
Remember: for you, this is a hard day at work. But for your client and more importantly your guests, this is a fun night out! It can be challenging to stay super upbeat when you’re deep in the weeds, but nobody brings a great party down like a grumpy bartender. Keep a smile on your face and you’ll probably see higher tips and you’re much more likely to book the client again.
You survived the initial rush, kept glasses full and guests happy and all with a smile on your face. Congratulations, that’s no small feat!
You’re at the the tail end of the chaos and the party is winding down. Now is the time to break out pitchers of water and keep them on the bar with glasses or cups. People will help themselves while you do your cleaning. You’ll probably go through quite a bit of water so keep an eye on the pitchers / glasses and always keep them full.
At the end of the night, your tip jar will be full and your energy completely gone. But it can be such a rewarding feeling to know you handled the whole party all by yourself!
It may be tempting to turn fruit into something fruity and sweet. But this cocktail is anything but. Bitter, slightly spicy and boozy, this drink is for those of us who love fruit but don’t necessarily want something sweet.
Everything but the Pith
Using Tangerine juice in the cocktail isn’t so revolutionary, but opting to pair it with a homemade tangerine syrup is what makes this drink interesting. The syrup is made with the fruit and the zest of the tangerine, quick-macerated in the microwave and then left to cool. The result is a syrup that is sweet, yes – but also carries some of the oil and bitterness from the rind.
A bit of Ginger and two Dashes of Peychaud’s
As if this wasn’t a bright enough cocktail, Peychaud’s kicks up the color again and ginger adds a little extra heat. The result is a deliciously unusual drink that focuses on bringing all of the sweet and aromatic elements of the tangerine into cocktail form.
It’s like the outdoor version of “The Kitchen Sink”
This cocktail is not the simplest recipe you’ve ever seen, and it may not be suited for a high volume bar. But let me tell you: it is absolutely worth the effort. It started with a few left over blueberries that Chris eyed in the fridge. Then he found a thumb of fresh ginger and a couple meyer lemons we’d been given by a friend with an over-zealous tree in their backyard. Inspiration!
Mash/chop the blueberries and ginger, add sugar and microwave for 30 seconds (a technique that, for the record, I invented) and the result? Blueberry and ginger syrup. Good start! (And recipe below)
But wait – there’s more.
Blueberry ginger is a good start, but Chris decided this wouldn’t be your run-of-the-mill fruity sour. He decided to add some heat and dug up a jar of his Black Pepper tincture (from waaaay back when). (Instructions for the infusion are are below as well.)
… and more.
From here it’s a fairly simple “sour” with the tincture added for good measure. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with Meyer Lemon, shake well, and double-strain into a coupe glass. And because, well, why not? Chris wandered out into the yard and found a sprig of Rosemary for garnish.
The final cocktail is as multi-dimensional as the recipe seems. It starts with a rosemary and meyer lemon aroma, then starts your sip with a pleasant fruity and slightly sweet taste. But just moments later the black pepper catches up and the cocktail finishes with a beautiful snap of spicy black pepper. There’s a lot going on, but it’s a delicious journey!
A final note: You could certainly use standard Eureka lemons for this recipe but the aromatics of Meyer lemons are truly unique and play very nicely with the black pepper. So if you have the chance, definitely give it a try with the Meyer lemons.)
Tools we used:
If you’re interested in the tools we’re using, check them out below! These are all sold by our sister company, Top Shelf Bar Supply on Amazon.
If you are looking to become a manager or are currently a manager, reconciling a cash drawer will be one of your responsibilities every shift that you work. Every restaurant will have their own particular way of balancing a cash drawer at the end of the shift, but most of the principals will be the same from place to place.
In this article I’m going to go over the basics of why balance a cash drawer and how to do it.
Cash drawer basics:
When you balance a cash drawer you are trying to account for all of the transactions that were processed for that cash drawer during the shift. You are trying to make sure that all cash is accounted for, all credit card transactions have been recorded properly, tips have been distributed, money has not mysteriously disappeared (and equally important-mysteriously appeared). It’s incredibly important to make sure this step is a part of your regular operations.
How often should you balance the cash drawer?
Balancing daily is the norm and is what I recommend. If you only reconcile a cash drawer once a week, for example, you will have many different employee hands in one cash drawer with no way of holding anyone accountable for missing or additional currency. Balancing daily reduces the number of people accountable for what’s in the drawer, making it easier to track down discrepancies if (and when) they occur.
Where is it located?
In many traditional bars and restaurants cash drawers are located behind the bar. Diners and restaurants that process a lot of “to-go” food orders or gift certificates may also have a cash drawer at the host stand to speed up service. Servers will typically carry their own “bank” on them to make change for any cash transactions.
How do you balance a cash drawer ?
Don’t be intimidated: balancing a cash drawer can be a pretty easy task. Your POS will almost certainly have a report that gives you all of the information you need. Once you’ve run that report, simply:
Add up all the cash that was taken in during the shift
Subtract all of the credit card tips that need to be distributed
Subtract any cash refunds
What’s left is what should be deposited at the end of the night.
Cash taken in – Credit card tips – Cash refunds = Deposit
Note: Servers may give any excess cash to the manager on duty or bartender as part of their end of shift process. If the cash collected from the server is not enough to cover the credit card tips, the bartender or manager should pay them out the money that was due and record that amount on the daily paperwork.
Troubleshooting Common Problems:
Let’s face it, working in a restaurant or a bar can be complete chaos sometimes and problems can arise during a shift that will complicate your cash balancing process.
Here are a few examples of common problems and how to solve them:
Problem #1: Not enough cash on hand to pay servers/bartenders out for tips.
This will continue to happen more and more frequently as people are moving to credit card transactions instead of cash. Basically imagine a server only takes in $35 in cash, but their tips at the end of their shift equal $250, you would owe them $215. Now imagine you only have $50 in the safe to pay out the server. What do you do?
There are a few ways to reconcile this and each establishment will have their own systems to account for this. The most common solution I’ve seen is to write an IOU:
Possible Solution #1: Write an IOU
Write an IOU for $215 to the server and pay them out when you go to the bank and get the safe back up to operating balances. You could also pay them out the $50 that you have in the safe (so they can at least tip out the service staff) and write them a $165 IOU instead.
If you are in a pooled house, you would take in the $35 dollars, calculate the shares based off of the total tips taken in and write (hopefully only one unfortunate soul) an IOU for the balance.
Problem #2: Missing Money
A server or bartender comes to you and says they are having a problem closing their bank out. They mention that it’s been a very busy night and they seem to be missing some tips. This may be one of the harder scenarios to get to the bottom of, not just because it can be a real head scratcher, but likely it’s been a busy shift and both you and the server are tired and looking forward to the end of the night beer.
Here are a few common mistakes that may help you find the missing money:
Missing Cash: This is always the first place I look. Did a customer pay cash and the server put it somewhere other than where they usually keep it? Could it be in a check presenter somewhere?
Credit Card Tips: If they’ve looked through their bank and all of their cash transactions have been accounted for, have them go through and make sure that all of their credit card tips have been entered correctly. In the heat of service it is easy to miss a digit when one is entering their tips, or hit the wrong key when you’re in a hurry. Ask them to go through their cash out paperwork and go line by line to see if this may have occurred.
Is there a check still open? Usually your POS won’t let you run your end of the night paperwork if you still have open tables/checks, but every POS is different. Look to see if they have any open checks or transfers that have not yet been closed.
Incorrectly split checks & other weird transactions: Ask them if they had any weird transactions throughout the night. Examples may include: marrying 2 different checks or splitting a check many ways. Imagine that they have a nine-top and each person wants to pay individually. The server processes positions 1-7 perfectly with the correct credit card, but on the 8th check, the server authorizes the same check with 2 different credit cards. Check 8 now has 2 credit card authorizations associated to it and check 9 does not have any authorization associated to it all. Don’t worry, one of your more experienced servers will probably know how to fix this scenario. If not, the worst case scenario is to call your POS support number (I know, sorry in advance…) and have them walk you through the fix.
Hopefully focusing in on these areas will help you find your missing money and get you both to your end of the night beer faster!
Balance is a Good Thing
Hopefully this quick overview has illustrated that balancing a cash drawer doesn’t have to be tedious. It’s an important step for keeping your money in order at your bar, and once you’ve done it a few times it will become second nature.