Mixology is a craft, and when you're facing a sea of thirsty individuals looking to imbibe for hours on end with requests that aren't for the bartending faint of heart, well, performing those endless miracles on a nightly basis takes extraordinary ability.
While the path to cocktail stardom is a long and rocky road, there are fundamental areas of the trade you can focus on to make the experience seamless...at least until midnight on a Friday.
1. It's all about the setup
If something isn't where it's suppose to be when you need it, timing is off, and when timing is off things don't end well. "In my opinion setup is one of the most important things," Ivan Papic, bar manager at Macao Trading Co. in downtown Manhattan says.
"A properly set bar will help you provide good service, but just missing a few things might make the whole night a disaster."
Having had stints at popular locales such as Lot 61, Pastis, Balthazar, and the Beatrice Inn, it's fair to say that Papic knows a thing or two about providing a good experience. When it comes to the setup, having the right booze in place is essential, he says.
"It's a pain if in the middle of a busy night you have to go look for that one bottle of wine that you were supposed to bring up as a part of your setup," he said.
2. Multitasking is key
Every bartender out there wishes they could have an extra arm or two, but unfortunately, unless a freak accident turns you into some sort of supernatural being, you have to get by with multitasking.
While having the ability to serve up two different drinks simultaneously has its advantages, Papic says there is a limit to it.
"Multitasking is great but even the best bartenders can only do a few things at the same time," he says. "Don't overdo it, trust me, you'll end up forgetting something."
3. Eye contact buys you time
We've all been in a similar situation: it's that time of the night when everyone's drink happened to go empty and it's time for another. Problem is, there are only two bartenders, so the waiting game it is. For the bartender, this is a nightly occurrence, but rather than neglecting certain patrons, Papic recommends acknowledging those patiently waiting with eye contact and a simple "I'll be right with you."
"You buy yourself a few more minutes because they know they are next," Papic says. "If you keep your head down, people get annoyed and for them it feels like they are waiting 20 minutes for a drink."
4. Timing, timing, timing
It's really an important aspect of any job no matter what it entails, but for top-notch mixologists, timing is key. We're not talking about the time it takes to make a Moscow mule, but rather, actually arriving to the establishment on time to review things.
"Arriving early before every shift will allow you to review the bar as a whole and properly transition yourself into service-mode," said Frank Caiafa, beverage manager at Peacock Alley Restaurant located at The Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
This plays a key role in your setup, and we already know how important that characteristic is.
5. Consistent maintenance will save your life
Stress is part of the job, but in order to minimize it, maintaining your bar throughout the night will be a lifesaver, Caiafa says. Having had extensive experience in the restaurant and cocktail world throughout his decade-long career, this award-winning mixologist (Caiafa took home a Gazzer Award in 2013) believes this is one of the most important aspects of the night.
"Returning tools that are not often used, cleaning any spills and replacing any stock will go a long way in making your shift as successful and stress free as it can be," he said.