Monday, January 12, 2009

How Do You Remember All of Those Drinks?

People ask me all the time how I am able to remember the drink recipes for all of the drinks I make. At the bartender school, I teach my students over a hundred different drink recipes in two weeks. Those are just basic recipes. Then once a bartender gets out in the real bar world, they might have to work with a specialty cocktail menu that would require them to memorize even more drink recipes. And if that bar changes their drink menu with each season, then that's more drink recipes to memorize. A new bartender could easily become overwhelmed with all of those recipes.

Repetition is key. The more you do something over and over, the greater the chance you will have of remembering it. When I first started bartending, I got an address book that had a tab for each letter in the alphabet and wrote all of the drink recipes I learned on each of my shifts into my book. The address book proved to be an excellent resource whenever someone would order a drink and I couldn't remember the recipe. I would just look up the recipe in my book. If I stumbled upon a drink I had never made before, then I would ask the bartender I was working with how to make it. Sometimes I would even ask the customer.

Some new bartenders are too embarrassed to ask the customer how to make a drink they don't know the recipe for. Put yourself in the customer's shoes. If you ordered a drink that the bartender didn't know how to make, wouldn't you rather tell them how you would like your drink made rather than have the bartender just guess and make the drink all wrong? Why waste the time and alcohol?

I have found in my years behind the bar that customers love it when you ask them for their input on making drinks. Granted, if you are working a busy Saturday night in a nightclub and ask the customer what's in a Long Island Iced Tea, you probably wont get a very positive reaction. But if you are working a dinner shift and a customer orders something out of the ordinary, use the situation as a learning opportunity. With bartending, there is always something new to learn, no matter how long you have been working behind the bar.

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