Photo: Juancat for wavebreakmedia

7 Signs You Are a Rookie Bartender

by Melissa Allen May 30, 2018

Sorry guys, bartending school is a total scam. The only way to learn how to bartend is by bartending. And unfortunately, the only way to really excel in the industry is to make a few mistakes. From smashing glasses to drinking on the job to visibly counting while you pour, here are a few signs you are a rookie bartender.

1. You’ve got an awkward shake.

Every bartender develops a signature shake over time. It is your calling card, the fastest, most efficient motion for you to deliver beautiful cocktails. Bartenders fumbling with their tins with no sense of rhythm or confidence are definitely rookies.

2. You take a proper shot every time a guest wants to drink with you.

If you are bartending several nights a week, sometimes your liver will need a night off. Regulars love doing shots with their bartender, and you don’t want to be rude, but it’s really the thought that counts. Fill a tequila bottle with water and take pretend shots all night long — if you want to survive the week.

3. We can see you counting when you pour.

Like a dancer learning new choreo, beginner bartenders use a count system to time their pours. Over time a bartender will know what two ounces feels like from muscle memory without the extra step of using a jigger to measure. If you watch carefully, you can catch new bartenders subconsciously mouthing the count as they pour a drink.

4. You’re so busy focusing on making drinks, you forget to chat up your bar.

When you start bartending, you have a lot going through your head during a shift. Drink recipes to remember, cocktail-making techniques to master, all with a focus on speed and accuracy. But sometimes all this focus distracts you from the most important part of bartending — chatting with guests. Whether it is flirting with attractive singles or schmoozing regulars, your personality is just as important as your drinks.

5. You prepped way too much fruit for garnishes, but you forgot to chill the rosé.

Even with a checklist for review, setting up a bar is never an exact science. A bartender must anticipate the needs of the shift, depending on day and season, and adjust their preparations accordingly. Unfortunately, you have to screw up a few times to learn how to anticipate.

6. You have sprayed beer all over yourself in an attempt to change the keg.

Changing a keg can be more complicated than it looks. If you aren’t careful, you can get a face full of beer spray for your efforts. Learn to mind the lever, grasshopper or you’ll have beer in your hair at the start of your shift.

7. You don’t have a tactic to deflect unwanted attention.

If you bartend, you will, at some point, find yourself on the receiving end of unwanted attention. Maybe it is a guest asking for your number, or a co-worker angling for “friends with benefits.” Either way, you need a line, a strategy, or the ability to deliver a firm, but polite “no.” If not, prepare for some awkward conversations.

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