cals in gin, but they slightly suffer with a
fixation with the drink as opposed to the
drinker,” Winchester points out.
In addition to the widely criticized
fixation of many craft bars and bartenders
on the sometimes geeky, even snobby top-
ics of cocktail history and approved clas-
sics, Winchester says that there are also
plenty of skill issues for even the best bar-
tenders. Last year, he toured the U.S. for
Tanqueray in a program that gauged the
capabilities of more than 300 bartenders,
testing bar skills considered important to
all levels of the trade: pouring accuracy,
speed, memory, numeracy, technique and
final presentation.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re working at
Milk and Honey or T.G.I. Friday’s—you’re
doing the same job of following recipes as
quickly, efficiently and attractively as pos-
sible,” he points out.
Participating bartenders all received
the same sets of recipes, then were given
a series of orders and were timed. Drinks
were examined for proper garnishment and
presentation, bottles weighed for pouring
accuracy, and objective scores tabulated.
(Tanqueray now offers a similar evalua-
tion to operations, in which bartenders are
evaluated against their co-workers.)
The results? Some very good and well-
known bartenders didn’t do so well, and
many newer folks performed exceptional-
ly. Good skills were evident in cities con-
sidered outside the main cocktail circuit—
Kansas City and St. Louis, notably. The
average American bartender tested poured
with 86% accuracy, a score most operators
would find wanting.
Another issue: less than 30% tasted
their drinks with a straw at the correct
time—many forgot altogether or did
so after they poured the drink, instead
of when it was still in the shaker and
correction would be less obvious. More
crucial for operators was the common
problem of poorly managed pour spouts
and spillage. As Winchester notes,
“Even the meniscus on a jigger allows
for a 10% overpour and these mount
up—one bartender working three shifts
a week overpouring at a 10% rate mak-
ing 100 drinks a night will overpour 187
bottles of spirit per year.”
Briars, the newly named Bacardi global
director of brand advocacy, says the time
is ripe for suppliers to train not only about
their brands, but to support the industry to
run businesses more efficiently and profit-
ably. “I’m amazed when I’ve talked to lead-
ing some leading mixologists who are great
bartenders but still have no idea how to
cost out a cocktail,” he says.
Now that cocktail-centric bars have
opened all over the country, competition
is a given, and how to run a bar profit-
ably will be seen as much more important.
“We’ve never had this much knowledge
and it’s never been this good to be in the
bar industry. I’d hate for us to squander this
opportunity,” he says.
Says Winchester, “Hospitality is rel-
atively simple: put a smile on a guest’s
face, optimize the sale while in the ven-
ue and give them a reason to return.”
A bartender at the top of her practical
skills who can do that in the midst of a
Friday night rush would be worth his/her
weight in Sazeracs.
In the big picture, perhaps the great-
est value in training is the prospect of
making the maneuvers and mindset of
bartending second nature, empowering
the person behind the stick to develop an
identity while being an asset to a drinking
establishment. That said, a neophyte bar-
tender can still choose among all sorts of
training programs, including the much-
maligned “flair bartending” style that
still has pockets of aficionados. As Gaz
Regan says, “I can’t think of any facet of
bartending that’s being missed at present,
but I’ve no doubt that someone will soon
start offering a course in techniques that
I’ve never dreamed of. I’m really looking
forward to that.”
Based in Brooklyn, Jack Robertiello has worked with or
written about wine, spirits, bars and restaurants for most of
his adult life. He speaks frequently on industry topics, and
judges at numerous competitions.
Francesco Lafranconi in Brisbane, Australia;
below, Angus Winchester speaking at the “Tanqueray
Ginstitute” in Chicago.
bartender training
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