Two things come to mind when thinking about what would have been helpful to know when I was starting out.
First is that making drinks and bartending are two different things, two separate skills that are the foundation of our craft. Being very developed in one but under-developed in the other makes you a poor craftsman. In a perfect world, both skills have to grow and develop simultaneously. This is a journey that becomes a destination, a fluid kind of thing…
The other is that to really be of service to one’s guests, one needs to learn how to become a hundred different things to a hundred different people, and to wear a thousand faces while knowing that not one of them is your true one. When that can be done for each guest anew, fresh and for real, then a special bond is created between the server and the guest.
The guest is now experiencing hospitality — which is an emotional perception. The bartender also experiences a pleasant emotional sensation of welcoming someone into their world and nurturing them. In this symbiotic relationship, as much as the guest will gain, the bartender gains as well. The guest returns for more, giving the bar return business, and the bartender lives a more content life knowing that they do their job like a real pro, both inside and out.
“The greatest accomplishment of a bartender lies in his ability to exactly suit his customer.” –Harry Johnson, Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartender’s Manual, 1882
Read more advice for bartenders from the experts.