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Bartender's repertoire


JAZ
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A couple of posts in the Mixologist Incompetence thread got me thinking about what drinks a bartender should be expected to know. Obviously, the drinks a bartender serves are dependent on the type of place and the location as well as other factors, but it seems to me that there's a list of drinks that any bartender worth his or her salt should know.

In The Joy of Mixology, Gary Regan lists the drinks he thinks are essential, but I think he's asking a lot -- the Blood and Sand makes his list, as does the Twentieth Century Cocktail. Not that these aren't worthy drinks, but I'd hardly consider them essential. I would certainly not expect the average bartender to know them.

But what are the essential drinks?

Obviously, Martinis, Manhattans, Margaritas, Daiquiris, Old Fashioneds would make the list. I'd expect Gimlets and Gibsons too be on it as well. Rob Roys? I don't know. I used to expect bartenders to know how to make Sidecars, but have found that many do not. Here in San Francisco, most bartenders (even at divy little neighborhood bars) know how to make Negronis, but I suspect that's not usual. On the other hand, I once ordered an Americano at a nice hotel bar and the bartender there was clueless.

As for newer drinks, I'd think that Cosmopolitans and Lemon Drops are a given. Mojitos, while not exactly new, are so popular here these days that it's a given that bartenders know how to make them.

This is, of course, not a complete list but rather a suggestion of what sorts of drinks should be part of a well-trained bartender's repertoire. And it's also from the point of view of a patron, not a bartender.

What does everyone else think?

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I think such a "necessity" list really would depend on the establishment itself.

I do however think that there are a flexible list of "classics", that every bartender should know, even if they are -never- ordered at their bar, just because they represent the basis for everything else.

These might be:

Gin:

Aviation, Bijou, Martini, Negroni, Ramos Gin Fizz

Whiskey:

Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Bourbon Crusta

Brandy:

Brandy Alexander, Stinger, Sidecar

Tequila:

Margarita, (Sangrita)

Rum:

Daiquiri, Mai Tai, Floridita, Caipirinha

Vodka:

Vesper, Bloody Mary, Cosmopolitan

However...

Something that I think is perhaps even more important then this, specifically because if properly done it "leads" to this, is that bartenders learn to focus on "perfecting" a personal specialty. I'm not saying they invent a drink, but rather that they take a classic drink that is "appropriate" to their venue, and research the hell out of it in order to really "know" that drink. Scour through every book they can find and build up a list of the various (and often contradictory) recipes. Try to see the "truth" behind these recipes, and what the flavor profile intent of the drink actually is. Experiment to determine what "just the right" ratio is in order to end up with a drink that is "perfectly" balanced. Experiment with different brands to detremine how they affect the outcome.

Learn how to make a "Sidecar" with just Brandy, Cointreau, and Lemon Juice... but end up with a drink that will surprise your customers by how silky smooth it tastes.

...then once you have that one down, pick some other drink and begin the process all over again.

-Robert

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sad to report that perhaps 1 in 3 'bartenders' in NY knows how to make a sidecar based on my observations

Edited by mjr_inthegardens (log)

�As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy, and to make plans.� - Ernest Hemingway, in �A Moveable Feast�

Brooklyn, NY, USA

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In terms of a professional bartender, I imagine the list of requisite cocktails will have a lot to do with the venue. There's little point, for example, in learning how to make an Aviation in a bar that is frequented by the frozen margarita and Jaeger shooter set.

--

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An acquaitance used to baffle bartenders by ordering a Rennoco, then explain, "It's O'Conner spelled backwards. It's a shot and a beer."

"Last week Uncle Vinnie came over from Sicily and we took him to the Olive Garden. The next day the family car exploded."

--Nick DePaolo

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In terms of a professional bartender, I imagine the list of requisite cocktails will have a lot to do with the venue.  There's little point, for example, in learning how to make an Aviation in a bar that is frequented by the frozen margarita and Jaeger shooter set.

Of course you're right. But my point was more that, regardless of what drinks a particular bar or bartender serves regularly, there still seems to be a short list of drinks that any bartender should know how to make. The Aviation isn't one of them, but certainly every bartender should know how to make a Martini and a Manhattan, right? Are there others?

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Of course you're right. But my point was more that, regardless of what drinks a particular bar or bartender serves regularly, there still seems to be a short list of drinks that any bartender should know how to make. The Aviation isn't one of them, but certainly every bartender should know how to make a Martini and a Manhattan, right? Are there others?

Used to be, an old fashioned was right up there with a martini and a Manhattan, but I'm afraid that cocktail has gone the way of its name.

Sacred cows make the best hamburger.

- Mark Twain, 1835 - 1910

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I'm on my own personal crusade for the Aviation by asking for it in every bar/restaurant I go to. I haven't found it yet nor have any of the bartenders been familiar with Maraschino. I'll have to keep drinking at home!

Don't these establishments provide any training for their barkeeps? I find it hard to believe someone did not know how to make a Sidecar. What do they teach bartenders these days?

KathyM

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Of course you're right. But my point was more that, regardless of what drinks a particular bar or bartender serves regularly, there still seems to be a short list of drinks that any bartender should know how to make. The Aviation isn't one of them, but certainly every bartender should know how to make a Martini and a Manhattan, right? Are there others?

Hmmm... I wonder. The three big ones that come immediately to mind are: Martini, Cosmopolitan, Margarita. Second tier would be Manhattan, Gimlet, LIT. Third tier would be things like Mojitos and Caipirinhas that are becoming popular in some cities/demographics. Other than those, and no doubt more popular than any from the second of third tier, are things like Gin & Tonic, Bloody Mary, Rum & Coke, 7 & 7, etc. -- mixed drinks that don't demand a whole lot of skill and are easily understood simply from the name.

My gut feeling is that, in 90% of American bars, a bartender can get by only knowing the first tier cocktails and the easy mixed drinks.

--

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This is a page from a lady in the biz I wholly respect.

These are only the basics and then, of course, factor in the regionality of some popular drinks, shots or cocktails.

Never in my life did I think I'd be learning and pouring a "Wet Pussy." :blink:

http://www.miss-charming.com/recipes/know.htm

Also about the Aviation. I do not know how to make one, nor have I ever been asked or actually tried to make one. oHIo does not accept Maraschino on their draconian list of liquors available for legal retail sale. Those are factors as well.

Cocktail enthusiasts will jump into The Joy of Mixology, or whatever cocktail book they hold near and dear to their heart, and often will know more than the average joe schmoe bartender working in the most current rage club, martini bar, corporate chain or neighbourhood pub.

Consider this: a recent bar opened up and looked like a fine second job for the scarcer cooler months and was told that despite my years of experience, I wasn't blond. Not in those words, however I could not help but notice those that were hired were about 100 pounds or smaller, female and blond. I've got two out of three of those requirements! But it wasn't enough. Bar owner priorities, eh?

I've never been asked for a Side Car and can only tell you I've made a Rusty Nail three times total in the years I've been tending.

Play stump the bartender with any amount of enthusiastic zeal will garner an escort to the front door while being politely asked to leave, given a Bud Light or ignored by the entire team staffing that bar.

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Are we refashioning the same list of my friend Miss Charming already hammered out?

I believe the Old Fashioned and Greyhound are on there....

Another note, because one dubs themself a cocktail enthusiast, it some how morphs into "What the heck? This bartender doesn't know how to make it????!?"

It then becomes they are "incompetent"!!!

Ever consider bars stock what is currently popular to make sales? The cocktail enthusiast is rather few and far between, and I do understand what the infers about the imbibing public.

:rolleyes:

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Beans brings up good points, I think. There are, unfortunately, precious few "cocktailphile" bars around. So, what I think we have here are perhaps two different lines of inquiry here. There is "what should be in the ideal cocktailian bartender's repertoire" and there is "what is valuable to have in the average working bartender's repercoire." These are completely different questions, and will result in completely different answers.

For the averge working bartender working at a typical bar, I'm thinking: Margarita, Cosmo and Martini -- in that order -- plus whatever happens to be the trendy drink du jour and a few house specialties are the only "must have" cocktails that require any real mixing skills. Everything else will be of the G&T/Bloody Mary/LIT variety. I'm guessing that the above, plus beer and shots/shooters, comprises around 99% of the average American bar's business.

Now, for a bartender at a "really good cocktail place" the list is entirely different.

--

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Beans brings up good points, I think.  There are, unfortunately, precious few "cocktailphile" bars around.  So, what I think we have here are perhaps two different lines of inquiry here.  There is "what should be in the ideal cocktailian bartender's repertoire" and there is "what is valuable to have in the average working bartender's repercoire."  These are completely different questions, and will result in completely different answers.

For the averge working bartender working at a typical bar, I'm thinking: Margarita, Cosmo and Martini -- in that order -- plus whatever happens to be the trendy drink du jour and a few house specialties are the only "must have" cocktails that require any real mixing skills.  Everything else will be of the G&T/Bloody Mary/LIT variety.  I'm guessing that the above, plus beer and shots/shooters, comprises around 99% of the average American bar's business.

Now, for a bartender at a "really good cocktail place" the list is entirely different.

A good point,

Do spirit & mixer serves really count????

In the more cocktailian(?) bars in Scotland, the list may read like this

Martini

Manhattan

Daquiri

Margarita

Old Fashioned

Sours (many varieties, same basic recipe...)

Fizz, Collins, Rickey.....

Julep, Mojito, Smash....

Bellini

Classic Champagne Cocktail (Bitters, cognac, etc.. not to patronise but to aide trans-atlantic understanding...)

Bloody Mary (& Red Snapper)

Mai Tai (not in all but maybe catching on...)

Breezes, Sea, Bay, etc...

Cheers

Vist Barbore to see the Scottish scene.

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I guess I wasn't clear in my original post. I'm not talking about "playing stump the bartender." I'm just trying to see if there's agreement on a basic list of drinks that a customer can reliably order in most any bar and expect the bartender to know how to make them.

Another way to phrase it is this: if I walked into a bar -- any bar, anywhere in the States -- and asked for a Martini and the bartender said, "What's that?" I'd be worried. But if I walked into that same bar and asked for a Bronx, I wouldn't be surprised if the bartender didn't know how to make it. I wouldn't expect that he or she would know it. What I had in mind is the first sort of drink -- in addition to the Martini.

So it's not a matter of what bartenders can "get by with" really, as Sam suggested. But I'm not talking about the ideal list at the ideal cocktailian bar, either. Somewhere in between, perhaps.

Cheryl Charming's list (the link to which beans provided) is one answer -- I'd say I agree with some of it, but feel that there are gaps, and it lists drinks that I would not consider essential. ThinkingBartender's list is another -- it seems more reasonable to me.

But maybe it's not possible, after all.

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This post will make me sound like some grumpy old timer but I believe many bar owners know longer care if their bartenders have any knowledge of cocktails. At the end of my time behind the bar I found that most of my co-workers fell into two catagories. 1. Pretty boys. 2. Pretty girls.

This was at a major resort hotel and I was the last of the classicly trained guys there. Managment did not want us, and the hip bartenders did not either. Very few of them and any understanding of the trade, and had no idea of how to carry a conversation and manage a bar. They could flip shakers in the air or unbutton a top blouse button but any knowledge of their trade was lacking. Trying to get them to understand even the rudiments of wine and its service met with glazed over stares. This is what managment wanted and that is what they got. I left not soon after the Director of Sales for the hotel came to see me one day. He and I had worked there together for a long time. He asked me what kind of bartenders they were hiring these days as one of his big clients was in and ordered a martini and the boy working had no idea how to make it.

Were I live there are very few places were the bartenders know anything about cocktails and wine knowledge is darn near non-existant.

If you find a place were they know how to make a cocktail treasure it. When I go out these days I will just ask for Makers Mark on the rocks. I LOVE Manhatan's but I hate to even try to get one anymore

END OF RANT and apoligies as it really does not answer the question asked

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Not grumpy at all lancastermike. It is a harsh reality of the biz. Hell, I applied and was denied a position, all with other friends in the biz working there, because I wasn't blond. It is a matter of which one can get by with.

JAZ, I think you are hoping for a pipe dream. If you walk into any average bar and ask for a martini you most likely get vodka and not your favourite gin.

A large part of this is also the customer's ability to communicate effectively. Bartenders are hired for a wild bunch of reasons (even to the point of who is sleeping with who) and to expect them to read your mind to what it is exactly what you want without specification just won't happen. If you order a martini you will recieve vodka, prolly without vermouth, and a well brand at that. I don't worry about their repertoire as much if I walk up to the bar and order a wet, Plymouth gin martini with Vya dry vermouth, shaken and up with three olives. Then I'll receive what I want without worry to that tender's "repertoire." (wasn't this discussed in the bar etiquette thread?)

Specify brands. Instruct the garnish. Request the "style" (up or on the rocks). Ask if they placed the bitters in the Manhattan.

Also be able to read a bar. Don't walk into a shot and beer joint and ask for a Brandy Alexander. :laugh:

It is impossible to have those sorts of expectations, universally. Cheryl's been in the biz for about twenty years (in central Florida). George (who is Thinking) is an enthusiastic cocktail purist in recipe and history, as I've stated before wiser than his years (in London, England). Not dissing Cheryl in any way, they work in two wholly different worlds, and I recognise and respect both tremendously for each of their achievements and contributions to the biz.

edit: clarity

Edited by beans (log)
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So if you need to always specify the exact recipe for any cocktail, what's the point of having a bartender? If a bartender's job doesn't include knowing a list of recipes for cocktails (whatever the list may be), why not just have automatic dispensers?

A curious question to ponder.

regards,

trillium

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Eye candy, their cash handling abilities, their talent for cultivating a regular clientele, ability to entertain (flair), ability to sell, their speed and accuracy, their accountability.

You really cannot expect them to be walking databases of millions of recipes, particularly if it isn't a currently popular drink.

What's the harm in teaching them a new trick? I had a server from the restaurant next door that would visit after her shift and ask me for a Colorado Bulldog. My not ever having made one before had no problem asking her how it was made. She, the customer, is most usually happy to explain their current favourite drink so that they get it exactly the way the want! So?!?!

Bartending is not at all like becoming a chef wherein you are classically trained in the moldy oldie cocktails that were popular in the late 1800's. (or any choice of cocktailian years). The bartending academies teach them what is current and popular -- to arm them with the best and most usable information to succeed. Not that I'm an advocate of any such academy....

Why does everyone have a problem with communicating what they want? They do at a table to their server, no?

-I want a filet mignon, medium rare with the baked potatoe without butter but with sour cream?

-I'll have the apple pie a la mode, warmed, only if you have cinnamon ice cream. If not, then don't warm the pie, but I'll still take it a la mode with vanilla.

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Another thought:

Why are so many here expecting bartenders to be data base, machines?

They are human! They help to create atmosphere! You interact and based upon your interpersonal/social skills that will either be a successful or unsuccessful experience!

And they aren't servants or the hired help for what those terms infer.

I find it amusing that they are instantly held with a certain amount of distain if they don't know your preferred Corpse Reviver recipe or serve it up as you would do at home.

Interact!

Then, maybe if you make that friendly exchange something that tender believes is worthwhile (fine line of being a pain in the ass however) to remember the next time you are in -- bingo! Nirvana!!!

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This bartender as database idea seems a little off, honestly.

If you have a favorite drink, then know its recipe and be able to communicate it.

If you want to try something new and different, then ask the bartender if they have a specialty, or if they can make something you'd like if you also like X drink.

I'd bet that almost all drinks that get sold are either the top tier classics, as discussed above, or drinks that get actively promoted by the establishment. If the bartender had trouble making one of the drinks that appears on the cocktail menu, then they really don't belong behind the bar... but inability to construct an Aviation (as if any commercial bar had maraschino behind it) or a Monkey Gland, or a Bronx is pretty much meaningless. Nobody expects a bartender to be able to make them without guidance, so none of them can. If you want one, come in with the recipe, and hope they have the ingredients.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I don't think anyone is saying that bartender should be a machine-like database of cocktail recipes or that you can cop an attitude if they don't know some obscure drink. I think the question is: are there any drinks you can assume a basic knowledge about when dealing with a bartender? I'm not sure there are, but it's an interesting question to think about. Or maybe the question is even, do all cocktails fall under the catagory of obscure when dealing with an unknown bartender? I didn't think the question was: what do you have to do as a customer to get the drink you want? Which is interesting too, but a different question.

To go with the filet mignon analogy, first of all, you're not dealing with the person making it in the kitchen, you're dealing with the waitperson, so it's not quite the same, but you do make certain assumptions, for instance, that the chef knows what the cut of beef that comprises a filet mignon is, that they know what medium rare means, and that they know that butter and sour cream are not the same things.

regards,

trillium

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Some of the drinks which have been mentioned are purely idealistic, in my opinion.

Aviation, Bijou, Ramos Gin Fizz, Bourbon Crusta, Floridita,

Although I am familiar with the names of these cocktails, and could probably remember what goes into them. I have never made them, and have never been asked to prepare them.

Is this necessity list really just a wish list?

My wish list would then be:

Algarrobina

Algonquin

Aviation

Basin Street

Batida de Maracujá

Between the sheets

Black feather

Black Russian

Bloody Caesar

Bloody Mary

Bourbon Alexander

Bourbon Manhattan

Bourbon Milk Punch

Bourbon Sour

Bramble, the

Brandy Alexander

Brandy Manhattan

Brandy Mint Julep

Brandy Old Fashioned

Brandy Sour

Brave Bull

Caipirinha

Caipirinha (Rustic Style)

Caipirovka

Capitán

Classic Champagne Cocktail

Clover Club

Cosmopolitan

Cowboy Martini

Cuba Libre

Daiquirí

Dark and Stormy

Dick’s Mojito

Draque

Dutch Trade Winds

Eastern Whiskey Sour

El Diablo

Ernest Hemingway Special

Fjellbekk

Freddy Fudpucker

French Martini

Frisco

Frisco Sour

Gin Fizz

Gin Re-Fashioned

Gin Sour

Godchild

Godfather

Guadalajara

Honeysuckle

Horse’s neck

Irish Coffee

Jupiter Cocktail

Kamikaze

Kangaroo Kicker

La Steenworde

Mai Tai

Metropolitan

Mint Julep

Mitch Martini

Moscow Mule

Mulata

Negroni

Old Fashioned

Oriental Cocktail, the

Pegu Club

Pisco Punch

Pisco Sour

Raspberry Collins

Raspberry Martini

Rob Roy

Rosita

Rum Sour

Russian Spring Punch

Rusty Nail

Sazerac

Scorpion

Seabreeze

Seelbach Cocktail, the

Sensation

Side-car

Singapore Sling

Six Bells

Stinger

Straits Sling

Suburban

Tequila Banger

Tequila Sunrise

Tom Collins

Valentino

Vesper

Vodka Espresso

Ward Eight

Whisky Sour

White Lady

White Russian

Wibble, the

X, Y, Zee

Is that enough?, though it doesn't include Kir, Kir Royale, Kir Imperiale, Buck's Fizz, Mimosa etc

Cheers!

George

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