Professional bartenders learn a slew of tips and tricks as they rise from the position of a lowly bar-back to the top of their class. If you visit a particular bar or club with any frequency, then you most assuredly have a favorite bartender. They know your name, they know what you drink, and they serve it to you perfectly every time.
There is a certain allure of standing behind a bar, mixing concoctions for your patrons to enjoy, and namely, toying with the idea of being the requisite bar-master. While most of us will never be professional bartenders, many of us aspire to feel that excitement and serve up a batch of drinks just as the masters do.
If you happen to have your own bar in your home, whether self-made in your basement, or a freestanding pool-side bar, or if you’ve ever mixed a drink for company, then you might admit that you don’t know much about serving drinks, or you might fancy yourself a bartender extraordinare. Either way, anyone can benefit from the following bartender secrets that will enhance any cocktail party.
Many common homegoods stores today sell glassware of various shapes and sizes suited to all manner of drinks, from wine goblets to martini glasses to a vast range of anything in between to adequately encompass the vast majority of mixed drinks. Unless you possess a lot of space in your cabinets, in addition to a decent amount of spending money, chances are you will not be purchasing all the “required” barware. Not to worry; it is the quality of the drink that counts, not the glass it is served in. A set of wine goblets and a set of tall glasses should be enough to handle anything you may be serving.
Chilling a glass is simple. If you have a fridge nearby, simply keep the glasses inside for about an hour before preparing your drinks. Otherwise, fill the glass with cold water and ice and let sit, then dump the water and ice before pouring your drinks.
For a special touch, frosting a glass can add a nice flair to your cocktail. To do this, simply submerge the glass in cold water, then place it in the freezer. As the moisture on the glass freezes, the glass will be frosted. Be careful to hold the glass from the stem or the bottom when removing it from the freezer or serving your drinks, or the frosting will begin to rub off.
All manner of cocktails call for a particular garnish. But easily one of the most common drinks at any cocktail party is a margarita, and it is traditional to salt the rim of the glass, though many unique twists on margaritas now call for flavored or colored sugars. There are a few ways to achieve this effect. Confectioner’s sugar comes in a variety of colors. Simply dip the rim of the glass in water, then in a plate of spread sugar, and the sugar will adhere to the rim. For various flavors, you can use lemon or lime juice, or rub the rim of the glass with fresh fruit if available, or flavored alcohols, such as grenadine, amaretto, etc., and then dip the glass into the appropriate colored sugar to match the flavor.
For simple fruit garnishes such as lemon or lime, you will twist the piece of fruit above the drink, then drop it into the drink. But how do you know when to use either lemon or lime? Traditionally, lemon is used for any drink mixed with club soda, and lime for drinks calling for tonic water. Drinks with a fruitier flavor may call for a cherry and orange garnish. For this, you can spear the cherry and orange slice with a toothpick and place into the glass. If using an olive as a garnish, it is common to spear it with a toothpick but you can simply place it at the bottom of the glass.
Ice. It seems like such a small detail, but can in fact be an essential key to creating a good drink. You will want to use fresh ice for your cocktails, as freezer odors absorbed into ice that has been sitting there for some time can in fact ruin a drink.
Many cocktails will taste better if the alcohol has already been chilled, such as cocktails calling for vodka or rum. The chilled liquor will enhance the flavor. Of course, it is best to use premium liquors.
Using a shaker set can be intimidating if you have never done so before, but the process is actually quite simple. To use the shaker set, take the metal container and the mixing glass (the glass you will serve your drink in, or any spare glass used to mix the drink), add ice if the recipe calls for it, along with any other ingredients. Then, simply fit the metal container over the glass so it is snug, and shake several times. Leave the mixed drink in the metal container, and fit the strainer over the top, then pour into the glass. Are you beginning to feel like a professional bartender yet?
The bane of thin glass, hot drinks can sometimes cause glasses to crack and shatter. To deter this from occurring, place a metal spoon into the glass first. This will absorb the heat and keep your glasses safe.
Of course, these simple tips can only help you get started. The true test is having the knowledge of how drinks are made. Any bartender recipe book can help you acquire the necessary recipes for the most common, and oftentimes, some not so common cocktails and drinks. With a little practice, you’ll delight your guests a perfect cocktail and keep them coming back for more.