The basics of bartending

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Get ready to become a star behind the bar with these basics of bartending.

The basics of bartending

So you wanna be a bartender? That’s totally cool. Being able to mix delicious drinks at your party is an impressive skill that will make you a lot of friends quickly. Of course, like all skills, being a great bartender only comes with practice and a solid knowledge of the basics. Are you ready to learn the basics? Take out a pen, paper and shaker because bartender school is in session.

Drink up!

The most important thing you can do to be a good bartender is familiarize yourself with what’s out there. That means you’re going to have to drink. Yes, it’s a dirty job, but you’re up for it. Of course, it’s not all fun and games. You shouldn’t just drink what you like -- instead you should branch out and try new cocktails and flavor combinations. Seek out trendy bars known for their mixology and sample their signature drinks.


The good news is that unless a drink is particularly avant-garde, you’re going to find a recipe for it somewhere. Collect a few recipes you want to master and practice them in the safety of your own home before you try serving them to others. Also, make sure you practice the basic drinks: vodka tonic, martini, whiskey sour, and rum and Coke. No matter how crazy your bartending skills become, people will always want the basics.

Your bartending knowledge base

First, make sure that you know what goes into a given cocktail and how it’s made -- both are equally important. For instance, should you shake a martini? How about a Long Island tea? Some people prefer stirred martinis, but for the most part you can shake either of these drinks. Should you shake a rum and Coke? Probably not -- and you should never stir soda with a metal spoon. These are just a few of the things you need to learn.

Practice shaking

Bartenders make using a shaker look easy. However, the first 10 or 20 times you use one, you’ll get liquor all over you hands (and friends). So unless you want to cover your guests in their drink, make sure you are comfortable covering a shaker tightly and shaking it without spilling.

Practice shaking in front of a mirror

Once you can shake without causing a mess, then you can start your career as a flair bartender. Stand in front of a mirror and practice shaking high, low, above your head, in a circle, etc., until you have a few shakes that look impressive. Sure, this isn’t exactly basic bartending, but it does look cool.

Practice a signature cocktail

Every good bartender has a few drinks that they just do best. Find yours -- make one up that people will like or perfect an existing one. That way you can impress people when they don’t know what they want.

Practice one layered drink

When you are ready to really show your stuff, make a layered cocktail. Because certain liquors will float on top of each other, you can make drinks with stripes. 

To do this, get a wide-mouthed shot glass and put a spoon over the top. Pour grenadine over the top of the spoon, then creme de banana, and then creme de menthe. The shot should quickly separate into three layers for a visual treat. If you can master that, you are ready for just about everything.