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6 Bartending Tips & Tricks to Master

You don't have to be a professional to craft a restaurant-worthy cocktail. In fact, by mastering just a few simple bartending tips and tricks, you can create a delicious cocktail that will leave guests speechless. If you're eager to dive deeper into the world of bartending, then the 6 bartending tips and tricks on this list will surely give you a head start.

Whether you're a beginner or looking to improve your skills, familiarizing yourself with the basics—terminology, everyday ingredients, and mixing techniques—is a must. Though it may seem like a lot to learn at once, once you master these methods, they'll stick with you for life. Follow the bartending tips listed below to ensure that your following cocktail recipe is better than any drink you've made before.

Know the Difference Between a Cocktail and a Mixed Drink

Unless you're sipping on straight spirits, when making drinks, you're likely concocting a mixed drink. That being so, not every mixed drink is considered a cocktail. Knowing the difference between the two is vital to bartending success.

Mixed Drink

A mixed drink is a type of drink that combines two or more ingredients. Mixed drinks often contain ice and are commonly shaken or stirred before serving. An Old Fashioned, margarita, and rum and coke are all popular mixed drinks. In the bartending industry, it's often assumed that a mixed drink automatically contains alcohol. However, this is not always the case. Popular nonalcoholic mixed drinks include a Shirley Temple, Arnold Palmer, and a Roy Rogers.

Cocktail

A cocktail is a mixed drink that usually combines various ingredients such as liquors, sweeteners, bitters, and ice. While a cocktail doesn't have to contain all of these ingredients, many do. For example, a Brandy Cocktail is a mixed drink that combines all of the ingredients listed above, making it a classic cocktail example. Other mixed drinks like a martini or a cosmopolitan may include some of these ingredients and still be considered a cocktail. Overall, cocktails are considered fancier versions of mixed drinks that take a bit more effort to create. So why not make it easy? Sip on our crafted premade cosmopolitan and enjoy!

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Keep Basic Liquors on Hand

Not everyone has the same taste preferences. So, when making drinks for guests, it's crucial to have a variety of liquors for them to choose from. The six types of alcohols below are a base for many mixed drinks and cocktails. Each with unique characteristics, a great bartender, will have these spirits on hand.

Brandy

Popular brandy cocktails include Betsy Ross, Sidecar, Brandy Old Fashioned, and Brandy Alexander. 

Vodka

Popular vodka cocktails include Bloody Mary, Moscow mule, Cosmo, Caipirovska, and White Russian.

Whiskey

Popular whiskey cocktails include Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, Mint Julep, and a Manhattan. 

Tequila

Popular tequila cocktails include Paloma, tequila sunrise, margarita, and mojito

Gin

Popular gin cocktails include gin and tonic, gin fiz, negroni, and bramble.

Rum

Popular rum cocktails include Mai Tai, Daiquiri, Pina Colada, Rum Mule, and Dark and Stormy. Check out one of our favorites, our ready-made mai tai cocktail. The perfect blend of spices and sweetness to enjoy with every sip! 

Use Homemade Mixers

Aside from keeping a collection of the most popular spirits for a successful bartending experience, you'll also want to provide mixers to flavor a cocktail. While some mixers can double as a sweetener, most are used to add flavor to a drink. Mixers are widely available for purchase. However, the best bartenders are those that make their own. Making your cocktail mixers will take your bartending skills to the next level, allow guests to enjoy fresh ingredients, and may even help you save some money.

For a full-service bar, three types of mixers are essential:

Cocktail bitters:

Cocktail bitters are a spirit infused with botanicals like fruits, barks, leaves, spices, and herbs. Generally, bitters are added to a cocktail that already contains sweet and sour characteristics. They're used to balance out the taste by adding another primary element, thus completing the flavor profile. Manhattans, Negronis, Old Fashioneds, and Martinis are popular cocktails that include bitters. 

Sodas

Many mixed drinks rely on soda to complete the cocktail. Soda water can be used to boost a cocktail's body by adding volume and carbonation. In addition, sugary sodas double as a sweetener and flavor booster, helping to soften the taste of the alcohol and mix the drink. 

Fresh Citrus Juice

Fresh juice is one cocktail ingredient that shouldn't be underestimated. Whether making drinks at home or a bar, reach for freshly squeezed juice rather than a preprepared juice. The longer a citrus juice is in contact with the air, the more bitter it becomes. This being so, many processed and store-bought juices contain added sugars for a more appealing taste. Using fresh juice will add flavor to your cocktail and naturally sweeten it at the same time. As a result, fresh juice is tastier, adds balance to your cocktail, and is more vibrant than store-bought alternatives. The result? A great-tasting cocktail that looks incredible!

Make Drink Sweeteners at Home

When mastering the art of bartending, it's important to note that drink sweeteners are different than mixers. While mixers are primarily used to add flavor to a drink, sweeteners are used to sweeten it. Like mixers, pre-made sweeteners are available at many grocery stores. However, the best tasting ones are those that are homemade. Luckily, making a sweetener like syrup is simple. All you need is sugar, water, and a couple of ingredients to add flavor. With little skill required, even beginner bartenders can make a great-tasting sweetener. Here are a few of the most common sweeteners to add to your cocktails.

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is named so for a reason. With just a few ingredients, this cocktail sweetener can be made in minutes. Its great taste and simplicity make it one of the most often used sweeteners. And because it's sugar in a liquid form, it's easier to mix into cocktails.

Sour Mix

Sour mix is another type of simple syrup; the only difference is that lemon or lime juice is added. The perfect balance between sweet and sour, it's used to make tropical drinks like a margarita.

Grenadine

Another syrup to have on hand is grenadine. Its unique pomegranate flavor adds the perfect mix of sweet and tart flavors to your favorite drinks. An essential ingredient in a tequila sunrise, grenadine will help you create a delicious tasting cocktail every time.

Have the Right Equipment

Now that you know how to craft a professional cocktail, you'll want to make sure you have the tools to mix all of the delicious ingredients. Though there's a long list of trending bar equipment, a few staples are essential to a good drink.

Cocktail Shaker

Whether you're making drinks on the spot or have a pitcher of pre-made cocktails, you'll want to invest in a cocktail shaker. An easy way to mix beverages is by shaking them. When ice is added, a cocktail shaker also helps chill the drink before serving.

Jigger

Making a great-tasting cocktail requires getting the measurements right. While some bartenders claim that they can measure accurately by eyeing the ingredients, the best bartenders measure each element before mixing. Used primarily for measuring, a jigger holds a cup on each end, making it easy for a bartender to measure a half, a full, or a double shot when mixing drinks. Jiggers can also measure out cocktail recipes that use "parts" instead of volume measurements.

Bar Spoon

A bar spoon's long and twisted handle makes it extremely useful when stirring drinks and layering ingredients—especially when they're poured into a tall glass. Though the primary purpose of a bar spoon is to mix drinks, it doubles as an excellent jigger alternative if you don't have one on hand. One standard bar spoon equals 5ml of liquid, a.k.a one teaspoon. By simply multiplying the measurements to match what the recipe calls for, you'll ensure that your cocktail recipe is as accurate as ever.

Strainer

If your goal is to create a perfectly chilled cocktail sans ice, then you'll want to keep a strainer nearby. When using a shaker to mix and chill the drinks, a separate strainer can help you transfer the drinks into your glass of choice. While a few popular strainer options are available, the Hawthorne and Julep strainers are the most commonly used.

Garnish

Lastly, when creating a cocktail meant to impress, don't forget to garnish. While a garnished primary purpose is to boost the aesthetic appeal of the drink, some garnishes can add a bit of flavor to the glass. Though garnishes are not always necessary, they are a small detail that can take your bartending talents from good to great. Citrus fruits, herbs, celery, and even cherries are just a few of the many garnishes you can use to take your drink to the next level.

Once you've reviewed the tips and tricks above, it's time to start mastering these bartending skills. From creating at-home sweeteners to purchasing and using the right cocktail equipment, becoming a better bartender is within reach. And while it may require a bit of effort, the delicious cocktails that you'll craft are well worth it.