First of all, in order to become the best at anything you set your mind to, you need to love what you do. If you are passionate about your chosen profession, your drive to succeed is far greater. This leads you to develop a strong work ethic and become highly motivated because you CARE.
Therefore, once you have the building blocks to go forward, the most important attribute in transitioning from a bartender into a great bartender is possessing a passion and ability for engaging and entertaining people. The satisfaction of hosting a room full of people and catering to their every whim is unrivalled. The people that can master this are the best bartenders on the planet. This has to be first and foremost what you learn and master. Without it, you are just another person standing behind a piece of wood. Everyone remembers, consciously or subconsciously, great service. They also remember bad service. Great service and hosting with a bad drink beats a great drink and bad service any day of the week.
Mental preparation is going to play a big part in succeeding in this industry. Bartending involves some seriously long hours, it can be very strenuous, and often performed under trying conditions, with lack of sleep playing a big part. You must prepare yourself for this. Preparation is everything. Just like your mis en place at work, you should adopt the same approach with your time spent outside of work. Being organised in your personal life and in the lead up to your work day means you give yourself every chance to be at your full potential.
Another very important aspect is creating a family culture in your venue that everyone embraces. A culture based on mutual respect for your coworkers, a set of principles and guidelines that everyone adheres to, encouragement of each other and your unique personalities, and a positive environment that promotes learning and creativity. If you are not a team player or there is disunity amongst your staff, everybody suffers. This is then reflected during service, and noticeable to your guests. Surround yourself with like-minded people, and build something special together.
Then we come to the cocktail side of things. From personal experience, when starting out, learning the classics was the most important thing I did. Download or purchase as many classic cocktail books as you can, and study the cocktails that have stood the test of time. These are the building blocks for understanding the basic flavour combinations, and why certain ingredients mix well together. Once you have a good grasp on these, it’s Warwick Capper showtime. Go forth and start experimenting. Question everything. Don’t just accept that things work, dig deeper. There are so many aspects to cocktails and drink experiences these days, and they are constantly evolving. One of the biggest influences for me is drawing inspiration and parallels with other industries, for drinks creativity and bartending in general. The world of cooking and chefs, various artists and their styles, comedians and their delivery and use of words, etc. Read, listen, question, and immerse yourself.
By Nathan Beasley – The Black Pearl