After a first session filled with the histories and flavors of spirits, our Bartending 101 class was ready for the behind-the-bar portion of our education. As we eyed the mixers, muddlers, shakers strainers and bar spoons set out for us, master bartender Anthony Caporale walked us through the basics of setting up, and running a bar. There were a few key set-up factors to take into account, whether you are arriving for work at a professional bar or just setting up your own home bar.:
* Every Little Step: in a well constructed bar environment the bartender should have to take no more than one step in any direction to be able to make 90% of drinks.
* Sanitation Station: There are tons of state-mandated guidelines for sanitation, but there are a couple that even home bartenders should follow: 1) Keep anything you would serve out of reach of the patrons (i.e. garnishes, bottles, etc.) 2) Nothing that touches your hand should touch something you’d put in the drink (i.e. ice. NEVER cool liquor bottles by putting them in the same ice you will be serving drinks over, nor should you use glasses to scoop ice).
* Let the Glasses be Your Guide: There’s a bounty of logic and tradition that goes into which glasses are used for each drink, but much of the time the glasses are constructed to hold a very specific amount of alcohol so you can use a good guess. For example, wine glasses should be filled to the widest part of the glass. For most glasses this is the standard five ounce serving size, one quarter of a bottle.
* Shake it like you mean it: There are a lot of different kinds of shakers out there, but the industry standard, and the best bet, is call a “Boston Shaker.” Comprised of a pint glass and a metal cup, it allows for a strong seal. The metal will form condensation and frost, helping you to judge how cold the drink.
The information and skill I learned in a mere two courses was incredible to say the least. While I may not get a job moonlighting as a bartender in New York any time soon, it’s nice to feel like if I got thrown behind a bar I could rise to the challenge. Nothing makes friends faster than mixing a good drink. Cheers!