How to Be a Better Home Bartender, According to Bartenders

Bartenders are the sages of the hospitality world—we trust their sound advice on everything from first dates to handy hacks that’ll cut your prep time in half. So when it comes to tips on how to become a better bartender, we put our full trust in their pro tips. Here, 10 bartenders on the one thing you can do to improve your bartending skills at home.

Learn a New Drink Every Day

“Try and learn one new drink every day! More and more instead of ordering a cocktail by its name, people give me an idea of a drink. Some examples: I want a Manhattan but different, or what drinks can you make me with Fernet Branca? Learning a drink per day and building a foundation of cocktails in my head gives me the confidence to get those customers what they want. If you don't know where to start, just Google the top 10 drinks of a given spirit. Find ones you've not made but have ingredients for, and go to work. That's what I do!” — Zach Cramer, Tiny’s and the Bar Upstairs

Mind Your Mise en Place

“The one thing that makes the biggest difference when I've trained bartenders, and makes or breaks events, is preparation. Chefs use the term ‘mise en place,’ meaning ‘everything in its place’ to describe how you're physically set up at the start of a shift. If you're working in a bar every day, you can likely get into a rhythm, but often tools are missing, product runs out, etc. You need to have your own checklist and understanding of what the physical space looks like in order to be efficient and effective. This is something I am always working on, whether it's bartending events, running samplings or working markets for Swig + Swallow, my cocktail mixer company. You can never be too prepared.” — April Wachtel, Swig + Swallow

“I personally could work on being neater. When I get busy, my station sometimes looks like a tornado has rolled through!” — Johnny Swet, JIMMY at The James

Read the Right Books

“If you want to throw cocktail parties and impress your friends, pick up Ryan Chetiyawardana’s book Good Things To Drink with Mr Lyan and Friends and make everything in it. This is how to be a better bartender. I’m serious!” — Kenneth McCoy, Public House Collective

Take the Stress out of Parties with Punch

Punch is a savior. People serve themselves and nothing brings people together more than punch. The more you can step away, the more your guests will have fun and interact with you.” — Alex Chien, Watershed Kitchen & Bar

Serve Others Before Serving Yourself

“Don’t drink while you are mixing! Trying to account for everything after drinking is like trying to make Christmas dinner for your entire family after too many Miller High Lifes and shots of whiskey … so I've been told.” — Spencer Osburg, Bravas Bar de Tapas

Don’t Fear Experimentation

“Learn your flavor profiles and don’t be afraid to substitute. You can always substitute amaro with orange, or grapefruit bitters for Campari instead of running to the store when you want a Negroni. A bit of research will take you a long ways at home.” — Zach Sasser, Oasthouse Kitchen + Bar

“Be daring and never stop exploring! Do not be afraid of testing recipes on your friends and family.” — Toni Olmo, Telefèric Barcelona

Practice Self Care

“We should all practice awareness of our work environments, as well as self awareness of how we function in the workplace. Get sleep, drink less alcohol and know your shit.” — Gaby Mlynarczyk, Accomplice

Never Stop Learning

“Always continue your education—keep reading, seeing what’s out there and traveling. It’ll help you stay ahead of the game.” — Ben Cogburn, Pinstack