Bad cocktails don’t happen because of freak accidents. Chances are, you received a shaken Manhattan with an olive garnish because your bartender is a newbie. Luckily, you can avoid (or at least anticipate) that potable abomination by looking out for a few telltale signs. Here are five signs it’s your bartender’s first day on the job.
Your bartender is serving Gin & Tonics in coupe glasses.
Believe it or not, glassware is important. Long drinks are meant to be served in tall glasses so that the ratios of spirit to ice, juice and effervescence are in balance, while strong, stirred drinks are served in shorter, wider glasses so you get the full effect of the aromatics. If your bartender is just grabbing glasses willy-nilly, chances are the quality of your cocktail will reflect that laissez-faire attitude.
Your bartender’s body language reads frustrated and panicked, not cool, calm and collected.
While even the best bartenders need time to adjust to a new bar (and may seem flustered if they don’t have their surroundings memorized yet), bartenders who are new to the job will often exhibit signs of constant frustration as a result of their lack of confidence behind the bar. Bartending requires a balance of communication, preparation and multitasking. When you’re new to the job, it’s easy to be thrown by one misplaced bar spoon.
Your bartender can’t shake a cocktail and hold a conversation at the same time.
It’s like the age old question: Can you rub your tummy and pat your head at the same time? When a bartender has spent enough time behind the bar, making drinks and interacting with customers, it’s easy for them to work while carrying a conversation. The best bartenders can even maintain eye contact with guests while shaking or stirring and holding court. If your bartender can’t make small talk while he or she is making your Martini, it’s a sign they’re still just getting started.
When your bartender stirs a Manhattan, it sounds like jingle bells.
One of the most important lessons novice bartenders learn—besides speed, grace and multitasking—is the art of working silently. Customers don’t want their conversations interrupted by the sounds of chaos coming from behind the bar. But aside from bothering customers, loud, clattering stirring is a sign that your bartender just hasn’t put in enough time mixing up Gibsons. To more skilled bartenders, the sound of a bar spoon against a glass mixer is like nails on a chalkboard.
Your bartender doesn’t know how to make a Manhattan...or a Negroni...or anything but a Jack and Coke.
If your bartender has to consult his or her iPhone or ask you, the customer, how to mix up a classic cocktail, you should probably run for the nearest exit (or just ask for a beer).