Food & Drink

Bartender Hacks That Will Cut Your Party Prep Time in Half

While throwing a party is always fun, the prep work can be daunting. Not only do you need to plan menus and gather supplies, you have to make sure that everything is done in advance so you can actually spend some time with your guests. Luckily bartenders, who serve hundreds of patrons a night, have some handy tricks up their sleeves to cut down on prep time. We asked some of our favorites for their best tips. Heed their advice, and you’ll cut the prep time for your next party in half.

Weigh Instead of Measure

"Weight is king! Our syrups call for the ingredients to all be measured by weight instead of volume so that we nail consistency the first time around. We use a nifty little scale (like you'd find in the kitchen) for these prep items." — Claire Sprouse, Sunday in Brooklyn

Food Scraps Are Your Friends

"To cut down on prep time, we like to utilize kitchen waste (like cilantro stems or lime rinds) to make syrups, shrubs and infusions. It minimizes your total waste as a restaurant, and it saves time because a lot of the products are already broken down.” — Cait Callahan, Camperdown Elm

Infuse Syrups in Advance

“We mix non-perishable ingredients together before the shift. For example, instead of muddling jalapeño for each order, we infuse jalapeño in agave for a few hours, test every couple of hours to get the exact spiciness we want, then strain the jalapeño and use the agave. Not only do you save time on muddling, you can make consistent drinks every time because some jalapeños are spicier than others.” — Young Kim, The Flatiron Room

Or Use Your Blender to Make Fast Syrups

“At The Bonnie, we recently started using our Vitamix to blend dried spices into our simple syrups instead of steeping the syrups with whole spices. We flavor many of our cocktails with spiced syrups—an easy way to get big flavor into drinks—but making the syrups used to require boiling the sugar and water together, adding the whole spices, and then letting the mixture steep anywhere from a few hours to overnight. Our head barback Omar suggested that we grind the spices right into the hot syrup in the Vitamix and then strain them out. This process has many benefits: it gives the syrup a much more intense flavor, it allows us to use about a quarter of the amount of dry spices, and it lets us finish the syrup in a tiny fraction of the time." — Mike Di Tota, The Bonnie

Amp Up Your Syrups with Booze

“I have some secret tincture recipes readily available, or what I call 'cheat shots,’ and one drop can change the flavor profile of a cocktail altogether. For example, I sometimes infuse vanilla and whiskey to create a sweet syrup, which is much easier and faster than creating a sugar syrup.” — Gabriel Ospino, Lolo’s Surf Cantina

Always Mind Your Mise En Place

“For me, the best way to save time is to organize your prep in a way that puts the cocktail first. In other words, even if the bar isn't open, I'm setting up the bar expecting someone to order a drink any second. The first thing I do is put out my tins and other bar equipment. Immediately after that, I get ice. Now I can make a cocktail. After that, I do all the other stuff like cut garnishes, make fresh juice, etc. Focus on the basics first, and that will set you up to have the most successful prep.” — Joseph Bennett, Fine & Rare

“Having all of the mise en place organized and in its correct place with a proper label makes prepping and service go quicker. All bitters, cordials, infusions etc. have a specific place in the bar as well as each kind of liquor, fruit and spice. Putting each item back in its correct location guarantees an organized workspace and makes finding things for service and prep much more efficient.” — Lilibeth Coronado, Carmen Cartagena and Moshi 

Pre-Batch in Big Quantities

“I find I work best when I focus on making things like juices, syrups and shrubs in large batches (and then freezing, as necessary). You can work a lot faster if you’re focused on one big repetitive task that you can bust out in one day, rather than trying to do lots of little things every day. With that, you have peace of mind knowing you’re stocked up on everything you need for the week!" — Callahan

“Juice in bulk, freeze, then thaw when needed.” — Brooke Mallory, 3030 Ocean

Use Your Excel Skills

“Prep and batching are key elements to a successful party. They don’t compromise the quality of your cocktail, and they speed up the service considerably. The most boring but important part is to calculate all ingredients needed on an Excel sheet before the big day. The faster everyone has a drink in hand, the faster the party can get started. Less time spent waiting at the bar means more time on the dance floor!” — Seb Derbomez, Monkey Shoulder

Learn to Peel Fruit the Easy Way

"A couple years ago, I was working as the head bartender at Tamarind Tribeca where we had a dessert on the menu with frozen pomegranate seeds. The pastry chef saw me snacking on a pomegranate one day, making a mess and turning my fingers all red with the juice, and he laughed and taught me the best way to take the fruit apart: run a knife a quarter-inch deep into the skin, dividing it into quarters. Split it up, and submerge the whole thing in room temperature water. Gently ruffle the fruit's membranes with your fingers until all the white pith floats to the top while the fleshy seeds sink." — Gaston Graffigna, Bua

Buy the Right Equipment

“Using the right equipment is always the first step to saving prep time! For example, fruit slicers and wedges alone will save you hours on your garnish prep. Learn how to use these types of equipment properly and save valuable time.” — Manny Peralta, Sugar Factory American Brasserie

Give Yourself a Timeline—and Stick to It

“I'm very specific about how I prep, and usually have a standardized schedule for the whole team to help keep them on track. Each bartender is assigned a task, and then I will set time goals for them. For example, we would start by drying the fruit for the garnishes. While we cool them down, we can then work on something else like cutting ice and juicing fruits. By the time the fruits have cooled down, everything will be finished. Efficiency is the key to everything!” — Davide Franco Borgia, AZABU Miami Beach

Get Ahead on Garnishes

“Having twists, peels, slices, herbs and any other garnishes ready ahead of time is key. A sharp knife is an excellent aid in achieving this. Getting ices out of their molds as well. Prepping these items right before serving so they are fresh is important, but not doing them while trying to get 12 cocktails out at the same time during service is even more important.” — Coronado