South Sound Sidekick: How to be a bartender

By Nikki McCoy on March 2, 2013

South Sound Sidekick series offers advice from experts living in the, well, South Sound. It posts every Friday (sometimes Saturday!). Today, we turn to the Weekly Volcano's own. Nikki McCoy has tended bar for more than a decade. She's seen it all. If you're thinking about becoming a bartender, you better read this column.

Nikki McCoy writes,

I've been tending bar for more than 10 years. I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. I will probably serve your kids their first drink. I promise I will be easy on them.

If you want to know how to bartend, don't go to some academy - go to the bar.

You must know how to drink in order to make drinks for others. It's called quality control, and if a customer wants to know what a drink tastes like, you have to be able to tell them. Try it all, from Scooby Snacks (coconut rum, melon liqueur, cream and pineapple juice, shaken and strained) to straight shots of fine, aged scotch. Based on these criteria, and his recent column, "Dear Drink," Pappi Swarner would make a fine bartender.

You must also be able to be quick on your feet, sharp with your tongue and know the phone numbers of at least three different cab companies.

Also, try and be nice. I know there are a lot of a-holes out there, but just keep calm and carry on. We actually have a fortune cookie fortune taped to the bar's cash register that says, "Keep smiling. See how far it takes you."

Please don't do drugs. Sometimes there can be a plethora of drugs available at a bar. That doesn't mean you have to do them. You have enough to keep up with trying all those drinks, plus your day-to-day life. So, if someone offers, do yourself a favor and pass. Again, it helps to remember to keep calm and carry on.

Do dance behind the bar. Flirt with your co-worker, tell jokes, and dance when your favorite song comes on the jukebox, it helps lighten the load and often, your mood helps dictate the mood of the bar.

Speaking of co-workers, cover for them. While I mean that in all senses of the word, I'm specifically referring to their shifts. You never know when you'll have an emergency hangover day or wedding to attend that you'll want to cash in on, plus it shows the boss you care about business.

Don't ask people out when on shift. I know a bartender who rules his life by this motto. If they stay until your shift ends, then you have the green light.

Keep up to date on your licenses: liquor, food-handler's and driver's. You could be asked for any one of these by a person of authority at any time.

Finally, learn how to make a decent handcrafted cocktail. Any Joe can pour rum and coke in a glass. Do you and your customers a favor (remember, they pay the bills) by having a specialty drink on hand that involves, muddling, layering, building and/or chilling a glass.


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