Behind the Bar

The Best Bar Wisdom and Advice We Learned in 2016

Four people moving quickly behind a bar.
For Leo Robitschek, bar director of NYC's The NoMad, churning out drinks quickly but without sacrificing quality is paramount. We learned to do all of this and more. Photo courtesy of Leo Robitschek.

With each year that passes, you learn. We hope that 2016 was a year of honing your craft and that we provided you some of the necessary information to do so. This year, experts shared everything from how to make better drinks, faster to the best music to play in your bar and how to work cleaner. As you set your sights on continuing to grow and sharpen your skills in 2017, take a look back at the best wisdom and advice we received this year.

Better, Faster Drinks: Tips from High-Volume Pros by Nicole Schnitzler

It can seem mutually exclusive: making great cocktails and making cocktails quickly. But we know that it can be done — some of the best mixology in the world happens in some of the world’s busiest bars. At these bustling establishments, being neck deep in customers is no excuse for serving a subpar drink. So how do they do it? Folks from The Nomad, Polite Provisions, Money Gun and The Dawson weigh in.

9 Ways to Keep Your Bar Team Happy by Karen Gardiner

Two bartenders at work Mutual respect, clear expectations and the right tools to get the job done: just a few of the ways to ensure your team stays happy and productive. Photo: Laura Miner/Flickr.

We’ve seen an increased interest in effective management techniques this year, and that includes keeping your team working well and working happily. A happy team is a productive team, to be sure, but also — who wants to work with a miserable crew? The steps to keep everyone feeling positive and empowered are simple, and they go a long way.

5 Things to Know Before Opening Your Own Bar by Alicia Kennedy

Female bartender in leather apron using touchscreen Patience, sticking with your vision, and a positive attitude are all important traits for bar owners to develop — but a crash course in finances, building codes or plumbing can't hurt, either. Photo via AntGor/iStock.

Among bartenders, it’s a common and admirable dream: to someday open the doors to your very own bar. The road is long, but it’s not by any means insurmountable. Still, there are a few important things worth knowing at the outset. We spoke to three bar owners about the things they wish they’d known before taking the leap into bar ownership.

The Right (and Wrong) Way to Quit Your Bar Job by Lauren Schumacker

Female bartender pouring and stirring When a new opportunity presents itself, leaving a job without burning bridges can be tricky. But at the end of the day, it comes down to being respectful and considerate. Photo: Nisimo via iStock

Whether you’re taking off because you’re fed up or simply because you’ve found new, brighter opportunities, quitting your job is a moment that requires tact and diplomacy. Don’t storm out or cause a scene — even if you feel tempted. Instead, prioritize making a good impression on your former co-workers and management even in your last moments that you spend together. You never know how they’ll influence your future opportunities.

How Bar Music Affects Your Guests — And Your Staff by Cara Strickland

Friends at a busy bar Turns out, bar music isn't just crucial to your guest's experience: it makes a difference for how your employees work, too. Photo: SolStock.

The studies on how music affects consumers have been innumerable and fairly conclusive, but it’s the extension to how music affects a staff that we found particularly interesting. “Happy music caused this bump in cooperation, partly because of mood,” says Dr. Kevin Kniffen, Assistant Professor at Cornell University. “We know that mood increased when happy music was played compared to the other conditions, but it also had a direct effect independent of the role of mood.” Find out what your playlist is doing for business overall at your bar.

8 Tips Every Bartender Can Use to Work Cleaner by Lauren Schumacker

A man wiping off a bar. The key to keeping your bar immaculate is simple — clean as you go. Photo via iStock/DragonImages.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, y’all, and if there’s one resolution we could all benefit from making this year — it’s to clean up our acts (literally). It’s a matter of being proactive and considerate, and it saves time and effort in the long run. (Not to mention, it can keep you out of trouble with guests, bar leadership and the health department.)

How 3 Bars With Hundreds of Spirits Organize Their Backbars by Cara Strickland

Diagram of the Baxter Inn's backbar The Baxter Inn's backbar.

We’ve covered working quickly and we’ve covered keeping clean, so we know the importance of organization to both of these virtues. But how do the bars with hundreds and even thousands of bottles make it happen? We talked to folks with awe-inspiring backbars about their strategies for everything from design to staff communication, all in the name of keeping things streamlined.

10 Tips for Building a Cocktail Empire by Ettie Berneking

A man holding a cocktail. Joshua Widner's cocktail empire was built on hard work, determination, diplomacy and vision. (Photo: Angela Houska)

So, let’s say you want to go beyond just opening a bar — you’ve got your eyes on building a cocktail empire. If Josh Widner can do it at the age of 29, so can you. Widner has opened four bars in four years in the city of Springfield, Missouri, and he broke down the secrets to his success into 10 simple steps. Who knew it was so easy?

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