A bartender’s job is a balancing act. It requires juggling an assortment of drink orders and patron
personalities, all while remaining calm, friendly and focused. It’s not a job for the easily frazzled.
Unfortunately, though, everyone has had that other kind of bartender—the one you have to strain to flag
down for a cocktail, and even then, you wind up with a disappointing drink. We’ve rounded up a few
sure-fire signs for figuring out whether your bartender is a master of their craft. If you see any of these
traits the next time you belly up to the bar, trust that you’re in good hands.
1. THEY’RE ATTENTIVE BUT NOT TOO ATTENTIVE
One of a bartender’s most important jobs is to be a welcoming host. That means acknowledging you
when you sit down, perhaps with a greeting, water and menu, or if they’re busy, at least a head nod
to let you know you’ll be helped soon. The worst thing bartenders can do is ignore you. If they’re
attentive but don’t interrupt or try to interject into your conversation, they’ve likely been doing this for
2. THEY’RE CALM EVEN UNDER PRESSURE
Bartenders get busy—very busy. Between taking orders from customers around the bar and handling
the ones coming in from servers’ tables, amateurs can often find themselves stressed and show it. If the
place is clearly hectic but your bartender remains cool, calm and collected, that’s a good sign.
3. THEY CAN CONFIDENTLY MAKE A RECOMMENDATION
A good bartender needs to be able to listen to what a customer likes, dislikes and is in the mood for
and then take that information and make a solid recommendation or two. It’s obvious when someone
is knowledgeable about the cocktails offered on and off the menu, based on their descriptions and
enthusiasm. If a bartender sells you on a drink and gets you excited about it, they’re a winner.
4. THEY HAVE A SHARP MEMORY
Bartenders don’t need to memorize every cocktail recipe in the world, but knowing how to mix a wide range
of drinks is essential to the job. Most importantly, though, your bartender should remember what you ordered
and get it right. If you’re a regular, they’ll remember your name.
5. THEY’VE MASTERED THE CLASSICS
You can usually gauge a bartender’s chops by how they handle the classics. If you order a Manhattan,
Old Fashioned or Martini, then suddenly hear the rhythmic rattle of an ice-filled shaker, you’ve stepped
into the wrong bar. If your barman stirs smoothly and asks for your preference of spirit, they have it down.
6. THEIR BAR IS SPOTLESS
You can tell a lot about your bartender by the condition of their workspace. If the backbar is filthy
and disorganized, with bottles strewn about and fruit spilling out of the containers, there’s a good chance
your drink will be an unbalanced mess. Clean hands, clean bar tools and a clean countertop are usually
signs that you’re being served by a pro.
7. THEY’VE MADE YOU A WELL-BALANCED COCKTAIL
The best way to tell if your bartender knows what they’re doing? Take a sip of your drink. Happy? You
have your answer.