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Matthew Jordaan Posted: 17 Nov 2009 5:23 AM

As a relatively new bartender I was curious as to how all of you started out? How did you get into the industry etc.

Also was wondering what all your methods are for remembering cocktails, as that is one of the things I am struggling with at the moment

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Hi Matthew,

 

I started in 1998 and have been on and off the trade since (last three years active). When working behind bar you need good memory, planning and multitasking skills. There is no substitute for that. As far as recipe memorizing goes there are few things I find helpful. First I divide the recipe to alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients and try to remember their number as well as the base spirit. Then I try to memorize the ratio between those and/or their exact measurements. Method, glass and garnish I usually memorize last. To learn the basics(….read the classics….) I spend few hours and sometimes days to read the history and different takes on one particular cocktail( when you learn who Trader Vic is you won’t have problem memorizing the Mai Tai recipe I think). I suppose at the place you work you have house specials. In my experience these often don’t make much sense. If that is the case I take extra time to memorize those recipes and always keep them written on laminated(waterproof) paper behind the bar. Another thing I have behind are few good books on bartending. For starters the Diffords Guide is good especially if you want to know how to react when you have random cocktail names thrown at you. Plus I find that some books can really give you inspiration and respect for the trade. Hope that helps and also that you get many more and more helpful replies. Good luck!

 

P.S. you can also organize the bottles on your speed rail and back bar in the order that you use them in the cocktails( Vermouth between Gin and Vodka, Cointreau between vodka and Tequila .. you get the idea)

 

 

 

 

 

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Matthew Jordaan:
Also was wondering what all your methods are for remembering cocktails, as that is one of the things I am struggling with at the moment

 

That's Easy;

Cocktails stem from a few basic recipies and rules. To explain i will compare two recipies.

 

Margarita:                                                         Cosmo:

Tequila                -       spirit             -                 Vodka

Cointreau           -      liqueur           -                 Cointreau

Lime juice          -      Sour               -                Lime Juice

Sugar/Agave     -        Sweet          -                  Cranberry                                      

 

you can do this with many classic and contemporary drinks.

 

Old fashioned                                                     Esspresso "Martini"                                   Manhattan

Whiskey               -      spirit               -                        vodka                                                        whiskey

Sugar                     -    sweet            -                         Kalhua                                                     sweet vermouth

Angostura             -    bitter        -                          Esspresso                                                    bitters

 

 

This is how I was taught the day I was shoved behind a proper bar and got a copy of Regan' s Bartender Bible stuffed in my hand. (note this was not the first bar gig that I had but it was the first proper one). 

 

This is in no way a FORMAL or set way of doing this and I will surely get critique for it but it was the most practical way of learning.

 

When you get more geeky about these things youl say that the first two (cosmo and Margarita) are from a "fancy daisy" family and the second group from a "cocktail family" 

 

I suggest you get your hands on Gary Regan "Joy of Mixology" as he explains this as only he can. and he has charts to help you with it.

 

The most important thing, especially for us S A bartenders who lacks the exposure to many international products. Read as many books possible on the base spirits and liqueurs, as these are the building blocks of your profession.

Why the long face?

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I never did explain the examples:

Youl see that the difference between a margarita and a cosmo is basicly just the first and the last ingredients.

So if you know the one you automaticly know the other instead of memorising two seperate lists.

The ratios aren't necessarily the same but once you grasp the concept of balance this will become very easy.

 

I hope this explains my rather long winded  approach to mixology. 

Why the long face?

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arrrrggghhhh! i just spent half an hour writing a response only for my laptop to throw a strop and cut me off! apologies but its 05.29am here in rainy england so i am off to slumberland, i shall post my methodolgy on how to look at cocktail recipe's and commit them to memory when i wake up

http://howtomixdrinksandinfluencepeople.blogspot.co.uk/

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Morning!

How i basically did it was to learn the classic "head" of each cocktail family/type, of which there are around 10. So i'm taking about sours, collins, slings, mules etc etc. Learn the difference between each family first and grasp these basics. Then when you look at a new recipe try to spot what family it belongs to, its spirit base and then spot what is known as the "twist" - the factor that makes it unique.

So here are a couple of the "heads" to be getting on with..... they are in effect the same drink with simple additions or a different glass... remember to look out for the base, modifier, sweet, sour, lengthener etc etc in each one if they apply)

SOUR (note the ratio 4 parts base, 2 parts sour, 1 part sweet -4:2:1)

50ml base spirit

25ml sour agent lemon or lime

12.5ml sweet, sugar syrup (aka simple syrup, gomme)

Shake/strain into a martini glass or rocks glass over ice

COLLINS (basically a lenthened sour thanks to addition of soda water)

50ml base spirit

25ml LEMON juice

12.5ml sugar syrup

Top up soda water

Shake first three ingredients and strain into a collins glass over ice, then add soda water (never shake anything carbonated or you will get a messy suprise...)

SLING (basically a collins but made with lime as the souring agent and served in a sling glass)

50ml base spirit

25ml LIME juice

12.5ml sugar syrup

Top up soda water

Same method as collins....

So get these three memorized for now and go looking for these basics in a drink. I advise you to look at a margarita, white lady and sidecar. all belong to the sour family but are very similar specs, just slightly different ingredients and proportions to achieve balance.

Its not strictly true, but if you learn about a sling then look at a Mojito as being a rum sling with the addition of mint it becomes alot easier to commit to memory. The mint would be the "twist"

http://howtomixdrinksandinfluencepeople.blogspot.co.uk/

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Margarita

50ml 100% de agave tequila (base)

25ml fresh lime juice (sour)

25ml cointreau (acts as both the sweetening agent and modifier with its orange flavour.. note the increased measurement to achieve balance....)

White lady

50ml gin

25ml fresh lemon juice

25ml cointreau

Sidecar

50ml brandy

25ml fresh lemon juice

25ml cointreau

See essentially variations on the same theme and all classics...

http://howtomixdrinksandinfluencepeople.blogspot.co.uk/

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Thanks to all!

Going to try get hold of Gary Regan's book. 

Gonna start with these methods and see which one works best for me!

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I would highly recommend Diffords guide if you can get your hands on that!

http://howtomixdrinksandinfluencepeople.blogspot.co.uk/

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Which one? I just checked Amazon and found

Difford's Guide to Cocktails #8, #7, #6,...etc.

Difford's Guide to Cocktails A-C, D-K, L-O, etc.

Difford's Guide: Cocktails Made Easy

Difford's Guide to Publishing Cocktail Books on an Hourly Basis

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its released and updated anually with new additions and trends but the core drinks are basically the same.... so the higher the number, the newer the content but they are all good. i have volume 5 at home.

they are not cheap but worth every penny

http://howtomixdrinksandinfluencepeople.blogspot.co.uk/

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I highly recommend all simnon difford's books.

Get yourself the latest diffords guide (the old sauce guide years ago) or read the coktails mnade easy. Its basicly what the London Bar scene is built on. every single recipe is tried and tested researched and judged.

I can also highly recommend subscribing to his magazine; Class. even if you are abroad as it is worth every single penny.

 

Why the long face?

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Matthew, I posted Regan's JOM charts here 

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IMHO...

Flash card, flash cards, FLASH CARDS...(for the food menu as well)

...of your house specialties AND the top 12ish of the most popular (which should overlap). learning these as well as the basics( what's the diff between a sling and a cocktail, etc) should put you in good form. then learn what you like to drink ( drinks, beer, wine, etc). some where along the line read read read ALOT! then learn to catagorize. two books to really help are Imbibe and Joy of Mixology (or any of Gary Regan's[my new favorite author]).

THE MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember (about bartending) have FUN (and flirt).

skol

PS (maybe this belongs in a new post) but 2Bhonest i don't think the average "guest" knows the difference bewteen a extra dry martini and a hole in the ground (as I pour a good 5-4:1 ratio [vodka, gin, and dirty included] and USUALLY get "this is the best martini ever")

ppss i am going to start a new post (look for it)

theQ out

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