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How to Impress On Your First Day as a Bartender

Panama Dining Room manager Gabriel Presutto tells you what you need to know.

Do your homework

Turning up with acquired menu knowledge will certainly impress. Call ahead and get the menu and cocktail specs so when you walk in the door, you’re ready to go. You may even like to scope out the bar the night before too. You can learn a lot about how a bar operates from just sitting and watching.

Be hospitable

Greet new customers and be bright, bubbly and happy to serve. This may be obvious but it’s called hospitality for a reason.

Read the room

Ensure you read the “flow” and adjust accordingly. When the bar’s full, you need to go full throttle. But when it’s quiet, don’t rush around, otherwise you’ll make everyone feel uneasy. It’s about being in sync with the venue.

Keep busy

Avoid standing around and not doing anything. There’s an old saying: “time to lean, time to clean.” In a bar, there’s always something to do. If you don’t know what needs to be done, it never hurts to ask your manager.

Know the right serving order

If someone orders a beer, a whisky and a glass of wine, make you serve them the glass of wine first, followed by the whisky, followed by the beer. Basically, whatever ever needs to be served coolest, serve last. Do some research if required.

Think ahead

Here’s a little trade secret: always be thinking three steps ahead. If your manager asks what you are doing, tell them the next three things you are going to do – “I’m going to wipe the tables, then collect glasses, then re-fill the water”.

Show good spatial awareness

This is critical. When it’s busy and you’re in close quarters behind the bar, make sure you communicate with your other bartenders to let people know where you are. Use the phrases: “behind”, “to your left” and “to your right”. In some cases a light tap on another bartender’s arm may be necessary.

Know your equipment

Your new manager may observe how comfortable you are with the equipment. If you’re a cocktail maker, for example, make sure you know your way around a shaker, a strainer and a bar spoon. It’ll also be assumed you know how to use a corkscrew and a keg tap. Oh, and bring your own bar blade too.

Panama Dining Room is located at 231 Smith Street, Fitzroy.

Photography: Pete Dillon

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