“Always set up for success!” This was a statement that I constantly repeat in my head told to me eight years ago by one of my bartender mentors.
Back then some of the most important things for my bar’s set up were vodka, Red Bulls, blue cheese stuffed olives, stacks of Gibraltar glasses, etc. Nowadays, with the inundation of craft cocktails on the bar scene, the way you set up your well for a shift is of utmost importance. I find it interesting how the craft bar scene has taken on the term “Mise en place”, but it doesn’t surprise me because the level of professionalism has increased tenfold since I started slinging cocktails.
Mise en Place is a French term for set in place. If you ever worked a shift where eight hours felt like 30 minutes, then you know the importance of having your bar stocked, but more importantly, having everything you need, “set in place” where muscle memory comes in to play, and everything you need is within arms-reach. God forbid someone didn’t fill the bitters decanter on a night when Old Fashioneds were flying out of the service well. A well-stocked bar to me is one where you never have to take more than one step away from your well to make an order.
One way you can maximize your set-up is by doing “touches”. This is when you literally touch every component of what it takes to make every drink. For example: Double Old Fashioned glass, whiskey, sugar, bitters, stirring spoon, lemon, citrus peeler, scoop, straw. Try and visualize everything that will happen throughout the course of a night and prep for it. These days, my mise starts early in the day, because I prepare my meals and snacks in advance. Think about what you’ll need to survive the night as well; cigarettes, wine key, change of clothes for when you get off, etc.
Working nights has its advantages, one of those is that you can get things done if you can get up early enough. So take care of yourself and your business before your shift starts so that you can have a clear head and focus on the task at hand. Set it up right and your team will love and respect you. Have a good shift!
Larry Miller is a Chilled 100 member in Austin, Texas. Mix up Larry’s signature cocktail, the Spicy Lebkuchen.
- Muddled Jalapeno
- 1 1/2 oz. Angels Envy bourbon
- 3/4 oz. Lemon Juice
- 3/4 oz. Art in the Age Snap Liqueur
- 1/2 Honey Syrup
Preparation: Shake and pour into a cocktail glass.