For a bartender, perfection is difficult to achieve.
Often they are only one person who is talking to two people, making four drinks and plugging them all into the POS system at the same time. But even so, technique is one aspect of bartending that typically remains constant, and bad habits are easy to pick-up and difficult to break. Whether it’s by compromising balance by under – or over-pouring, or adding ice at the wrong time, these technical mistakes can affect the guest experience and hamper their perception of the bar’s quality. So we sat down with three of New York’s best bartenders to shed light on the most common technical drink-making mistakes so you can double-check your methods and make the absolute best cocktails possible.
Not Controlling the Temperature of the Drink
Stirring and shaking cocktails are very precise processes that can make or break a good cocktail. “I’m oddly fascinated by many things, temperature being one of those,” says Conor Myers, the creative director of Underdog NYC and Bacardi Legacy Finalist. “It kills me to see bartenders tediously measuring ingredients with such finesse and then serving an under- or over-diluted drink. Whether it’s down to not building the drink/round correctly, not using the appropriate amount of ice, or serving in an un-chilled glass if it’s served up, temperature is key.” Myers notes that in a simple but extra strong cocktail like the Martini, this step can make or break the drink.
Ditching the Double Strain
Even if you shake your cocktail the perfect number of seconds, remaining ice shards can dilute the drink in minutes, ruining all of your hard work. That’s why Marcio Ramos, head bartender at The Honeywell, puts a lot of emphasis on the double strain. “You put so much effort and love into your amazing drink, why tarnish it by not double straining?” he says. “The patron spends anywhere from $12 to $25 per cocktail—the last thing they want is for it to be watered down. Bartenders make these great drinks and leave all the shards of ice, instead of a clean drink. Within two to three minutes, your drink is about 35 percent diluted.” Ramos notes that cocktails that contain crushed ice, like tiki-style drinks and swizzles, are the exception to the rule.
Not Jiggering Properly
Some bartenders freepour, and that’s okay for something simple like a Highball. But for cocktails that require balance and precision to get the flavors just right, proper jiggering technique is crucial. “Holding the jigger level [is necessary],” says Shannon Ponche, the head bartender at Leyenda. “But pouring extra in after using a jigger and not rinsing out a jigger after pouring something thick or creamy can really mess with the balance of a cocktail. Over-pouring can create an unbalanced drink and cost the bar money.”