Category : How to

By Nimble Bar Company

The Nimble Bag of Bartending Tricks

The Nimble Bag of Bartending Tricks

How To Exude Confidence Behind The Bar

Bartenders need to project confidence. Our ability to do so puts our guests at ease, gains their trust, and gives them permission to have a good time. Master these bartending tricks and you’ll be oozing confidence and blowing your guests away in no time.

Years ago, I was working my way through a speedy seven drink chit, when I suddenly realized that all 7 guests around the bar were silently watching me work. They were transfixed. With all eyes on me, it dawned on me that in that exact moment, I had the power to transform these guests’ experience with a few simple-but-powerful bartending tricks.

Now, when I say tricks, I really mean movements. I’m talking basic things you can do with your tools and your drinks that’ll captivate guests and shift their experience from mediocre to mindblowing. I’ll share some of these tricks right here in this article.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to employ these bartending tricks subtly. Quietly. Like a ninja.

But before we get to the meat of the matter, we need to get one thing straight:

As bartenders, we never use loud noises, or do anything too ‘peacock-y’ to entertain our guests.

We don’t want to disrupt our guests or take their attention away from their conversations, but by using these functional movements in an unobtrusive way, your bar skills and stylish flair will make their experience more memorable. Whether guests decide to watch or choose to focus on something else, at least the decision will be theirs.

Bartending is a Dance

For the sake of this exercise, think of bartending the same way you’d think of salsa (the dance, not the condiment). Certain steps and methods are the same across nearly all styles of salsa; it’s when you create your own movements and personal style that you start to really build on those basics. The tricks I’m about to teach you are going to help shape your own personal style and build on the basic bartending strategies that you already have (and if you don’t, you can learn them at the Nimble Bar School).

But before you start flinging your spoons in the air during your next shift, I recommend that you give yourself a couple of months to practice these bartending tricks at home. You can do so by doing the drills described each of the videos below.

As you read through this article, bear in mind that these tricks are just the beginning. In time, we’ll show you even more movements that you can add to your repertoire.

Trick #1: Tin Flips

If you’re totally new to bartending tricks, this is where you’ll want to start. You’ll use this trick a lot — like, nightly.

The goal of the tin flip is to get the tin where you need it to be as quickly as possible.



In the video, I move pretty fast. You’ll probably want to start out slow to get the hang of the movement. Notice how I roll the tin over the back of my hand. This might take a little work. Be sure to practice in a place where you won’t break anything if you drop the tin. And make sure the tin’s empty, too…

Once you’ve mastered the tin, you can also use the trick on other tools, like spoons and bottles.

Trick #2: Tin Pivots

Tin pivots are the next movement to master because they can be used in combination with tin flips. The key here as you spin the tin horizontally is to get your thumb and fingers out of the way. Then, you can spin the tin on the ball of your hand.

These pivots are extremely versatile and can be used on bottles, assembled Boston shakers, and various glassware.



After you get the hang of the pivot, try combining the move with the flip. Flip the tin first, and then pivot,before setting it down. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes- it’s part of the fun!

For one final variation, try pivoting your shaker after you seal it for a greater effect.


Trick #3: Shake & Stir

(aka: double shaking and double stirring)

After you’ve built your drinks, you can shake one drink and stir another at the same time. Kind of like a more advanced version of the belly rub + head pat at the same time.

Nothing communicates confidence like actions that clearly say, “I know what I’m doing; no big deal” and that’s exactly what the shake & stir is all about.

After you’ve built your drinks, you can shift up your performance gears by shaking one drink and stirring another at the same time- kind of like a more advanced version of the belly-rub-head-pat.

The trick to this trick, if you will, is getting your spoon all the way to the bottom of your tin, otherwise, you’ll spill the drink.



Trick #4: Pour ‘Cuts’

The way most bartenders cut off their pours is- well… boring. They pour into a jigger and tentatively, gently lift the bottle away. Tentative and gentle? Doesn’t exactly exude confidence, now does it. You can easily add some boldness to your work and spice up an otherwise boring pour with a couple of super simple techniques.

The first cut is called a ‘swoop.’ Why, pray tell? Because, fair bartender, you must swoop thy bottle.



The Swoop

Here’s what you need to do to pull off a stellar swoop:

After you make your pour, let the bottom of the bottle (now at the top since you’ve turned the bottle over) fall to the side until the bottle’s weight turns everything right side up. Then, swoop the bottle around- like I did in the video- to keep the rest of the liquid in the bottle as you finish the pour.

Notice in the video how I’m holding the neck of the bottle between my index and middle fingers; then, I use my thumb to turn the bottle over. This method makes everything look much smoother and makes the move miles easier to pull off.


The Bounce

Try this for a second:

Imagine having a salt shaker in your hand. Are you with me? Now imagine shaking that salt shaker over a big plate of fries. That movement you’re doing? That’s the bounce. Now, you’ll be trying to pull of a bounce with a bottle- not a salt shaker. To make it work, you’ll need to pull the bottle up from the bounce at the bottom, then flip it over (right-side-up) to stop your pour.

Notice how I’m holding the bottle the same way I was during the swoop. You definitely don’t have to; I just think it’s easier for different types of bounces- but you can play around with it and make it your own. For maximum pro effect, be sure to keep the labels of the bottles facing your guests while you perform these cuts.

These elegant flourishes bring flow to your style. And, with a little practice, you can perform cuts with the tin after you’ve poured your drink.


Trick #5: Spoon Flair

You’re going to reach for a spoon at least 60 times a night, so you might as well make it fun for you and your guests.right?

My all-time favorite spoon tricks are the flip from the glass or the spin, both of which are very similar to the tin flip and tin pivot.

The spoon flip is actually a little easier than the tin flip because you’ve got a long, thin spoon to grab onto after you complete the trick. The spin, on the other hand, is a little more challenging.
To get started, try spinning the spoon around your index finger (don’t expect it to work the first time; keep practicing, you’ll get there).



Bringing It All Together…

Ok. We’ve covered the tin flip, the tin pivot, the shake and stir, two different types of cuts, and spoon flair. That’s a lot to take in, so don’t feel like you’ve got to master all of these at once. Just like shuffling a deck of cards or learning to whistle, take it slow and stick with it and eventually you’ll get it. Practice, practice, practice.

If you give yourself time to master these bartending tricks, you’ll be 100% more entertaining than 99% of other bartenders (how d’ya like them apples?). Your movements will communicate confidence, show your guests a great time, and even help you set the tone for your night.

Want more?

We coach professional bartenders to master their craft and become leaders. Interested? Click here to find out more about the Nimble Bar School.

By Nimble Bar Company

3 Steps To Win When People Seem To Suck

3 Steps To Win When People Seem To Suck

How to reframe any interaction so it works for you, not against you.


When you work behind the wood, you’ll interact with more people in one night than many interact with in an entire month.

Sounds great, right?

You get to hone in on your communication skills, meet interesting people, and build your network.

But sometimes people just seem to suck- and (you know, since you’re human and everything) a string of these negative interactions can serve to seriously bum you out.

So, what do you do?

Rather than let a few lousy interactions ruin your night, you can reframe interactions. Use these 3 steps to turn those negative experiences into positives:

Step 1: Choose your thoughts

Here’s the deal:

Our stories, fears, insecurities, worldviews, and desires determine our values, thoughts, beliefs, and behavior (phew- that was a mouthful).

These defining narratives end up affecting us whenever we interact with others.

Our guests are no different. They act the way they do because of their own defining narratives.

Unfortunately, many personal narratives are rooted in fear and insecurities, and bartenders often experience the nasty results.

We want patrons to feel comfortable and unguarded, but sometimes the freedom we encourage means interactions can really, really suck.

Here’s a perfect example from just the other night:

A man in his early 50’s sat down at the bar…

Me: Hey! How’s it going?

(Naturally, I expected a warm response to my warm intro…)

Him: Gin and tonic.

(…but I got ignored instead.)

Me: …. Thanks for asking… I guess I’ll just go fuck myself, then.

I responded in my head; not out loud, of course (even though I really, really wanted to).

The problem was, even though I bit my tongue, I had already allowed my thoughts to influence my mood- and my thoughts were toxic.

So this guy, for a brief moment, had totally derailed my mood.

Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” I’ll take it a step further: “How I think makes me who I am.”

And guess what?

We let people influence the way we think all the time.

We can’t control other people, but we can control how we respond (both mentally and verbally) and how much influence others have on our thoughts.

Patrons used to affect my thoughts as easily as a fat guy affects the water level in a bathtub.

Seriously, just the way someone walked through the door of my restaurant could affect my mood.

Every patron brings in a different energy, and those energies influenced me a ton.

A couple examples of personas that especially affected me:

  • Someone who’s hesitant as he walks into the room and has a passive energy.
  • Someone who walks into the room, patiently waits to be greeted, and has a kind energy.
  • Someone walks right past the “Please Wait To Be Seated” sign and has an impatient energy.
  • Someone who walks in the room full of piss and vinegar, like he owns the place, and has an arrogant energy.

Truth-bomb alert:

I have the power to choose how to evaluate and respond to these energies. I can choose to be influenced by my evaluation, or I can choose to take control of my thoughts.

(This is honestly one of the most valuable things I’ve learned in this job.)

So, let’s get practical.

How do we navigate this ebb and flow of human energy? More to the point, how do we manage our own energy to maintain peak performance behind the bar?

Question your reactions

When you think, “Man, this person’s negative,” take notice. Reframe.

Stop and ask, “Is this really how I want to think about this person?”. That simple question can change your own mood and the flow of the interaction.

Reframing changes your thoughts, your thoughts changes your mood, and, together, thoughts and mood change who you are.

Likewise, if you walk into work with a negative attitude, just acknowledge it; then ask yourself if you want to stay that way.

This kind of reflection can totally change the course of your night.

Whenever you notice yourself slipping into negative energy, just pretend there’s a big *Energy Reset Button* in your brain, and give it a push.

Sounds simple, right? It is.

Step 2: Stop judging and start understanding.

Remember, every single human behaves the way they do because of their own unique backstory.

If you want to reframe your interactions, ask yourself, “If I had the SAME stories as that person, would I behave any differently?”

Possibly not.

We can’t change someone else’s backstory (or their subsequent attitude); we can only change our own thoughts.

So, if you find yourself in need of an attitude adjustment, get this mantra running around your brain:

Don’t judge; practice empathy.

When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and experience life from their perspective, you’re practicing empathy.

Here’s a powerful tool you can use to help you:

The Empathy Map

A simple empathy map.

We borrowed this idea from Business Model Generation who use something called an ‘empathy map’ to better understand end users and meet their needs.

Luckily, you don’t need to have the empathy map in front of you to reframe interactions.

When guests are rubbing you up the wrong way, do a quick empathy audit by asking the following questions:

  • What do they care about that you don’t care about?
  • What do they see that you don’t see?
  • What do they believe that you don’t believe?
  • How do they speak differently from you?

Just apply the map to everyone you see.

Kinda like this…

Here’s how it works:

When you pause to imagine another person’s internal world, you’ll understand rather than judge.

You’ll react with kindness and positivity.

You’ll change your mood, and you’ll change the interaction.

Empathy is the first step to developing meaningful connections with those you serve.

Step 3: Take charge by practicing proactive authentic enthusiasm

When that arse-hole man in the bar ignored my greeting the other night, I completely let his inconsiderate behaviour take hold of me.

What good did that do? Absolutely nothing.

When we react to a guest without thought, we’re allowing their energy to control the interaction. Even if they’re the one who brings negative energy into the bar, it’s our own reactions that contribute to what we call a ‘negative feedback loop’.

On the flip side, when we consciously choose the way we respond and the energy we project, we break that feedback loop. 

So, what if you want to create a positive interaction?

Choose to respond with authentic enthusiasm. Not only will your guest benefit, you’ll also benefit yourself.

I can tell you from personal experience that I don’t always feel like greeting someone with enthusiasm. But when I choose enthusiasm over negativity, the interaction goes much, much better. What’s more, I feel a lot better, too.

In fact, sometimes guests will change their own moods simply through your positive questions and enthusiastic energy.

A helpful way to remember this:

Every guest presents a powerful opportunity for a meaningful connection.

The way you engage that guest has the power to change their mood.

Hey, listen, I’ve been there.

I’ve arrived at work with a crappy mood, and I’ve arrived at work with a great mood only to be brought down by a nasty customer.

The thing is, you absolutely can take control of your mood, and your customers will notice and respond positively. And you can reframe any interaction.

Give these three steps a shot. We promise you’ll like the results.

Want more?

We coach professional bartenders to master their craft and become leaders. Interested? Click here to find out more about the Nimble Bar School.


Wedding beverages

By Nimble Bar Company

How to Wow Your Wedding Guests With Amazing Beverages

People drink more at weddings than at any other social occasion. But couples planning weddings rarely take the time to ensure their guests have an awesome experience with those wedding beverages. Often, couples merely opt for whatever their venue has in stock.


If you spend so much time and money meticulously planning out details like decor, cake, food, attire, and flowers, shouldn’t you put at least as much effort into the drinks you’re serving? After all, what do friends ask when they’re headed to a wedding? “Will there be an open bar?”

If you’re planning a wedding, here’s the question you can ask that will lead to an amazing beverage experience:

“Will the drinks we serve tell a story?”

After all, the wedding itself will tell a story about you as a couple (that’s one reason why people spend so much money planning the occasion). Every interaction your guests have with you, the other guests, and the environment of your event reflect back on you. The location, the clothing of the wedding party, the lighting, the textures and fabrics on the tables, the centerpieces, the decorations, and everything else color your story.

I know couples who spend hours and hours preparing centerpieces and tiny gifts to send home with their guests. But food and drink influence an experience far more than any gift. Meals engage all the senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and even sound. How many of these couples focused as much on their drink menu as they do on their centerpieces?

The drinks tell a story about you, too. What do you want your drinks to say about you?

That you’re elegant?




You get the idea!

We recommend that, at minimum, weddings serve beer or cider, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages. Beer or cider for those who don’t drink wine, wine to pair with the food and compliment the wedding’s formality, and any number of sodas, waters, and non-alcoholic ciders for those guests who don’t wish to imbibe. Once you cover these bases, step it up a notch with mixed drinks and cocktails.


Think for a moment about when you or your friends drink beer, and which beers pair with which occasions. What are some common characteristics about these moments? Slightly more on the casual side? How are people dressed? Probably not in formal wear. If you’re out at a pub or micro-brewery, you’re probably drinking something unique. If you’re playing pool in the garage, you’re probably drinking something cheap.

The beers you serve at your weddings will remind your guests of these times. And your guests will unconsciously associate the moods and memories of these events with you and your wedding. In other words, the beers you serve will add to your story.

If you serve mass-market lite beers, your guests will think about playing horseshoe in a backyard and watching a football game. If you serve something more exotic or local, they’ll think of a night out on the town or a more sophisticated culinary adventure. For weddings, we’d highly recommend choosing something specific and unique; avoid the cheap lite stuff. You want your guests to feel special and notice attention to detail.


With the proliferation of the micro-brewery, there’s simply no reason to serve shitty, mass-produced beer. As much as possible, try to serve something local. Run the gamut of flavours and colours by selecting beers from these categories:

  1. Lager → Keep it simple and clean. Your guests will probably consume more lager than any other beer.
  2. Pale ale → A good amount of flavour without palate-shredding hoppiness.
  3. IPA (or lambic) → That said, many people love hoppiness, so keep an IPA on hand. Just as IPAs caught the market by storm in the late 00s, sours look like they’re going to be the beer-nerd’s next favourite thing. Consider adding a lambic (sour) beer to your arsenal, too.
  4. Dark → There’s always a surprisingly high demand for dark beer. When recommending a dark beer, we’ll make an exception to our ‘always choose local’ rule: choose Guinness. It’s the classic crowd-pleaser.

When you serve beer, consider cleanup and consider environmental impact. Always try to use cans over bottles; they’re almost always easier on the environment.

Another efficiency tip: keep the beer on ice in a giant cooler. Your guests can just grab from it and go. A self-serve cooler allows the bartender to focus on making cocktails and engaging guests in other ways.


For better or worse, people perceive wine to be more sophisticated and cultured than beer. Since we’re talking weddings here and weddings are more formal than barbeques, serve your guests some wine. Your wines will tell your guests that you know how to class it up, and that you have great taste.

Don’t worry, though. You don’t need to choose wines that’ll break the bank. Research studies suggest that after a certain price point, there’s not really an increase in enjoyment of a wine. The bottle the wine is served from actually plays a huge role in the drinking experience. What does this mean? Don’t serve wine out of boxes, and stay away from notoriously cheap labels (unless that’s your comedy schtick). But you don’t need to go crazy with $40 bottles, either.

Choosing your wine is simple. Why? The food and the season will determine which grape varietal to use. Just pick labels you like that are appropriate for your food and season and are also within your price range.


Here are some examples of classic dishes and their perfect wine pairings:

Safe Choice Adventurous Choice
Roast, Steaks, Game meat Syrah, Cab, Merlot Zinfandel, Sangiovese
Herbed Chicken, Pork Belly Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling Crisp dry Apple Cider
Sablefish, Ling Cod, Halibut Chardonnay Viognier, Albariño
Salmon, Roasted Vegetables Light Pinot Noir Heavy NZ Pinot Noir, Provence Rosé
Cheese Port, Sauternes California Chardonnay, Champagne
Fruits Shiraz, Grenache Gamay, Chenin Blanc
Shellfish Sauvignon Blanc Torrontes, Sancerre


Wine Tips

  • Big reds need to breathe; uncork 30-40 minutes before dinner service on the tables.
  • Offer red/whites that compliment/contrast the food depending on your menu
  • Port/Sauternes w/dessert & coffee is a lovely touch that doesn’t cost much if you already have servers/caterers


By now you’ve got the gist of how drinks tell a story. Their quality and selection reflect on your taste, sophistication, sense of fun, sense of humor, easy-going-ness, and any number of other qualities.

Your choice of spirits can truly give your guests unforgettable experiences. More guests drink beer and wine on a regular basis than drink spirits. At your wedding, you can offer them something special and, through simple displays and stories, enhance memories they’ll share for years to come.

When it comes to spirits, take your guests on a unique adventure through time and space. Serve spirits from different parts of the world with unique origin stories. Choose liquors from different ages, too. Your bartender or your display can share these unique stories. Such diversions give guests something to do when they aren’t dancing or eating, and give them something very special to remember.

When we offer spirits, we usually serve the following:

  • 4 whiskies — Japanese, American, Scotch, Canadian.
  • Calvados — The French apple brandy.
  • Mezcal — The far-smokier version of tequila from Oaxaca. Made from agave (the plant).
  • Genever — a matlier spirit and the ancestor of modern gin.
  • Sherry — the under-appreciated Spanish fortified wine.

Set up an entire table dedicated to this adventure of spirits. Include a large map of the world. Place the bottles on the map to show the spirits’ geographic origins.


With cocktails, you can really let your personalities shine. You can express yourself through ingredients, colours, garnishes, and names. You can pick names that reflect your sense of humor, your hope for the future, your memories of your guests, and your hopes for your marriage. Choose flavor profiles that run the gamut of tastes, and tell stories with your cocktail menu.

For example, I’m an eternal optimist. So I made the ‘Faulty Optimist’ cocktail and garnished it with this cartoon, printed on edible paper, from Cyanide and Happiness.

Executing Your Cocktails: How to Make Them Efficiently, with Style

This step, like choosing a wine varietal, can be simple. To ensure a great experience, you MUST vet quality bartenders to find someone who can deliver drinks with excellence and panache.

Go to your favourite cocktail bars in town and note your favourite bartenders. Once you’ve created a short-list your three favourites, reach out to them at their bar and offer them the gig.

Because you’re offering an elevated experience to your guests, think of this bartender as more of a consultant than a mere drink-slinger. Bartenders have evolved a great deal from the 70s, 80s, and 90s — they have become true professionals. They’re going to work with you to make sure your drinks are delicious and reflect your personalities.

Your bartender should help you craft a balanced menu and should also be able to help you to name your drinks, source ingredients, and prepare for the night.

Non-Alcoholic Options: A Little Temperance Goes a Long Way

When we make non-alcoholic cocktails, we’re trying to emulate the complexity inherent in spirits. There are a number of ways to do this.

First, consider your soda. 2 liter bottles of Coca-Cola and Sprite are unacceptable. Always try to use artisanal soda pops such as Fentiman’s and New Theatre.

You’ll use syrups that feature fresh ingredients, of course, but don’t forget about shrubs and vinegars. For example, experiment with fruit-flavoured vinegars like pomegranate and grapefruit balsamic, and try cilantro shrubs.

And don’t forget about sparkling and still waters to cover all your bases.

Bringing It All Together: Designing a Sexy Menu

Once you’ve decided on your cocktails, spirits, beer, and wine, it’s time for the funnest part of all — building the menu! Your drink menu gives you the opportunity to create something highly visual that literally tells stories through text. The colors you use, the names you choose for your drinks, and the descriptions you provide all reflect on you. And they give your introverted guests something to read.

While designing a menu may feel overwhelming to some, (I know others of you can’t wait to jump into this) it doesn’t have to. If you’re having trouble creating unique descriptions, use standard text from online searches. Or enlist the help of a clever friend.

No design skills? No problem! Check out The site has tons of free and beautiful templates that you can use to easily make your menus.

Alternatively, if you’d like to leave the menu design to a pro, is chalk full of them.

Conclusion: You Can Do This

(Or We Can Do It For You)

Hopefully, you’ve now got a good understanding of not only why drinks matter but also how you can create an awesome beverage experience. We’ve got a number of other guides that might help you further in our blog.

If you’d like some one-on-one planning help, additional guidance, or someone to simply take care of things for you, we can help with that, too.

By Nimble Bar Company

How to Create a Cocktail Menu That Sells: The Nimble Guide

How to create a cocktail menu: the fundamentals

Our goal in this guide is to teach you how to create a cocktail menu that both you and your guests will love. We’ll give you the building blocks — the fundamentals of menu development — so you can churn ’em out to your heart’s content. After reading this guide, you’ll know:

  • Which ingredients make up the DNA of any cocktail
  • Which drinks make up the ‘drink families’ of all modern cocktails
  • What makes for great, workable mise en place
  • When to source new drinks and rotate out old ones
  • How to break down costs and maximize profitability
  • What a great menu looks like

Want to download the full guide? Click here!

The DNA of every cocktail

Study the DNA — the recipe, proportions, flavor harmonies — of classic cocktails to train your mind and palate to recognize balance. You can then transfer that sensory knowledge to new sets of ingredients. Here are the components that make up the DNA of cocktails:

  • Spirits: Whisky, Rum, Gin, Vodka, Tequila, Mezcal, Brandy, Cachaca, Pisco, Calvados, etc.
  • Lengtheners: Fortified wines: Vermouth, Sherry, Port, Quinquina, Madeira, etc.
  • Liqueur modifiers: Cointreau, St Germain, Apricot liqueur, Domaine de Canton ginger, etc.
  • Amaro modifiers: Aperol, Campari, Fernet Branca, Cynar, Ramazzotti, Averna, etc.
  • Sweeteners: Sugar, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, demerara, etc.
  • Acids: Lemon, lime, citric acid, etc.
  • Modifying acids: Grapefruit, orange
  • Sodas: Soda, ginger beer, tonic water, etc.
  • Bitters: Angostura aromatic, Regan’s No. 6 orange, Peychaud’s, Scrappy’s cardamom, etc.

These basic ingredients make up basically every cocktail ever. Get these down to understand drink balance and harmony and to create a cocktail menu that rocks.

The five cocktail families

We’ve identified five classic cocktails (Negroni, Sidecar, Old Fashioned, Sour, and Collins) that influence the creation of 99% of all great cocktails. Learn them well. From these five recipes, you’ll begin to see the underlying DNA at work. You can come up with ‘golden ratios’ that you can use for your own drinks, mixing and matching the parts. Kinda like Mr. Potato Head.

Understand the bones of a good classic to train your mind and palate. You’ll recognize balance and transfer that sense of harmony to a new set of ingredients. Once you’re rooted with proven ratios and ingredient pairings, formulating a new drink will be much easier.

Negroni: 1 oz. spirit, 1 oz. amaro modifier, 1 oz. lengthener – or – 1.5 oz. spirit, 3⁄4 oz. amaro modifier, 3⁄4 oz. lengthener

Sidecar: 1 1/2 oz. spirit, 3/4 oz. liqueur modifier, 3/4 oz. acid

Old Fashioned: 2 oz. spirit, 1/3 oz. sweetener, 4-6 dashes of bitters

Sour: 2 oz. spirit, 1 oz. sweetener 1 oz. acid, 2-4 dashes of bitters egg white

Collins: 2 oz. spirit, 1 oz. acid, 1⁄2 oz. sweetener, 1-2 oz. soda

House-made ingredients

Syrups, tinctures, bitters, and infusions — the creative possibilities are limitless. House-made ingredients are a great way to incorporate cool-factor into your drinks, but you need to be mindful of the cost and prep-time. A good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to one house-made ingredient for every two cocktails on the menu.

Using non-alcoholic ingredients for these custom elements can be a great way to flesh out a drink while keeping costs low.

Learn to batch in bulk, and find non-alcoholic solutions to flesh out your recipes so that the main cost comes from the base spirit. And remember, boutique and bespoke ingredients won’t always improve a drink. For example, sometimes the store-bought falernum is better (and more cost effective).

Mise en place and prep

12 step programs can help you stop drinking or smoking, but they won’t help your behind-the-bar efficiency on a Saturday night. When in service, your goal should always be to limit the number of steps necessary to make a drink. This means you should set up your mise en place so that all your tools and ingredients are within an arm’s if at all possible. It also means you should get rid of clutter.

Consider batching certain cocktails that might be labour intensive or very popular, and use syrups to maximize efficiency.

For example, just about anything you muddle can be made into a syrup. If there’s a cocktail that muddles cucumber and basil, consider making a cucumber and basil syrup instead.

And don’t just create a cocktail; create a curated set of movements that flow beautifully and efficiently. Set yourself up for success. Your station should reflect your professionalism and keep you above board all night, no matter what comes at you. This philosophy eliminates bottlenecks, and also impresses your guests.

Naming inspiration

When you bring your staff together to name cocktails, you grow their camaraderie and their passion for selling. Keep things aligned with the feel and energy of the room, but let the inner nerdiness and authenticity of your team shine though. The name of a cocktail is your customers’ first glimpse of the drink. It’s what your customers see on paper. If you make them laugh, feel special for getting a reference, or salivate from your description, you’re doing it right. Tell a story with each sip to entice customers.

When making up a cocktail on-the-fly, put the onus on your guest to name the drink. This gives him a sense of ownership.

Pars and stock levels

It can be tough at the start to feel out what moves on a new menu. Don’t trust one or two services; anomalies happen. Don’t over-commit to product that will sit around forever. Buy conservatively to start, and if a product takes off, adjust your ordering and prep accordingly.

People often think customers will love tons of choices. Research suggests otherwise. The more choices you present to a customer, the more anxiety and overwhelm you cause them.

Seasons and trends

Know the people who sit at your bar and dine in your restaurant. Don’t try and push passionfruit juice and rhubarb smashes when it is cold & shitty outside and people are craving something to warm them up.  Offer a good mix of safe & sell-wells, along with some nerdier options to flex the niche of your establishment. But don’t take your drink program too seriously; cocktails are supposed to be fun and inviting, after all.

Have you ever heard the saying ‘the trend is your friend’? Well it’s absolutely true. We often see bartenders banging their heads against the wall trying to come up with the next big thing. But from a business standpoint, something that is currently trending is something that simply works.

When creating new drinks, we love to start with the classics and imbue them with seasonality. For example, a fig and winter-spiced negroni variation in the winter and a watermelon collins in the summer.

Sourcing and rotation

While you want to imbue your drinks with seasonality and source fresh as much as possible, you don’t need to go on a grand excursion out to the middle of nowhere to forage for ingredients. Sometimes you can simply have a gander at what’s inside your walk-in fridge. Not sure what’s in-season? Your chef can be a phenomenal resource to help you out. He / she can also provide ideas for flavour pairings.

And if you don’t have unlimited access to a chef, pick up a copy of The Flavor Bible.

Funky, weird ingredients help a new menu pop and get people talking. BUT, when your supplier no longer carries your funky ingredient and you have to 86 it a week after launching, that doesn’t look good. Take a trip through your walk-in, or have a talk with your chef to come up with ways to move existing overstock that’s just sitting latent. You’ll make the bosses happy and increases the bottom line for the establishment.


If you know exactly what a drink costs to make, you’ll focus more on the profitability of that drink. While bars and restaurants can provide romance — and we’re there to provide a beautiful experience — we’re there to generate profit FIRST.

Often, when people realize that the cost of a cocktail’s ingredients is only $2.00 – $4.00, they wonder why the markup is 100%-300%. But that drink pays for a lot of other expenses. Here are some of them:

  • Rent
  • Glassware
  • Labour
  • Garnish
  • Ice
  • Tools
  • Cocktail napkins, etc.

Cost breakdown of a classic margarita



2 oz. El Jimador Reposado


3/4 oz. Cointreau


1 oz. Lime juice


1/4 oz. Agave nectar


Cost to restaurant: $4.07

Price to customer: $12.00

Pour cost: 34%

What this means: To earn one dollar on a margarita, the restaurant must first spend 34 cents.

But there’s a bit more to it. Let’s say that a classic margarita takes 1 minute for a bartender to prepare. And, of course, the drink will be served in a glass, probably with a napkin… Here are the other costs that eat away at a bar’s profit margins:

Other expenses


Cocktail napkin


Labour (bartender only, based on $11.00/hour)


Rent per hour


TOTAL cost to restaurant = $4.46

ACTUAL cost as proportion of price= 38%

Cost breakdown of a Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla

If you give your team a glimpse of the business side of the glass, they’ll think more like owners and managers. Break down the costs of the crazy orchid garnish or the 3 oz., 7 ingredient tiki drink. Sometimes you can feel like a kid in a candy store when selecting ingredients for your new menu cocktail… but remember, the place still needs to make money.

An example menu template

Cocktail Menus and the paradox of choice

Many establishments make menus that have more than 10 cocktails. People often think customers will love tons of choices. Research suggests otherwise. The more choices you present to a customer, the more anxiety and overwhelm you cause them. People simply don’t want to make decisions because making decisions is mentally taxing. Aim for a curated, lean, and well-rounded cocktail menu.

There you have it!

The foundations you need to create a great cocktail menu. Don’t forget to download the guide

if you haven’t already!

By Nimble Bar Company

The Best Bartending Book of 2017

As a mentor of mine said, the problem with bar and cocktail books today is that many of them are created by opportunists. Cocktails are trendy and authors want to make a profit. We certainly respect the profit motive, but as professionals we want to read something with substance.

At the Nimble Bar Co., we’ve combed through an untold number of bartending books in search of excellence, and we’re happy to say we’ve found it. Here’s the best bartending book of the year.

If you’re going to read one book from 2017 on bartending and business, this is it…

Meehan’s Bartender Manual

Whether you’re a bartender who’s just getting started, an at-home enthusiast, or a full-fledged bar consultant, this book will be your trusty steed on the dusty, bandit-ridden trails of cocktail mixing.

Who’s ‘Meehan’?

Best known for creating the PDT bar in New York City (you know, the one you enter through a phone booth in a hot-dog stand), Jim Meehan is now primarily an author, speaker, and consultant on all things bar and cocktail-related.

Check out this video for a taste of his wisdom and reason:

What 2017’s best bartending book will teach you

The industry at large

First, the book teaches you the service and spirits industry from the macro, 30,000ft level. Bartenders often focus on recipes, operations, and technique to the exclusion of the greater industry. But if you understand the industry at large, you can make better business decisions.

For example, If you’re an industry-insider that understands the business incentives of local distillers, you might be able to cook up some cool partnerships. Meehan’s Bartending Manual will get you thinking along those lines.

Understanding the industry is kind of like bartending and mixing with your head up, rather than mixing with your head buried in your tin and ice-well.

Cocktails In 4D

Yes, the book contains recipes. But the drink recipes in Meehan’s do more than tell you what to mix. You’ll learn where the cocktails come from, the logic behind them, how to make them optimally, and where they fit in the overall cocktail lexicon. This type of extensive knowledge aids in your menu development, drink selection, and customer-facing expertise.

And Meehan isn’t dogmatic. You’ll learn essential recipes, but you’ll also learn when to go your own way — Meehan includes lots of little ‘hacks’ you can use to improve the drinks.

Unsung all-stars

Meehan’s highlights many of the amazing people who make up our industry. Bartending isn’t just an in-between job, and the public is recognizing it more and more as a respectable career. This book reinforces our industry’s professionalism through showcasing bartenders and operators who are actually really fucking smart and chock full of wisdom.

And many of the leaders Meehan profiles are very accessible. With a well-phrased email, you could probably strike up a conversation and find even more guidance.

[Sidebar: If you want more guidance than can be gleaned from a single email or phone call, think of a way to add value to the relationship — maybe offer your time.]

Bar Design & Interior Inspiration

Is your workspace intuitive? Is your floor plan unique? Do they inspire you and your customers? Are they pleasing to the eye?

Good floor plan and interior design appeals to our emotions and delights us. It inspires our customers and enhances their experience. Meehan’s will inspire you to enhance your design game and give you some tips on where to start.

The book highlights a number of bar and restaurant floor plans that work well and might work for you, too. Through these examples, Meehan helps bartenders and bar consultants understand good design.

“You can not understand good design if you don’t understand people: design is made for people.” — Dieter Rams

Reverse-engineered a cocktail ‘chit’

Bartenders have a stereotype: the extroverted alpha-type character that’s always the life of the party. But many would never guess the essential ingredients that make a great bartender: sound mental models and effective systems. If you’ve been around the industry long enough, you’ve watched in awe as a skilled, attentive, and personable — but quiet! — bartender flawlessly executed his orders.

In his book, Meehan teaches his readers to break down a complicated chit and teaches a greater lesson in the process: a lot of the work results from the systems we create for ourselves.

A great example: when building a cocktail, we start by building the drink with the smallest and cheapest ingredients first so that we don’t compromise the more expensive ingredients if we put in too much. This means bitters and syrups first, and our main spirits last.

Meehan takes 50ish pages to essentially reverse-engineer a bar’s layout and functionality. And he does it all through the framework of effectively managing a chit.

My favourite line: “In some countries, shaking two drinks at once is frowned on, but wherever time is a constraint, efficiency trumps tradition.”

So buy the book already! Or drop us your email if you’d like reviews like this sent (occasionally) to your inbox.

And if you’re wondering what other books we considered…

Our runner-up: By the Smoke and the Smell: My Search for the Rare and Sublime on the Spirits Trail

Reprinted with permission from Meehan’s Bartender Manual, by Jim Meehan, copyright © 2017 by Mixography Inc. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Photographs copyright © 2017 by Doron Gild

Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Gianmarco Magnani


By Nimble Bar Company

How to throw an UNFORGETTABLE party

At the Nimble Bar Co., we’ve perfected the art of throwing the unforgettable party. We’ve got some key steps and recommendations you can follow to do the same. Download our 

free PDF guide

for your own files, or read on here!


Have you ever been to a wedding where the bartenders acted like robots? How about a staff party where you had to make your own drinks from a limited selection? Or what about the all-too-common house party where there’s nothing but one kind of beer?

While you may say to yourself, “I’m happy so long as there’s booze,” the fact of the matter is, if your party has any of the above problems, you are missing a HUGE opportunity.

Imagine the IMPACT you’d have if your guests said things like this the next day:

  • “Best party I’ve been to. EVER.”
  • “Man, thank you so much for that. That was a whole new experience.”
  • “That was amazing. Are you a professional party-thrower, or something?”
  • “You sure know how to sweat the details — awesome party!”

Imagine a party where every little detail is elevated to the level of fine art, but you just had to follow a few simple steps.

Have you ever been to a cocktail bar that was considered one of the best in the world? If so, you’ll know that those kinds of establishments create memories you don’t quickly forget. And you usually want to go back.

Well that’s our mission with this guide: to show you how to emulate the vibe of some of the best cocktail bars in the world. That’s right, your event can leave guests with a similar experience, and you don’t have to make it complicated.

But why should you listen to us, the Nimble Bar Co.? We’re a group world class cocktail experts and bartenders who have thrown hundreds of parties. We’ve thrown parties ranging from small household dinner parties, to parties with over 300 people in attendance. We’ve hosted parties that flopped and parties that have garnered raving fans. Through it all, we’ve honed our expertise and learned how to through unforgettable, amazing parties each and every time.

We now specialize in one very specific party because we’ve noticed it gets the best results, bar-none (see what I did there?).

That party is the cocktail party.

Maybe you’re asking yourself, “Why does my party have to be ‘amazing’? Why can’t it just be good enough?”

Well, let’s talk a bit about the game of life AND business:

Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP, the bible of modern accounting) defines an asset called ‘goodwill.’ Goodwill is made up of the following components:

  1. A company’s brand
  2. Strong customer base
  3. Solid customer relations
  4. Employee relations

Even if you’re an individual, you still have an asset called goodwill. For an INDIVIDUAL, the equivalent of goodwill would be:

  1. Your reputation
  2. The degree to which people trust you as a resource
  3. The quality of your relationships
  4. Having a staff of your own so you can perform optimally

Although goodwill is intangible, it is nonetheless an asset — possibly the most powerful asset you have. Think about it, the more goodwill you have, the easier it is for you to get the things you need and want. Since we’ve established that goodwill is EXTREMELY important, let’s talk about how you can rapidly build it.

It’s really simple: Throw an amazing party. Better yet, throw amazing parties on a regular basis.


If you’ve read The Great Gatsby, you’ll know what was so ‘great’ about Gatsby. You don’t need to throw parties nearly as illustrious as he did, you just need to throw parties that are well organized. A well organized party shows people you care.


All of the tools you’ll need

We’ve provided links to our favourite brands:

A note on citrus…

While we recommend juicing your citrus fresh for each drink, sometimes it isn’t practical when we’re trying to serve a lot of guests. We’ve had great results using Santa Cruz’s organic pure lemon juice and Lakewood’s organic pure lime juice

Cocktails that are guaranteed crowd-pleasers

We recommend you make up your menu of 3 x Easy, 2 x Medium, and 1 x Nerd-rated cocktails.

Easy = Easy to make and easy to drink.

Medium = Medium difficulty level of mixing, and takes a bit more of a refined palate.

Nerd = Either difficult to make or has flavour characteristics that appeal to a very developed palate.

The links provided will take you to the BEST instructional videos we’ve found on the Internet.

Cocktail Difficulty
Daiquiri Easy
Dark & Stormy Easy
French 75 Easy
Gimlet Easy
Moscow Mule Easy
White Lady Easy
Aperol Spritz Medium
Aviation Medium
Bramble Medium
Caipirinha Medium
Classic Martini Medium
Corpse Reviver #2 Medium
Derby Medium
Manhattan Medium
Margarita Medium
Mint Julep Medium
Old Fashioned Medium
Whisky Sour Medium
Mezcal Old Fashioned Nerd
Negroni  Nerd
Sazerac  Nerd
Singapore Sling  Nerd



If you’re going to outsource the drink mixing, make sure you get a seasoned pro. Get someone who’ll dazzle you and your guests with their skills, service, and attitude.

You probably already have a favorite bartender in your town. Ask them if they’re up for working a private party. Not only will they appreciate the offer for additional income, but they’ll also be flattered. And bartenders love to get out from behind their everyday bar to bring themselves and their craft to new networks.

If you don’t yet have a favourite bartender, go around town and create a shortlist of your top three. Then simply ask for their contact information across the bar.


Lighting is crucial, and many party planners fail to consider it. Over the course of your event, change the lighting AT LEAST once. Start with some lights on and some candles, and then turn off the lights and light more candles. This will change people’s mood and boost the energy in the room. We’ve elaborated on this in Step 5 below.


Rather than using your own glassware, we recommend you go to a local restaurant supply store and rent. The uniformity will take your event to the next level. A big bonus: many of these businesses will wash the glasses for you. That makes cleanup much easier.


If you’re the master mixer, prepare your garnishes in advance. Your party will be busy, and you can save yourself a headache if you streamline your service with premade garnishes.

The garnishes you prepare will depend on the cocktails you choose to have on your menu. It makes sense to always have a bowl of lime wedges for highballs. Other than that, make sure you have a bowl for each garnish your menu requires.

For instance, if the Old Fashioned is on your menu, make sure you have a bowl of orange zest swathes ready to go. If you have the Aviation, make sure you have a bowl of fresh picked or maraschino cherries. Or better yet, make your own.



You don’t need to have ice from a Kold Draft or Hoshizaki machine, but you do need to have ice that is CLEAN and DRY. Make sure that you’re not using ice that’s been sitting in your freezer for months. Ice often picks up flavours of nearby objects, so be careful.

If you’re using ice that’s even slightly diluted, you and your guests will be drinking a lot of watery drinks. No bueno.

If you live in a major city, you can usually find businesses that just sell ice. That means you can get anything from an ice block that you could pick at to king cubes or crushed ice.

Our recommended forms of ice:

1 x 1 cubes —> Use these for basic mixing. This is the ice you’d be able to get straight from an establishment with a Hoshizaki or Kold Draft machine

King cubes —> Use these for drinks like the Old Fashioned. The larger cubes means less surface area and so the ice melts slower — stiff drinks are to be sipped slowly, and slow-melting ice will keep them cold but strong.

Crushed ice —> Have gas-station ice on hand with a lewis bag and mallet. You’ll dazzle your guests when you go to crush ice for that Mint Julep.


You want to dazzle your guests with your attention to detail. This means you’re going to have to go beyond the 2 litre bottles of Coke and Diet Coke as your mixers. We recommend you use a Sodastream for your soda, and boutique brands for other mixers such as Fentiman’s and Fever-Tree’s Tonic Water and Fentimans Ginger Beer.

Fever Tree puts it very well on their website: “If 3/4 of your drink is going to be a mixer, make sure it’s the best.”


Music is a crucially important part of your event, yet it’s often treated as an afterthought. Make sure you’re matching the tempo of the music to the stage of the night. For example, don’t play disco as people are just arriving. That leads us to Step 5.


Great bars have an inherent musicality. Bartenders communicating with each other, the clinking of bottles, pouring liquid, and shaking cocktails. These are all part of the vibe, and the music we choose works in tandem with these ‘instruments’. It’s one of the most beautiful aspects of the bar and at our parties we like to emulate this as much as possible.

Generally speaking, there are 3 stages to every party and every night. You can guide your party through these stages with the right lighting and music choices. Here’s how you do it.

Stage 1: The Quiet Cocktail Bar

Have you ever been to a great cocktail bar that was totally empty, but you actually loved that it was empty? Chances are it’s due to a mix of great lighting and great music choice. For the first stage, we recommend that you try and emulate this ‘classy cocktail bar’ feel.

Here are some Spotify playlists that work perfectly for this time of night:

Stage 2: The Ramp-Up

This is where there are a few people in the room and they’re all starting to get comfortable. They’ve had a drink or two, and conversation is flowing pretty well. We want to ramp-up their state by changing the music a bit and turning down the lights.

On Spotify, these are the playlists that work well for this stage:

Stage 3: The Overwhelm & Escalate

Once again, we’re going to dim the lights. Now your venue should be lit by nothing but candles. We want to now be playing music that is very high energy. You will feel the best moment to make this transition — the room will be fairly full and people’s energy will naturally be escalating. HOWEVER, if this is an intimate party, you may want to hang out around Stage 2. Simply change the lighting to Stage 3 but keep the music the same.

On Spotify, here are the playlists that work best for Stage 3:

Always be mindful of the music’s volume. Guests should always hear the music, but it shouldn’t be so loud that guests have to strain their voices to have a conversation.

Of course, you could always consider hiring a DJ to take care of the music for you. That’s a power-move, for sure.


You’re probably thinking, “Wow. Do I have to do all that to throw an amazing party?” Don’t worry; it’s simpler than you think. It also gets easier with practice. If our recommendations feel overwhelming, try starting with just a few and add more the next time. Before you know it, you’ll be a master.

Hosting well and mixing well can benefit your life in huge ways. It shows the people around you that you care. It makes your events sought-after and more exclusive. Not to mention, the added networking benefits will make you more money.

If you need help, or if you want to outsource your party to some experts, we’d love to help. Don’t forget to download our free PDF guide

for your reference or Get in touch with us here. We’ll organize your awesome party and teach you how to do it in the future.

By thenimblebar

A Beginner’s Guide To Martinis (and Their Variations)

Martinis for beginners. In the world of cocktails, the martini holds a special place. The mention of its name conjures its distinct glass and garnish, as well as images of its distinctive drinkers. People of influence  casually saunter to the bar and say, “Martini, please”:  businessmen and women, well-to-do housewives, and, of course, James Bond.

The martini, however, is more than just a pretty face. It’s a cocktail of substance;  each variation possesses unique, and, you might even say, magical qualities.

In this article, I’ll describe six different martinis, what you should know about them, and what occasions to make them for.

The Introduction Martinis

Meet the ‘introduction martinis.’ These cocktails best suit two types of drinkers:

  • Those who haven’t developed a taste for spirit-driven cocktails (cocktails made up only of booze — no citrus or added sugar).
  • Those who think that vermouth in a martini is gross. These drinkers are stuck chillin’ in the 90s, when bartenders would leave bottles of vermouth (a fortified wine that is NOT shelf stable) on the back shelf for years. Old vermouth is gross.

The introduction martinis are:

The Fifty-Fifty Martini

A.k.a The pre-prohibition martini or the original dry martini.

The recipe for the fifty-fifty was most common prior to prohibition. As the name suggests, the fifty-fifty contains equal parts dry vermouth and london dry gin. The fifty-fifty also contains some citrus influence via orange bitters and a lemon twist.

I made this for a novice drinker a few years ago. When he tasted it, he exclaimed, “I’d always order a martini if it tasted like this!”

I don’t think he said this because I did an amazing job mixing the drink. I think it was mostly a matter of priming his palate by giving him an idea of what he was going to taste. Don’t get me wrong; formula and execution matter. But so does priming a guest’s brain and palate.

With the fifty-fifty/pre-prohibition martini, guests will smell a very pronounced lemony-freshness on the nose followed by clean, cold, and strong juniper. The drink finishes off with subtle orange-bitter notes. The equal measure of dry vermouth significantly softens the punch of the gin.


1.5 oz gin (preferably Plymouth gin)

1.5 oz dry vermouth

2 dashes of orange bitters (Regan’s or Angostura Orange)

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Garnish with lemon twist  — be sure to express the oils over the drink.

The Vesper Martini

Created by Ian Fleming in  James Bond, 007.

The vesper martini provides a fantastic introduction to mixed drinks because its origin story is steeped in pop culture. First, it’s directly connected to  James Bond, 007. Second, the vesper is kind of like James Bond took the traditional martini and said “I’m gonna do it my way!”

James Bond’s martini sticks it to the traditional in 3 ways:

  • It mixes gin AND vodka (wtf?).
  • It adds Kina Lillet, which is in a family of fortified wine that is different from vermouth (the primary difference is quinine in Kina Lillet versus wormwood in vermouth). The closest approximation to Kina Lillet widely available today (2017) is Cocchi Americano.
  • It’s shaken, not stirred!

Bond also made up his own ratio of 3 parts gin to 1 part vodka to 1/2 part Kina Lillet. And since it’s 007 we’re talking about, he probably considered 1 part equal to 1 ounce.

While folks often refer to the vesper as James Bond’s martini, Ian Fleming actually only had 007 order it once in all of 14 Bond books. Most of the time, Bond would order a vodka martini (which is technically a kangaroo cocktail) with an olive.

In 1986, the makers of Kina Lillet removed quinine, which made the Kina Lillet a completely different product — Lillet Blanc. These days, the ingredient that most closely approximates the original kina lillet is Cocchi Americano.

Drinkers should find the vesper’s taste and experience extremely accessible. Vodka softens the juniper punch of the gin and the Cocchi Americano sweetens the drink up a bit.

Recipe (adapted):

1.5 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz vodka

3/4 oz Cocchi Americano

Just do it  —  shake it — or at least ask the guest what they prefer, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Most fancy cocktailers will insist you stir this, but there are never hard and fast rules.

Garnish with a lemon swath and be sure to express those oils over the drink.

The Standards

The standard martinis either come with a savory garnish — usually olives —  or a twist of citrus zest. While the formula for the cocktail itself may not change, the type of garnish used can radically change the drinker’s experience. Use a standard martini with one of the following drinkers:

  • The hungry drinker. A standard martini makes a perfect palate cleanser. The citrus twist imparts fresh aromas, which combine with the clean texture of the gin and vermouth. The booze-soaked olives, on the other hand, are the perfect savoury snack to whet the appetite. This martini will never make a guest feel too full for food, unlike beer.
  • Due to the martini’s versatility, drinkers can add their own creative flair. They can choose ANY citrus zest, and ANY olive. Because a standard martini is a very ‘clean’ canvas we’re painting on, the garnish will definitely have a dramatic effect on the experience.


2 oz of gin

1/2 oz dry vermouth

Either a twist OR olives

In my opinion, a london dry style gin will work well with a twist or olives because: a) the bright and sharp juniper works very well with the clean fresh aroma of a twist. B) Juniper and coriander, often the prevailing botanicals used in gin, are originally pickling spices. We all know that olives pair fantastically well with pickles!

The Dirty Martini

A dirty martini is a martini that contains olive brine. Gin and olives accentuate any martini, and olive brine takes the flavors and mouthfeel even further. Note, however, that martinis without olive brine make better palate cleansers.

When I make a dirty martini, I use gins with pronounced notes of Grains of Paradise (which, to me, smell like some kind of mechanic’s grease), or Mediterranean herbs (rosemary, thyme, etc.). Respective examples are Aviation, and Gin Mare.

The amount of brine I add varies depending on the type of brine. We’re only trying to add a bit of sodium and mouthfeel, so usually about a quarter of an ounce will do.

A note on extra, extra, extra dirty martinis: while guests can order whatever they want, I find that a martini with tons of brine is a strange thing. They’re basically saying to me: “I want to drink alcoholic saline.” Weird, no? Excess brine totally covers up the gin. You could probably make the drink with absinthe and the guest wouldn’t know the difference.

The Gibson Martini

As is the case with all great cocktails, the gibson and its pickled onion garnish tell an awesome story.

Charles Dana Gibson created America’s first national standard of feminine idyllic beauty in his satirical drawings of Gibson Girls. Gibson Girls were characterized by both fragility and voluptuousness.

A real-life portrayal of a Gibson Girl

You could say that the gibson martini embodies both of these qualities. The gibson garnishes the martini’s delicate body with TWO cocktail onions. The number of onions represents a Gibson Girl’s two voluptuous breasts. The gibson is the only cocktail in the common repertory that calls for an even number of garnish. Tradition would generally call this bad luck.


2 oz gin of guest’s choice

1/2 oz dry vermouth

Stir, and strain in a chilled cocktail glass

Garnish with TWO cocktail onions


The Dry Martini

The dry martini we know today differs significantly from the original (see the fifty-fifty above). If a guest asks for an ‘extra dry’ martini, they often just want a very cold glass of gin with a twist or with olives. Originally ‘dry’ meant substituting sweet Italian vermouth for dry french vermouth , NOT using less dry french vermouth.

Nonetheless, I generally use a 1/4 oz of dry vermouth when guests ask for a dry martini. A 1/4 oz of dry vermouth added to a punchy London dry gin, though, honestly won’t change the drink very much.


2.5 oz –  3 oz of gin.

0.25 oz Dry Vermouth

A challenge that often comes up with dry martinis is a low ‘washline’. The washline refers to where the drink comes up to on the glass, and is a very important subconscious indicator of the value that the guest is getting. A low washline causes the guest to say “hmm..that is a small drink” even if there is the same amount of alcohol. We never want a drink that is dwarfed by the glass.

People are conditioned to expect that they receive a full glass, so it is in your best interest to ensure that you exceed their expectations on first glance.

This being the case, you may need to bump up the amount of gin you put in a dry martini to make up for the lack of dry vermouth.

Martinis That Aren’t Quite Martinis

These relatives make an excellent choice for guests who want something a little different.

The Martinez

The martinez is the modern martini’s granddaddy. The modern martini (along with the Manhattan, Rob Roy, and others) all descend from the vermouth cocktail (sweet italian vermouth, bitters, ice, twist).

So the vermouth cocktail was a great mid-day, low-octane cocktail that wouldn’t muddy the waters too much. But eventually drinkers longed for a bit more booze in their vermouth cocktails. So imbibers began adding all kinds of spirits to vermouth  —  gin, brandy, whisky, etc. As a result, we now have cocktails like the manhattan, martini, and Rob Roy.

Note the use of sweet italian vermouth in this recipe instead of dry french. The italian vermouth exploded in popularity in the 1880s. In fact, all extant print recipes prior to 1931 used italian vermouth.

So, when it comes to today’s common repertoire of drinks, the martinez is actually the closest thing we’re making on a regular basis to the original martini: gin, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a twist).


3/4 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz old tom gin

1.5 oz sweet vermouth

1/4 oz maraschino liqueur

2 dashes Boker’s Bitters

Note: I’ve adapted this recipe to suit my own palate. The original actually calls for 2 oz of italian sweet vermouth to 1 oz of old tom gin. This proportion, with the maraschino liqueur, makes for a very sweet drink. I add old tom gin to bring down the sweetness of the italian vermouth. Then I bolster the two with a nice london dry. This combination, I find, attains a better balance.

The Arsenic and Old Lace

In Joseph Kesselring’s 1939 black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, the protagonist, Mortimer Brewster, must contend with his maniacal family. This family includes two homicidal aunts who enjoy murdering lonely men. The aunts feed men a concoction of elderberry wine (often floral, like the violette in this cocktail) laced with “arsenic, strychnine, and just a pinch of cyanide.” In the non-fatal version of this cocktail, we substitute the arsenic, strychnine, and cyanide with absinthe.

Poor lonely old man


1 3/4 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz dry vermouth

1/3 oz violette liqueur

3 dashes of Pernod

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Garnish with a lemon twist or something floral

Well, there you have it. A guide to six magical martinis and stories to go with them. Have a taste, serve them up, and don’t forget to prime your guests with their peculiar histories.

By Nimble Bar Company

7 Steps To Become An Absinthe Expert (or to act like one…)

The US government legalized absinthe more than a decade ago, but mystery and misunderstanding still surrounds the spirit. So we decided to help a bartender out and offer seminars on the worthy drink.

Absinthe, also known as the ‘green fairy,’ is a beautiful and unique spirit with a colourful history. But people always ask us, “Oh, but that’s not the real stuff, is it? Doesn’t the real stuff make you hallucinate”

We answer, “Yes, we’re using the real stuff. And no, it won’t make you hallucinate.”

Here’s our expert’s guide to absinthe

If you master the following 7 simple topics, you’ll be a conversational match for any self-proclaimed absinthe aficionado. You’ll better serve the knowledgable patron, and perhaps teach him a thing or two. And most people know so little about the drink that, if you remember the lessons in these seven steps, you’ll basically become an expert.

1. Know where absinthe comes from

Absinthe originated in 18th Century Switzerland as an over-the-counter medicine. Most potable ethanols share similar origin stories as well as similarly unproven health benefits.

A gentleman named Major Dubied acquired the original recipe for absinthe and in 1797 opened the first distillery in Couvet, Switzerland. Dubied, together with his son Marcellin and son-in-law Henry-Louis Pernod, named the distillery Dubied Père et Fils (Dubied Father and Sons).

In 1805, the trio opened a second distillery in France called Maison Pernod Fils  —  the name Pernod remains in today’s booze conglomerate Pernod-Ricard.

2. Know why absinthe was banned

From 1850 to 1900, famous artists (think Ernest Hemmingway, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, etc.) cherished the green fairy. So did notorious drinkers like opiate-addicted Bohemians.

The widespread popularity of absinthe, its famous (and infamous) drinkers, and its high alcohol content (a minimum of 60% ABV) combined to create a certain reputation. The public knew the drink as a cause of profligacy.

In 1905, an alcoholic Swiss farmer under the influence of absinthe murdered his wife and two children. This murder hammered the final nail in the spirit’s coffin. While the farmer had also been drinking wine, beer, and cognac all day, absinthe took the blame.

The murder inspired a public petition to ban the green fairy, and 82,000 individuals signed. Thus began the absinthe prohibition in Switzerland.

A handful of other nations followed suit: the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Absinthe, however, remained legal pretty much everywhere else.

The modern day resurgence of absinthe likely began when Brits ‘realized’ that they had never banned it to begin with, and imported the drink.

3. Know how absinthe is made

Meet the Holy Trinity of botanicals: grande wormwood, florence fennel, and green anise. Absinthe makers macerate these greens in a distilled neutral grain spirit, and then redistill the result so that bitter compounds don’t outshine the nuances of the botanicals.

If distillers bottle the drink after the first distillation, the absinthe acquires the label blanche (Switzerland) or bleue (France) due to the liquid’s transparency. These styles can be quite delicate and even somewhat fruity. Oftentimes, I have noticed notes of melon and creamy chamomile.

Some distillers perform a secondary maceration of herbs and botanicals. This further step results in a much more herbaceous finished product. The second maceration also imparts chlorophyl to the spirit and adds the famous green colour. These absinthes appropriately gain the label verte.

4. Understand the chemistry behind the louche

Louche, the French word for ‘opaque’ or ‘shady,’ refers to the cloudy colour that appears after the distiller adds water. Think of adding water to an over-proof whisky. Same concept.

Adding water opens up the absinthe, unlocking essential oils. In fact, the drink gains a louche (shadiness) when the botanicals release solid compounds (primarily anise and fennel). The release of the essential oils also cause the drink to become much more aromatic.

5. Know the different ways absinthe can be prepared

Around the world, bartenders serve absinthe in two popular styles: the French style (the most traditional), and the Czech Republic’s modern Bohemian style.

The Traditional French Style

This is where those beautiful and ornate fountains come into play:

So, you take a glass that looks something like this:

You get an absinthe spoon that looks like this:

And you put a sugar cube on that spoon. Like this:

Then you slowly run the water over the sugar cube.

Note that you don’t need a fancy fountain to do this. You can simply pour ice-cold water from a pitcher or a mixing tin over the sugar cube. Hell, you can even use simple syrup instead of a sugar cube! And then you’ll get a more consistent result.

The Czech Republic Style (a.k.a the Modern Bohemian Style)

Many consider absinthe from the Czech Republic an inferior product because the Czechs don’t use wormwood. The Czechs often create absinthe using a neutral grain spirit and then adding artificial flavours. As a result, the drink does not louche (see above).

These Czech distillers then set the sugar cube on fire and dump it in, which ignites the entire drink. You can make just about anything taste good when you add caramelized (browned or burnt) sugar.

6. Know the essential absinthe cocktails

Three cocktails make our list of absinthe essentials: The Corpse Reviver #2, the Death in the Afternoon, and the Sazerac.

Corpse Reviver #2

The Corpse Reviver #2, a 1920s classic, has gained major popularity for good reason. This drink is a perfect palate-cleansing refresher that also maintains a bit of underlying complexity to keep things interesting. If you’re looking for an accessible cocktail for an absinthe newcomer, the #2 is your drink.

Corpse Reviver #2 Recipe:

  • 1 oz (30 ml) Gin
  • 1 oz (30 ml) Cointreau
  • 1 oz (30 ml) Lillet Blanc (or Cocchi Americano for historical accuracy)
  • 1 oz (30 ml) lemon
  • 1/4 oz (7.5 ml) Pernod

Shake, strain, garnish with a cherry.

I personally like to use Pernod (technically an anise liqueur and not an absinthe) in a Corpse Reviver #2. Pernod is quite bright and shines through the other ingredients well. Pernod is also more economical than other options.

Death in the Afternoon

The Death in the Afternoon was created by none other than Ernest Hemmingway. The Death takes a more traditional French approach to an absinthe cocktail but then uses champagne instead of water. This  particular cocktail really allows the green fairy to shine in all its glory, so use something gangster. For a real treat, grab a bottle of Jade 1901, a nice quality bubbly wine, and pony up to that desk or favourite reading chair and have a deep think. Maybe read some Hemmingway.

Death in the Afternoon recipe:

  • 1 oz (30 ml) of a gangster absinthe
  • Optional: simple syrup or granulated sugar to taste
  • Top with a good sparkling wine


The Sazerac is essentially a whisky cocktail (whisky, sugar, water, and bitters) with the addition of absinthe. It’s served in a chilled rocks glass, neat. The glass should be half full. The drink looks very simple, and so it should.

Despite its simplicity, the Sazerac is actually one of the most challenging drinks to master. The difficulty lies in achieving an ideal sweetness. Not all sugar cubes are created equal, so using cubes can result in inconsistent drinks. To avoid the variability and achieve a consistent sweetness, use simple syrup. The chemically controlled sweetness levels put you in complete control. Note that a lighter rye, like Bulleit, might require a touch less sweetness. A bigger rye, like Rittenhouse, might call for a touch more.

Somewhere between more sweet and less lies the perfect drink.

Sazerac recipe:

  • 2 oz (60 ml) American Rye (or Cognac, or both)
  • 1/4 oz (7.5 ml) simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz (7.5 ml) Absinthe
  • 7-9 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

Stir, strain into chilled small rocks glass, express lemon oils over the drink (optional: toss lemon zest in the drink).

7. Know a bit about thujone

First, a couple fun wormwood facts to pass on to your guests:

  1. The first known medicinal use of wormwood occurred in 1552 B.C.
  2. In the Bible, wormwood and its bitterness became a metaphor for injustice.
  3. In the middle ages, new mothers would rub wormwood on their nipples to ween their babies.

Most people know that absinthe contains wormwood, and many blame wormwood for the drink’s hallucination potential. Wormwood, however, is not the cause. Thujone, an active ingredient within wormwood, can cause side effects. Thujone is to wormwood what THC is to cannabis.

While thujone consumption can yield mind-altering effects, remember that every chemical, even the most benign ones, can prove lethal when consumed to excess. What’s more, sage, the kitchen herb, contains more thujone than distilled wormwood. Most thujone doesn’t survive the distillation process. Absinthe drinkers would probably die from alcohol poisoning before they would feel the effects of thujone.

Also contrary to popular belief, thujone, if it does anything, increases cognitive capacity. If absinthe drinkers feel the effects of thujone, they’ll probably feel a higher state of clarity (in the midst of their intoxication). Maybe that’s why 19th century artists drank so much absinthe.

That said, don’t drink homemade absinthe. Home distillers sometimes erroneously mix wormwood oil with a neutral grain spirit — this combination is poisonous. Distillation makes the wormwood safe to drink.

There you have it…

7 steps to present yourself as an absinthe expert, even if you secretly aren’t one. What are some of your favourite stories about absinthe?

By Nimble Bar Company

Interview for success: The art of staffing your bar

Your bartender represents YOU, YOUR brand, and YOUR business. Patrons frequent or avoid  establishments just like yours solely because of the bartender. So how do you find someone who represents your culture well? How do you interview and then hire the right candidate? More importantly, how do you weed out the wrong candidates? Let’s talk about the interview.

Interviewing: art and science

Let’s assume that, by the time you’re interviewing candidates, you’ve already seen their resume. You’re happy with their training and certifications. Maybe someone you know introduced you. Maybe you’ve met them in person and they pass the ‘good vibes’ test. So why not hire them on the spot?

The interview is your opportunity to test their claims. You want to:

  1. determine how well you can trust the candidate,
  2. determine how effectively they’ll perform,
  3. determine how they’ll act with customers, especially difficult ones, and
  4. ensure cultural fit.

Number 4 should be obvious based on your interactions with the candidate. But how do find out the rest with simple questions? Can’t a candidate just make up answers?

Don’t ask the usual interview questions

Evaluate nonverbal clues, and then ask the candidate to do something. Here are the qualities to look for that you won’t find through traditional interview questions like, ‘what are your biggest strengths and weaknesses’:

  • Energy. Your bartender needs to move quickly all night long. And he or she must stay positive and upbeat. You can get a feel for a person’s energy level by interacting with them, but you can also ask if they play any sports, or what they do in their down time.
  • Attention. Your bartender must stay alert when on shift. She must constantly monitor customers and the environment. Which customers are drunk? Which guests need more attention? Walk your candidate through your bar, even during the day, and then ask her to describe what she saw and whom she saw. What was the state of the guest at the bar? Which tables needed cleaning?
  • Hygiene. You can tell if your candidate has decent hygiene by looking at him. Can you smell the candidate? Does he smell bad? Then you don’t want him. Maybe for you it’s obvious. You’d be surprised, though.
  • Smarts. Your bartender must have a decent memory and be good with numbers.
    • Ask the bartender to repeat the order you’re about to give her. Then list seven or eight items. Don’t forget to add special orders. Did the candidate repeat without error?
    • Then give the candidate your drink list and have her add up the order. How far could she get without a calculator?

Of course, you can probably think of a few more unorthodox questions or tasks that will test your candidate’s mettle. But these should get you started.


Anything else you should ask?

You can find some important clues with more traditional interview questions. Here are some key items:

How do you cut someone off?

The best answers involve subtlety and kindness. Answers like, “Recruit their friends. Be honest but nice.” Also look for more clever answers like, “I’d come by the table less often for drink orders, but make sure they have plenty of water.”

If you caught another bartender stealing, what would you do?

Obviously the best answer is, “Confront them and tell the owner.” But that’s not the real purpose of this question. The purpose of this question is to communicate your intolerance for dishonesty. Dishonest candidates will avoid your bar if you communicate your intolerance for theft. The candidate’s response might tell you if they have something to hide.

What’s the best way to make [insert common cocktail here]?

Maybe there’s no ‘best way’? But this is a quick BS test to validate or invalidate someone’s training.


Like our list of interview tips? Feel free to share! Or comment below on your own interview strategies. What’s worked best? What hasn’t?


By Kyle Guilfoyle

How to Conduct an Interview: Asking Powerful Questions

When you ask people questions that have been curated just for them, you give them the power to step into their own space and express themselves. You’re also saying to them: “hey, I really give a shit.” This is a pure form of hospitality.

We’ve noticed that because we spend our time catering to folks in an industry that we grew up in, there is a lot of animated and impassioned discourse that I don’t think we would find if we were interviewing, say, tech nerds. This is powerful. It tells us that we need to keep poking this particular box because it lights people up.

We consider it part of our service that we get our clients thinking about their business and humanity in ways that perhaps they hadn’t considered before. This means that sometimes we’re asking questions that are a bit deeper. If an interviewee doesn’t stand to learn as much from thinking about the question they’re asked, as we do from hearing their answer, then we haven’t done our job.

I’ve noticed from the interviews we’ve done so far that the three of us at the Nimble Bar Company are attracted to asking questions that tease out different kinds of answers.

Questions that connect you to humanity:

  1. As you know, this industry isn’t always easy. Who are the people that inspire you to soldier on?
  2. You have fostered some long-standing and solid relationships, you’ve also built some great teams. In an industry that is often seen as transient, how can people build great teams that are meant to last?

Questions that connect you to your product and environment:

  1. Mezcal and Mexicania have become very trendy in the last few years. Why do you think this is and where do you think this trend will be in 5-10 years?
  2. You’ve had a tough night. What’s your after work medicine?

Questions that yield actionable tactics:

  1. Why are we so far away from great service in so many establishments? Why is it that your establishment has succeeded at great service and what is the one thing you would recommend others adopt?
  2. As an owner/manager, what is your biggest pain point? In an ideal world, how would that be taken care of?

Conducting a great interview is about touching all the bases that effect the interviewee’s business. From day-to-day minutiae, to the pivotal moments of success that have been worked toward for years, and as much as possible in between.

What questions do you suggest we ask our interviewees in the future?

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Interview for success: The art of staffing your bar
How to Conduct an Interview: Asking Powerful Questions