By thenimblebar

The Holy Trinity of Bartending Terms: Nimble’s Simple Framework For Knowing Your Bar Lingo

One of the biggest challenges a new (heck, any) bartender faces is understanding different spirits- and being able to communicate them effectively to a guest.

Sounding like you know what you’re talking about is an important part of being a pro, and it’s our job to educate guests to a point where they ACTUALLY understand what they’re buying, drinking, tasting, and experiencing.

This is how you, as a bartender, can create a high-value experience that your customers will talk about again and again- and eventually come back for.

All too often, bartenders are overloaded with information and jargon — complex flavour profiles, proprietary distillation processes, unicorn-tear ingredients, and so on.

I’ve left many brand seminars wondering what the hell I was supposed to be walking away with; bafflement at how I’d ever repeat anything I’d just heard, and pages of notes- with no clue how to use them.

Am I a dummy?

I used to think so- until I discovered that so many other bartenders felt the same way.

This is why we created The Holy Trinity Of Bartending Terms — a pithy and practical guide to common bartending terms, which will help you quickly (and effectively) communicate spirits, wine, and fortifieds to anyone.

If you can learn the following bartender terminology, you’ll be well on your way to being able to talk about- and sell more of- any spirit on the market.

If bartending was equal to learning the piano, these would be your basic scales:

The framework is structured as follows:

  1. Flavour Note: alcohol terminology to describe the taste
  1. A Production Identifier: Something unique that differentiates the spirit from other categories
  2. Anecdote: An interesting piece of information that you can pass on to your guests to ‘pour concrete’ on your status as an expert

Bartending Terms for Spirits


  1. Clean and medicinal
  2. Can be made from anything that has fermentable sugars (distilled to a high proof and then cut down with water)
  3. The name stems from the Russian word ‘woda’ meaning water or, as the Poles would say ‘voda’.


  1. Dry and herbal
  2. Juniper forward with supporting botanicals perfuming the spirit
  3. Different styles: (Old Tom, London Dry, Plymouth, New Western, Genever)


  1. Savoury, herbal
  2. Caraway seed, dill and fennel
  3. Scandinavian equivalent to gin


  1. Citrusy & Floral
  2. Made in Chile or Peru (Chile consumes much of its production, where Peru mostly exports)
  3. There are 8 Pisco grapes that can be used for production including Moscatel, Quebranta, and Negra Criolla


  1. Fruity, burnt wine taste
  2. Brandy can be made from distilling any fruit wine. Cognac is usually only made from Ugni Blanc grapes *All Cognacs are brandies, not all brandies are Cognac*
  3. The word “brandy” comes from the Dutch word “brandewijn” which means burnt wine. The Dutch settlers distilled wine they purchased abroad in France to preserve it for the journey home.


  1. Strong grape must, aromatic, sharp
  2. Made in Italy, (the name Grappa is protected by the EU like Parmigiano Reggiano)
  3. Made of leftover seeds, pulp, skins from pressing wine grapes


  1. Strong, Herbal
  2. Green Anise, Florence Fennel, Grande Wormwood
  3. “Louches” when water is added (aromatic oils in the anise go cloudy milky colour)


  1. Feisty, sharp, and grassy
  2. Made from strictly the sugarcane juice
  3. The word Cachaca was coined by African slaves working in the colonial sugar mills; it became a staple ration to energize them during grueling work days


  1. Toasted sugar flavour
  2. Made from distilling sugarcane byproducts like molasses
  3. Due to the hot and humid climate, the Angel’s share (barrel evaporation) in the Caribbean is 3 to 4 times higher than for spirits aged in France or Scotland – which explains the difficulty to keep a rum more than 8 or 10 years.


  1. Earthy and vegetal, to vanilla/caramel notes
  2. Can be Plata (silver), Reposado (rested), Anejo (aged), or Extra Anejo (over 3 years)
  3. Must be made in Jalisco, Mexico from only blue weber agave. Also, agave is not a cactus; it’s closer to the Yucca or Lily family.


  1. Smoky, earthy minerality
  2. Agave pinas (hearts) are cooked in underground pits
  3. Made in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico from any of the 150+ types of agave

Whisk(e)y Terminology

As a general rule-of-thumb, if the country has an ‘E’ in its spelling, then there’s an ‘E’ in the spelling of ‘Whiskey’. E.g. IrEland = Irish Whiskey. Canada = Canadian whisky.


  1. Sweet & spicy
  2. Individual grains (corn/wheat/rye/malted barley) distilled, aged & blended separately
  3. 70 percent of Canadian whiskey is exported to the U.S. Up until 2010, it was the best selling whiskey in the United States for 145 years


  1. Honey, hops, green apple flavors
  2. Light
  3. Triple distilled, often in copper pot stills


  1. Fresh Oak (Woody)
  2. Sweet vanilla, leather, spice
  3. Corn heavy mash bill (at least 51% by law)


  1. Light & Fruity (Speyside) —-> Smokey and/or peaty (Islay)
    1. Note: It’s very useful to come up with a trinity of descriptors for every region in Scotland (highland, lowland, speyside, Islay, etc).
  2. Made with malted barley
  3. Can be single malt (from a single distillery) or blended (multiple distilleries)



  1. Usually lighter
  2. Barnyard (hay and earth), black cherry
  3. Pairs with duck, roasted vegetables, salmon


  1. Medium
  2. Dark fruits (blackberry, plum), chocolate, earthy
  3. Pairs with dark poultry meat, cheese & charcuterie, dark chocolate


  1. Medium
  2. Dark fruits (black currant, plum), Baking spices (cocoa, vanilla)
  3. Pairs with burgers, baked pasta dishes, mushrooms


  1. Heavy
  2. Jammy (red berries), slight spice (tobacco, anise)
  3. Pairs with sausage, venison, tomato, parmesan


  1. Medium to heavy
  2. Black pepper, blackberry, BBQ smoke
  3. Pairs with cured meats, BBQ & grilled meats, bold spices


  1. Heavy
  2. Dark fruits  (blueberry, black currant), savoury note (green bell peppers)
  3. Pairs with lamb, steak, blue cheese, rosemary



  1. Light. Usually sweeter.
  2. Orchard fruits (apricot, pear, honeycrisp apple)
  3. Pairs with curries and spicy dishes, seafood


  1. Light and crisp
  2. Grassy, passion fruit, gooseberry
  3. Pairs with shellfish, vegetables, herbs and greens


  1. Light and crisp
  2. Lime, pear, and nectarine
  3. Pairs with cream pastas, sushi, vegetarian cuisine


  1. Medium body
  2. Peaches & honeysuckle
  3. Pairs with lobster, almonds, pork


  1. Full body
  2. Buttery, oaky, asparagus
  3. Pairs with white fish, butter sauces, creamy vegetable soups


  1. Light
  2. Flowers, citrus, melon, rhubarb
  3. Pairs with light salads, seafood, soft cheeses


  1. Light and effervescent
  2. Green apple & pear, bread & toasty notes
  3. Pairs with oysters, fatty fried foods, poached or deviled eggs




  1. Fino = Nutty, light, fresh, saline
  2. Manzanilla = Spanish for chamomile. Tastes similar to fino, a bit more delicate.
  3. Pair with oysters, nuts, olives & tapenades


  1. Bridge between fino and oloroso (aka a bit richer with similar saltiness)
  2. Add nuttiness and herbaceousness
  3. Pair with cured meat, cheese, and gamier meats


  1. Amontillado/Fino on the nose, oloroso on the palate (Fuller bodied)
  2. Accidental sherry → Starts out as a fino and then inexplicably loses its film of flor (aka the rarest and most expensive sherry)
  3. Pair with roasted poultry, sardines, heavy stews


  1. “Scented” in Spanish. Dark, aromatic and nutty
  2. Full body; walnut, balsamic, and dark fruit notes (plum, dates)
  3. Pair with mushroom risotto, steak/venison, aged cheeses


  1. Grapes are dried under the sun to concentrate sweetness
  2. Heaviest and stickiest of the sherries. Lots of molasses, raisin, fig flavors
  3. Pair with ice cream & desserts, fresh fruits, blue cheeses


  1. Made in Douro Valley, Portugal in the seaport town of Porto
  2. Can be made into different styles: white, ruby, tawny, or vintage (aging main factor) Full bodied, raspberry, blackberry, chocolate, cinnamon
  3. Pair with nuts and richer cheeses, duck confit, coffee


  1. Small semi-tropical island that belongs to Portugal in the Atlantic ocean
  2. Unique wine-making process mimics sea-aging through tropics by running steam coils through the barrel rooms creating sauna effect. Think cooked flavors (roasted nuts, stewed fruit, toffee)
  3. Pair with old hard cheeses, roasted vegetables, stewed meats/fruits


  1. Italian equivalent of port town on the Western point of Sicily
  2. Dry and sweet variations; median flavors are vanilla, brown sugar, apricots, tamarind. Traditionally served as an aperitif between 2nd and 3rd course of a meal.
  3. Pair with chicken, cauliflower, octopus, chocolate desserts


  1. Separated into 3 categories and bittered with different herbs: Vermouth (wormwood), Quinquinas (cinchona bark), and Americano (gentian root)
  2. All start as wine that have been fortified and flavoured with spices,herbs,fruit peels, and other natural flavours. Medicinal, bittersweet, savory and spicy flavor.
  3. Pair with lighter fare (tapas, antipasto, cheese & charcuterie), stocks and sauces, and of course…cocktails!


Getting to grips with the reams of bartending terms out there can seem daunting, but by following our simple 3-step framework, you’ll be nailing your alcohol terminology in no time.

You just need to remember:

  1. Flavour note
  2. Production identifier
  3. Quick anecdote

Once you’ve got that down pat, you’ll be ready to deep-dive into the advanced bartending terms associated with each category of alcohol: spirits, wines, fortified, and cocktails. Let us know which topic you’d like us to cover, and we’ll get down to crafting a new guide.

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

How To Max Out Your Online Reputation

Did you know that a small improvement in your online reputation can grow your revenue by at least 5%? Well, now you’ve got research from the Harvard Business Review to prove it. There’s a flip side, too. If you have a less-than-stellar reputation online, more popular companies will suck your customers away. If you’re under 4 stars on Yelp or Google, you’ve probably felt this vortex effect. 

So we’ve established that you should prioritize your online reputation. It truly affects your bottom line. But how do you max it out? How do you get 5 star reviews over and over and over again? Here’s a proven method, courtesy of the Nimble Bar Co.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Before we jump in, remember that a great online reputations take years to build and seconds to destroy. We’re gonna focus on the ‘build’ part of that. Our methods will speed up the process, but it’ll still take months before you see those Yelp stars begin to flow, Google+ likes increase, or positive Facebook mentions explode. The key here is perseverance and daily consistency.

6 daily proactive steps

Note the word ‘Proactive’ in the title of this section. If you’re reactive in your reputation management, you’re at the whims of the public. Proactively set goals and plan your own course. Next stop, sterling reputation!

Analyze your guest interactions with Zenreach

Guests love free WiFi, and you can leverage that love to collect important information. Zenreach uses guest wifi logins to analyze spending habits. It also collects guest contact info so you can send your patrons special offers and customized marketing material.

Most importantly, Zenreach measures your customer return rate and your new customers per day. These two metrics identify customer satisfaction. And what gets measured gets managed.

You know your regulars by site. But with Zenreach, you can interact with them via email and social media. You can give them special offers, or reward them for bringing in new customers.

The software also acts as a canary in the coal mine. You’ll know if your regulars show up less, and when your new customer visits dry up; you’ll have the numbers, not just a gut feeling. You’ll know if you need to change something. Likewise, you’ll know if you’re on the right track.

Quarantine reviews using

If you’re serious about your business’ online reputation, then you need to implement a system that streamlines the process of getting reviews, addressing them, and deploying them across various review sites.

My Testimonial Engine is a software as a service product that does just that. It collects all your reviews in one place, quarantines new reviews so that you can manage them and productively address them before they go ‘live’ on various platforms, and then it enables you to deploy those reviews anywhere you want.

The beauty of this is that instead of being ‘reactive’ when you see a negative review pop up on one your channels, you can instead face the issue in a much more grounded way because your vision is not clouded by “how does this look?!” When we’re worried about looking good, we often aren’t thinking clearly.

Test new initiatives

Thanks to Zenreach, you’re now measuring your reputation every day using real numbers: spending habits, return visits, and new customer visits. Not to mention, you’re notified when anyone leaves you a review. So now you can try out reputation-building initiatives. Keep the ones that work, and change the ones that don’t. Here’s what to test:

Make social deposits

Make deposits into your bank account of social capital. Social capital is the goodwill people in your community have for you. You increase that goodwill by giving, and you don’t always have to give money. Here are some ‘gifts’ you can give to your online social friends that will build social capital:

    • Compliment people in your community on social media who you appreciate.
    • Funny quotes or stories that highlight your brand and are fun to read / watch.
    • Find someone online whom you know visited your restaurant, and ask them a specific question about their visit. Like, “How was your [specific dish that they ordered] cooked? Did you notice the [specific ingredient] pop in [a specific dish they had]?”
    • Tell a story about a meaningful experience that was had in your establishment

Create likeable online interactions

Be likeable online. This is easier than it sounds. The main way to be likeable is to engage others. That’s right; the primary reason many businesses aren’t likeable online is their lack of engagement. They simply post stuff. But they don’t respond to customer comments or say thank you for mentions. Social media contains the word ‘social’ for a reason.

If you’re a bar or restaurant, people mention you online whether you realize it or not. You can use tools like Hootsuite to read all your mentions.. Make a point to check for mentions, like them, and respond to them every single time. Take it a step further and delight those who leave a comment by entertaining, informing, or demonstrating something for them.

A word of caution: when responding to negative reviews, take some time. The last thing you want to do is respond when you’re emotionally charged. We naturally want to ‘one-up’ the jerk who left us an unfair negative review. While it’s important to stand your ground, it’s very easy to come off as an asshole even to the people who are just skimming the reviews.

I’ve read cringe-worthy responses from managers and owners that serve no other purpose than make the commenter wrong and look stupid. You may want to write a long-winded explanation of what the situation was, but unless you’re an extremely entertaining writer, nobody cares.

The formula is simple: offer an apology for their experience, invite them to have a conversation about said experience, and lend them an olive-branch to come back. This communicates that your doors are always open and that your establishment is managed by an adult who can take a bit of criticism.

Ask for reviews

When a guest has an amazing experience at your establishment, ask them to leave a review. 9 times out of 10 people don’t leave positive reviews simply because they never think to or can’t be bothered.

We’ve seen bars and restaurants add up to five 5-star Yelp reviews a day by simply asking. I know restaurants that go days without ANY reviews. Imagine the impact of even just one 5-star review every day over the span of a few months. Higher overall rating, and more revenue.

Maintain a blog/vlog

Your establishment isn’t the only medium through which you can provide a valuable service. Using your own online platform is a powerful way to scale the value that patrons experience in your establishment.

If you’re like most people, when you think about starting a blog, you groan and think, “So much work!!!” Blogging doesn’t have to be hard. You can start by publishing something. Anything.

First, choose your platform. Next, start a live video on your phone and write a summary of the video. The more frequently you do this, the more you’ll engage your community rather than simply exist within it.

We recommend Facebook Live because of the user-friendly interface, and you can easily download the video and repurpose it on other platforms. Let’s put this into perspective. Imagine you run a live campaign everyday for three months. Then run the exact same campaign on a different platform one year later. The second time, though, you don’t have to create anything new. It’s the modern-day equivalent of publishing a book.

The main difference is that in the digital world, you can get WAY more granular in terms of data, so you know exactly what worked and what didn’t.

Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. Traction takes time, and we’re in the online reputation-building game for the long haul. Commit to going live every single day for 3 months, and then ask people you trust for feedback. Review some of your posts that receive the most and the least engagement once the 3 months are up.

Imagine all of the amazing things you could talk about every single day! Maybe one day you talk about the special your chef put together. The next, you showcase your bartender. What’s more, because the video is live, you are opening up a real conversation.

The bottom line

If you can engage with your community and show them you care, you’ll build a bulletproof online reputation. Not only will you grow your positive reviews, but you’ll also deter negative reviewers who notice your glowing fan base.

Have more questions about building your online reputation? Let’s talk!

By Nimble Bar Company

The Little Jumbo Restaurant and Bar

The Little Jumbo: a Speakeasy You Won’t Want to Miss

The Little Jumbo resembles something out of the 1880s. Warm lighting, brick walls, booze stored in something like old bookshelves. This ambiance isn’t an accident; it’s extreme attention to detail. The owners named their restaurant and bar after an establishment once owned by the father of modern mixology, Harry Johnson.

The original Little Jumbo received Johnson as its owner way back in 1882 in New York City. This modern homage in Victoria prides itself in “the fine craft of preparing fresh local food with a focus on continental and contemporary, and pairing it with fine wines and the best of classic and modern mixology.” And all in the spirit of Harry Johnson.


Liked this video? Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube and share! And check out our other videos that showcase local establishments.

By Nimble Bar Company

The Calgary Stampede and The Jerker Cocktail

The Calgary Stampede is

The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth

Every year, over one million show-goers converge on Calgary for the Calgary Stampede. Music, rodeos, rides, food, culture, family, and fun. Basically an amazing week of western fun. And what would a visit to such an amazing event be without… a custom cocktail???

The Jerker Cocktail

Don’t forget the jerky! None of that pre-packaged stuff, neither. Go visit your local butcher or jerky-makin’ establishment and buy yourself something nice; treat yourself. No preservatives. It’s jerky! It’s made to last.


Cayenne pepper, diced and mashed

Jerky-infused whisky

Tempranillo (In this case, Campo Viejo)

Plum sauce

Lemon juice

Shake over crushed ice, strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with lemon rind wrapped around jerky.

Liked this video? Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube and share! And check out our other custom cocktail recipes.

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The Little Jumbo Restaurant and Bar
The Calgary Stampede and The Jerker Cocktail