The Nimble Bag of Bartending Tricks
How To Exude Confidence Behind The Bar
Bartenders need to project confidence. Confidence puts our guests at ease, gains their trust, and gives them permission to have a good time. Master these bartending tricks to communicate confidence and blow your guests away.
Years ago, I was working fast through a seven drink chit, and I suddenly realized that all 7 guests around the bar were silently watching me work. They were transfixed. And I realized how a few powerful-but-simple bartending tricks could transform a guest’s experience.
When I say tricks, I really mean movements. Things you can do with your tools and your drinks that will captivate guests and give them a great experience. I’ll share some of them here in this article. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to employ these bartending tricks quietly, like a ninja.
We never use loud noises, or do anything too ‘peacock-y’ to entertain our guests.
We NEVER want to disrupt our guests or take their attention away from their conversation, but if we’re using this functional movement flair in an unobtrusive way, you’ll add value to their experience. Guests can decide to watch, or focus on something else. The decision is theirs.
Bartending is a Dance
Think of bartending as salsa (the dance, not the condiment). Certain steps and methods are the same in basically all styles of salsa. But then you create your own movements and your own personal style and add it to the basics. These tricks I’m talking about are your own personal style on top of basic bartending strategies (which you can learn at the Nimble Bar School).
I recommend that you give yourself a couple of months to practice these bartending tricks at home by doing the drills described each of the videos below.
This is just the beginning. In time, we’ll show you more you can add to your repertoire.
Trick #1: Tin Flips
Start here. You’ll use this trick a lot — like nightly. You can also use the trick on other tools like spoons and bottles.
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…
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 also just as versatile with and can be used on bottles, on assembled Boston shakers, and on 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. That’s part of the fun. Finally, after you seal the shaker, try pivoting 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.” The trick to this trick 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 don’t communicate confidence. You can easily spice things up and add some boldness to your work with a couple of super simple techniques.
The first cut is called a ‘swoop.’ It’s called a swoop because, well, you swoop the bottle.
Notice in the video how I’m holding the neck of the bottle between my index and middle fingers. I use my thumb to turn the bottle over. This method makes everything look MUCH more smooth, and makes the move much easier to pull off. To pull off the 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.
A movement from everyday life that kind of looks like a bounce is shaking a salt shaker. Same physics. When you pull the bottle up from the bounce at the bottom, 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. Play around with it and make it your own. Oh, and 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.
My favorite spoon tricks are either the flip from the glass or the spin. These 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 is a little more challenging. Try spinning the spoon around your index finger. Keep practicing, and you’ll get it.
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. Don’t feel like you’ve got to master all of these at once. Just like shuffling a deck of cards or even learning to whistle, take it slow and stick with it, and you’ll get it. Practice, practice, practice.
If you give yourself the time to master these bartending tricks, you’ll be 100% more entertaining than 99% of other bartenders. Your movements will communicate confidence, show guests a great time, and even help you set the tone for your night.
We coach professional bartenders to master their craft and become leaders. Interested? Click here to find out more about the Nimble Bar School.