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