Maryland Bartending Academy on the most common mistakes of first-time bartenders

From the Midnight Sun blog:

Earlier this week, I sat in on a class at the Maryland Bartending Academy, the 20-year-old Glen Burnie school that offers a $540 two-week bartending course.

I'll tell that story tomorrow, but for now, I asked Rose Kaspar, one of the instructors there, to itemize the most common mistakes of first-time bartenders and how to avoid them.

Most home bartenders are used to learning drinks from watching "Mad Men" or from hearing more experienced drinkers order fancy cocktails at bars.

"Most people don't know what's in the drink they're drinking," she said.

But, the bartender also doesn't need to know that much. His or her goals are simple: Make nice tasting cocktails to entertain, or better yet, impress. This is how to do it: For starters, forget tasting every drink on the bar.

"You don't have to know what all of these are," Kaspar said, pointing to the dozens of bottles behind her bar. "You just have to know the ratios."

Mistake 1: Remembering ingredients. While hi-balls are relatively easy to make, when you get into manhattans and things called "millennium martinis," the ingredients pile up.

How to avoid: Kaspar recommends making flashcards, just as if you were trying to remember Spanish verb conjugations.

Mistake 2: Serving too much alcohol.

How to avoid: use a double-sided measurer, or count one " Mississippi" for each half ounce as you pour.

Mistake 3: Finding the ingredients

How to avoid: Bars have dozens of bottles, but most of the set-ups are similar: Whiskeys are often on the left-hand corner, liqueurs are in the middle, and vodkas are to the right. House are rail brands are usually on the speed rack below the bar.

Kaspar said other common mistakes include leaving a bottle on the bar (customers will take it), and not filling the glass with ice (if you know which of the 20-some different glasses to use).

"It's all practice," Kaspar said. "The more drinks you make, the easier it'll get."

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