Category Archives: World’s Best Bars

No train, no gain bartenders! The costs of not training your staff properly

Dear bar/nightclub/restaurant owner:

Do you have unexplained losses in liquor or wine, in draught beer… in all three?

If your restaurant is like most hospitality concepts, chances are your current bartender training is based on generations of bartenders who may not have been fully trained themselves.

Most restaurants open with meticulous operational guidelines for how drinks are prepared, with detailed recipe lists that must be strictly adhered to along with opening and closing procedures, weekly checklists for cleanliness and follow up procedures. Does this sound familiar?

Maybe it’s a distant memory…

What usually follows can be likened to a game of broken telephone, where each generation of bartenders passes on an adapted interpretation of your original training message. In the hospitality industry where employee turnover rates are commonly 50%-66% per year, it doesn’t take long before your original training standards are barely recognizable

Perhaps your restaurant is okay and you have a good idea of how you can control the margins in the kitchen. Most managers have a good handle on food cost in the kitchen because many kitchens have portion-controlled menus. Use of a scale to measure consistency in portion size is common especially in prep areas, but there is no parallel on the bar side of the spectrum. Most bartenders freepour, although few have been properly trained to freepour accurately. You ask them to use a shot glass, which is slow and really offers no guarantee of accuracy during busy periods.


In the hospitality industry, there is a fine line between profit and loss. So fine in fact that after tax, profit margins in F&B often average less than 3% according to recent figures.

With margins like that, it’s hard to justify spending money on the business; however, it’s

been said that you have to spend it to make it.

There are a smorgasbord of liquor control systems available… at a price, and keep in mind you get what you pay for. Some bars that choose the ball bearing style pour spouts, which apparently stop automatically, may save money up front but you’ll pay in the long term. Most of these spouts will only pour accurately about 65% of the time. At the opposite end of the spectrum you could spend $100,000 or more on a high-tech liquor control system, however it may take years to see the return on your investment. Both of these systems, no matter how elaborate the programming, will limit your bartenders’ ability to create drinks that will truly satisfy your guests’ unique tastes and preferences.


At the very least you should make sure that all of your pour spouts are the same, and that you don’t have a mishmash of different colours, styles and pour rates. Not only does it look better, but if you find your liquor costs are out of line at least there is one less variable, and you can let your bartenders know that they’re pouring heavy.

The cost of not training your bartenders properly is astronomical.

All licensed establishments have bartenders but few have truly mastered the craft. But when was the last time your bartenders had any real training? Are they accurate and efficient or are they pouring away your profits?

The bottom line is that your ability to manage your costs is directly linked to the degree to which you empower your staff to help you manage those costs. We’ve all heard that the best defense is a good offense… so consider this.

Keep things simple:

Based on $10,000 in sales:

Your current liquor cost is 25% = $2500

Your budget liquor cost is 23% = $2300

Simple math says that you’re running 2% above cost or at a 2% surplus.

Your target liquor cost is 22% = $2200


This could be as a result of carelessness, spillage, spoilage, etc. As an incentive to keep costs in line, share these numbers with your staff regularly, and offer your bar team a quarterly party, or pay out a cash bonus to your bartenders if they hit a target 1% below your targeted liquor cost, in this case 22%. (Goals have to be within reason, and shouldn’t promote short changing the guest.)

Each year, based on these numbers, you are rewarded with $1200 in teambuilding and staff incentives. Your staff retention and job satisfaction goes up, turnover goes down and you empower a team of people to work

So put your hands on this and remember“Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”  Embrace a culture of continuous perfection and success will come to you.

See you behind the bar

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Coffee, Caffe, Café!

Coffee anyone?

Coffee anyone?

Coffee, Caffe, Café! It doesn’t matter where you come from or how you say it: If there is one thing I can’t go a morning with out this would be it. It’s a good thing I live in the Café rich city of Toronto.

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BartenderOne in New York

Gin and Pears and Rosemary, Oh My!

Gin and Pears and Rosemary, Oh My!

Imagine walking into a phone booth, dialling a number, and being redirected back to a world of sipping cocktails next to Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald……

On March 11th of this year, I traveled to New York to experience some of North America’s finest Speakeasies and Mixology bars. With only having one amazing speakeasy in Toronto, we were eager to head to the Big Apple and meet the bartenders that compete in Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

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Bar Chef Finals – Winter 2011

Have you wished you could jump behind a bar with hundreds of ingredients, tastes, and ideas and be able to create the cocktail of your dreams?

On April 4th, 2011 the BartenderOne Bar Chef Finals took place at Empire Lounge in Toronto in Yorkville. As students, the mixologists had completed tasting over five hundred different spirits, bitters, liqueurs, sweeteners, types of citrus, infused foams and spirits, along with homemade syrups.

As mixologists, the students were asked to create an original cocktail from each of the 5 spirit categories. The cocktails could have been made with anything that the mixologists could think of; but were required to hold dear the traditional balanced cocktail theory. While they did have guidelines for balance, there were none for flavour profiles or presentation. Mixologists could incorporate elements that were taught in class such as: infusion, fatwashing, bruleeing, molecular mixology, spherification, custom foams, misting and much more.

As the student mixologists watched tentatively, their cocktails were tasted by three of Toronto’s top mixologists; Rob Montgomery, Gavin MacMillan and Scott McMaster. The students were were delighted to see that their hard work and development had paid off. The judges were impressed by all of the thought and effort that was incorporated into the final cocktails. The mixologists showed that they weren’t scared to test some boundaries in coming up with their very own recipes, and here are the top cocktails entered:

VODKA COCKTAILS

Strawbarb Bullets by Krissy Calkins

Strawbarb Bullets by Krissy Calkins

STRAWBARB BULLETS – By Mixologist Krissy Calkins

2/3 oz Strawberry reduction (no sugar added)
1/3 oz Rhubarb reduction (no sugar added)
1 oz Vodka
Shaken on Ice
Strain into Chocolate Cups
Float – Vanilla bean infused simple syrup on top
Served on a bed of Gram Crackers

Rainbow 1943 By Elizabeth Saad

Rainbow 1943 By Elizabeth Saad

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Spring Ahead, Kick Back!

Cocktail caviar is a fairly simple, yet effective way of impressing your guests while hitting taste/texture sensations they've never heard of!

Cocktail caviar is a fairly simple, yet effective way of impressing your guests while hitting taste/texture sensations they've never heard of!

Spring is just around the corner, and it’s time to shake things up – or stir things up, depending on the drink!  Here are some completely random recipes that have crossed my lips this month.  If you or your staff have recipes you think might be of interest to Behind Bars readers, please drop me a line!
 
The Montgomery
Named by Ernest Hemingway in honour of the British general who, he claimed, would fight the enemy only if he had 15 soldiers to their one – that was also the proportion of gin to dry vermouth in the martinis Hemingway ordered.
(Source: The Harry’s Bar Cookbook, Arrigo Cipriani)
Adapted recipe for a 60ml “Montgomery” martini

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Nothing rhymes with cocktail!

A sweet twist on the classic Sidecar. Use Navan Vanilla Liqueur, as opposed to orange liqueur.

A sweet twist on the classic Sidecar. Use Navan Vanilla Liqueur, as opposed to orange liqueur.

We wanted to title this one “April cocktails bring May ____,” but alas … nothing rhymes with cocktail.

Whatever the coming month will bring, with the last threats of winter’s snow storms hopefully behind us, it’s time to ponder a few cool drinks for the upcoming spring and summer (aka: patio) seasons.  Here are some recipes that have crossed my lips this month.  If you or your staff have recipes you think might be of interest to Behind Bars readers, please drop me a line!

Navan Sidecar
3 parts B&B

1 part Navan vanilla liquer

Juice of one whole, fresh lemon

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Simple Recipes from the World’s Best Bars!

A Negroni Sbagliato uses sparkling wine instead of Gin.

A Negroni Sbagliato uses sparkling wine instead of Gin.

Honey Suckle Cocktail from Milk and Honey in London, England
50ml               Cuban rum
20ml               honey syrup
20ml               fresh lime juice
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into chilled Coupe or Martini glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
 
Negroni Sbagliato from Bar Basso in Milan, Italy
50ml               sparkling wine
50ml               sweet vermouth
50ml               Campari
Stir all ingredients over ice in ballon shaped wine glass. Serve immediately.
 
Bondi Crush from Iceberg’s In Sydney, Australia
30ml               Bombay Sapphire Gin
15ml               Pimm’s No.1
1tsp                 finely shredded mint
ginger ale to top
Fill a highball glass with crushed ice. Add first  three ingredients and stir well. Top with ginger ale and stir again. Garnish with mint sprig and serve.
 
Heels Race from The High Heels Bar In Cairo, Egypt
30ml               vodka
15ml               Kahlua           
15ml               peach schnapps
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with fresh red cherry and serve.
 
Stay thirsty,

Rob Montgomery, The Miller Tavern
*For the record, you can’t buy my love!  I have tried all products mentioned and have no affiliation with parent companies.

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Organic Spirits and Liqueurs: Is a there such a thing as a “Healthy Cocktail?”

Cocktails that are created with care for the earth will show your guests' you care for their well being!

Cocktails that are created with care for the earth will show your guests' you care for their well being!

With public health awareness at an all time high, and a recovering economy that is shifting focus back on the environmental movement, more and more bars are making an effort to go green with their daily business practices for a handful of reasons. Organic ingredients are popping up at every turn, in fact more than 75 different types of Organic Spirits, Liqueurs, Wines and Beers are available in most provinces.

First of all, it’s important to identify the difference between a green cocktail and the absurdity of the healthy cocktail. Ordering up a beverage made with green tea liqueur is not going to earn you any points in the antioxidant cup. Organic Spirits, Wines and Beers are becoming more and more popular, new companies are jumping on the organic bandwagon, others have been quietly producing organic and sustainable products for decades. Do organic ingredients in a cocktail really make a difference? Are they any healthier for you? Aren’t cocktails are supposed to be a little bit naughty anyways?

To answer this question, we made three cocktails, one completely organic, one made with non-organic spirits, citrus and sweeteners, and one in the fashion commonly employed by most bars in operation in Canada today.

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Regulars – The Life Blood of your Business!

Cheers is a fairly good example of keeping your regulars. Everyone knew everyones name - It was almost a family!

Cheers is a fairly good example of keeping your regulars. Everyone knew everyones name - It was almost a family!

Most bars have a small group of regular clientele that frequent their establishment. They are the loyal clients who, more often than not, tip well and don’t ask for any special kind of service. In many cases they are the types who spend thousands a year in your bar or restaurant. They are the cornerstones of your business, you certainly can’t afford to lose them, so the question clearly is how do you keep them and how do you get more of them?

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