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How to be a REAL bartender - Manual from 1900 by Harry Johnson

Everyday at Cocktails For You we receive over 200 messages asking us numerous questions about the bartending profession. One of the most important questions is - HOW DO I BECOME A BARTENDER/HOW DO I GET BETTER? - this question is difficult to answer because this profession doesn't have a university you can go to get a degree in the trade. A lot of the knowledge comes from on-the-job training provided at any bartending establishment you find yourselves working in. Your ability will always be a combination of your innate set of skills, your ambition & your training. None of this is a recipe for success in the industry unfortunately. Modern bartending books do not discuss some finer intricacies of the profession like behaviour, appearance & rules of a 'good' establishment. Luckily for you Cocktails For You has a guide from 1900 that covers all these topics from Harry Johnson himself. Full book you can download HERE!


The General Appearance of the Bartender, and How He Should Conduct Himself at all times when on Duty.

The author of this work has, after careful delibera­tion, compiled the following rules for the managementof a saloon, and would suggest the advisability of fol­lowing these instructions while attending a bar. He has endeavored to the best of his ability to. state them in perfectly plain and straightforward language, as the work must be conducted in the same systematic and proper manner as any other business. When waitingon customers, at any time, it is of the highest import­ ance for a bartender to be strictly polite and attentive in his behavior and, especially, in his manner of speech, giving prompt answers to all questions as far as lies in his power; he should be cheerful and have a bright countenance. It is absolutely necessary to be neat, clean, and tidy in dress, as that will be more to the in­ terest of the bartender than any other matter.

He should be pleasant and cheerfl with every one, as that will not only be gratifying to customers, but also prove advantageous to the bartender serving them.

It is proper, when a person steps up to the bar, for a bartender to set before him a glass of ice-water, and, then, in a courteous manner, find out what he may de­ sire. If mixed drinks should be called for, it is the bartender's duty to mix and prepare them above the counter, and allow the customers to see the oper­ ation; they should be prepared in such a neat, quick, and scientific way as to draw attention. It is also the bartender's duty to see that everything used with the drinks is perfectly clean, and that the glasses are bright and polished.

When the customer has finished and left the bar, the bartender should clean the counter well and thor­ oughly, so that it will have a good, renewed appear­ ance, and, if time allows the bartender to do sO, he should clean, in a perfect manner, at once, the glasses that have been used, so as to have them ready again when needed. Regarding the bench which is an im­ portant feature in managing a bar properly, it is the bartender's special duty to have it cleared up and ingood shape, at all times, for it will always be to his advantage if done correctly.

Other particular points are, the style of serving and the saving of time. Whenever you have to mix drinks which require straining into a separate fancy glass, such as cocktails, sours, fizzes, etc., make it a rule to place the glass of ice-water in front of the customer, next to it the glass into which you intend to strain the drink, and then go to work and mix the drink re­ quired; try to place your glassware on the counter all in one row or straight line. As to the personal style of the bartender, it is proper that, when on duty or while mixing drinks, he should stand straight, carry his head erect, and place himself in a fine position.


When a bartender is looking for a position or anopening, it is of great importance for him to present a neat, clean appearance. It is also proper for him, as soon as he approaches the proprietor, to be careful in his speech and expressions, not say too much, but wait until the prospective employer asks him questions to which he should reply promptly. Have goodrecommendations with you, if possible, or, at least, be able to prove by references that you are reliable and capable. In entering an office or restaurant, it is proper to take off your hat, and, especially, while talk­ ing to the proprietor—a much-neglected act of courtesy. Many people believe that they lower them­ selves by lifting their hats, but this is a mistaken opin­ion, as it is only a matter of etiquette, and shows proper respect. When the proprietor is a gentleman, you will find he will do the same, even before you have; perhaps, to show that he has the proper knowledge of what etiquette demands.

A bartender inquiring for a position should be clean- shaven, with clothes well-brushed, and shoes blacked ; and should not. speak to the proprietor with a cigar in his mouth, and neither should he spit on the floor, be chewing a toothpick, use slang or profane language, or indulge in other bad habits. All his answers should be short and in a polite tone of language.

When the question of wages is introduced, you must know yourself what you are worth, and every goodbartender should demand good wages. Of course, it's much better to demand the proper salary, at once, than to accept small wages at the beginning, and then attempt to have it increased later, as this method gen­ erally creates an ill-feeling between employer and em­ployee, especially if the desired "raise" is refused. It is advisable for the bartender to ask the proprietor or manager, in a gentlemanly manner, what hours he is to work, whether by day or night, whether entitled to meals or not, what privileges are to be given him, what is demanded of him, and obtain information of all the particular rules and regulations governing the placeof business. If everything is satisfactory to both, and you have been engaged, at once leave the place, in a proper manner, and do not linger about, trying to occupy the proprietor's time more than necessary, and not give the bartender, who is going to leave or to be discharged, an opportunity to know what the busi­ness talk has been, or stop and chat to any possible ac­quaintance, who may be present, about what you are going to do.

I try to impress on every bartender's mind that he should study his business as much as possible, in everyway, so that he be entitled to the highest salary paid;for I do not believe in cheap bartenders. It is much better for the proprietor to pay high wages to those fully understanding their business than to hire "shoe- makers" who have but little if any knowledge of the business. Cheap men, as a rule, are worthless.


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