Bartending/Mixology Basics 101

As taught by Whesley.

Some people believe that Bartending is merely pouring booze into cups and giving it to people. Shame on them. I will not go so far as describing it as "a harmony of control and presentation" or "a celebration of knowledge and finely-honed skill." No. That would be ridiculous. Words like that are for wine servers. But Bartending is a legitimate skill, one that has procedure and form that must be learned if success is desired. This is a glossary of bar terms, and a listings of how-to's to get you primed for the later lessons in my page. But remember, it's better to do something once than to read about it several times. So get out there and pour!

The Index

Personal Tools For the Bartender

Bartending, as an art, a science, or merely a skill, requires a person to possess these Personal tools.

  1. Knowledge of Bar Equipment and its Usage.
  2. Knowledge of the Products that are Served
  3. Knowledge of the Drink Recipes
  4. The Ability to Handle People.

In this guide, I can help you through the first three, but as for handling people, you're on your own.

Tools of the Trade, the Basics.

Every Occupation requires some form of physical item to accomplish the task or tasks encountered through daily execution of that job. Bartending is no exception. Thankfully, the tools are very basic, and require very little intellegence to use, but a little manual dexterity does come in handy.

A Listing of Bar-Ware and other Implements of Destruction

  • Strainer
    The next most-important-bar-tool is known as the Hawthorne Strainer, a mutant device that looks like the unholy union of Spatula and Slinky. It is a slotted "paddle" with a coiled spring along its outside edge. When used, it is placed over the end of a shaker or a mixing glass before the drink is poured, in order to prevent ice and other stuff from getting into your drink. It is a commonly-used device, and cannot be overlooked.

  • Mixing Glass
    This is simply a glass where drinks that are to be "stirred, not shaken" are combined. It is often used with the Hawthorne strainer, and can be improvised by using the container portion of either shaker.

  • Measuring Devices

    These tools tell you How Much of What is going into your drinks. There are many different types, with nearly identical uses. Go figure.

    1. Double Jigger The Double-Jigger is a piece of metal bar-ware that looks like two shot glasses placed bottom-to-bottom. These halves have different measures, one is a 3/4 oz. measure, while the other is a 1 1/2 oz. measure, known as one "jigger." There are 1 and 1/2 oz. versions as well, known as a "pony".
    2. Measuring Spoons Just your average kitchen measuring spoons. One tablespoon and one teaspoon measures are nessessary, plus whatever multiples of these you desire.
    3. Speed Pourers These are the plastic spouts that fit over the ends of bottles. These allow you a steady, measurable pour, and prevent drips and spills. While pouring, a one secound count is equal to 1/2 oz. poured. Counting "one-thousand-and-one...etc. is a good way to do this.
    4. Shot Glass, Graduated This is a shooter with marks for 1/2 through 1 1/2 oz. measures, and is quite useful in the place of a pony measure.

  • Waiter's Wine Opener
    This device functions as a corkscrew, but has an "arm" to grip the edge of the bottle and give leverage when pulling corks. There is often a short blade, which is used to cut away the foil or wax seal that covers the cork. Never use these to open champagne bottles, you froot-loop!
  • Bar Spoon
    This is simply a long-handled spoon for stirring drinks, muddling fruit, and making layered drinks by pouring over the back of the spoon. I'll explain later.
  • Blender This is a nessessary piece of equipment to mix those really stubborn drinks, but more commonly, to make frozen drinks. Plus, it can be used to crush ice, if the blender has that attachment. Remember to always pour liquids into a blender before the ice, in order to protect the blades.
  • Ice Bucket and Scoop This is so Ridicoulusly simple. It is a bucket that can hold about three trays of ice for ready use. A scoop or a set of tongs is also nessessary, because ice should never be handled using the hands. Big no-no.
  • A pitcher This is simply a container to hold and pour drinks that are made in large quantities. A spout aids in pouring, and it may include a cover to, well, uh... cover it.

    Assorted Glassware

    The Glassware found in a bar serves many other purposes than simply as a recepticle and a container for your drinks. In fact, many glasses are designed for a particular liquor. Brandy Snifters are large, and the wide bowl is cupped in the hand to warm the brandy, while the long-stemmed handle of the Champagne Glass accomplishes the opposite, keeping the drink cold. Appearance also counts when selecting glassware. A Martini is not a Martini if served in a beer mug, as the wine glass is ill-suited to holding the ice or quantity of liquid in a popular Highball. All this aside, here is a listing and description of some common glasses.

    • Shot (1) A squat glass that holds between 1 and 2 oz. of a single or mixed liquor. The "shot" is tossed back in a single gulp.
    • Cocktail (2) This glass has a thin stem with an angular bowl sitting on top of it. It is the glass used with Martini's, Stinger's, and the like.
    • Collins/Highball (3 & 4) Interchangeable. A tall, 8 to 12 oz. glass intended to be filled with ice as well as other ingredients.
    • Old-Fashioned/Rocks (5) A short glass commonly in 5 to 7 oz. sizes. The glass for White Russian's and Toasted Almond's.
    • Wine Glasses- Intended to hold wine, but can be used as substitutes for any of the other glasses if nessessary. Most wine glasses are between 5 and 10 oz. sizes, and have thin stems to be held by.
      • Red (6) This glass has a wide bowl to allow the wine to "breathe."
      • White (7) Smaller than the Red Wine glass, this one is occasionally goblet-shaped.
      • Champagne Flute (8) A narrow glass with a tapered bowl that prevents bubbles from escaping.
    • Brandy Snifter (9) As I said, a large glass with a wide bowl that is cupped in the hand. This one is available in sizes up to 25 oz. but that is a little much. Straight Brandy and Cognac is served in this glass.

    Frosting Glasses

    Frosting Glasses chills the glasses, and ultimatly, the drink. It also looks professional, and is a no-brainer to preform. Simply dip the glass in water and place it in a freezer for 30 minutes. Remove just before serving.

    Prepwork- Before the Party Begins

    As a Bartender, your job is basically 20% content, and 80% appearance. Examples of this are evident in the different sets of sylish glassware, to the varius colored liquors in existance, and the best example of this: The Garnish. And these things take time to prepare. Your job begins even before the first drink is poured, because of the time required to prepare the "finishing touches" to your drinks. And so here is the section that will teach you to cut up some nifty garnishes, as well as give the recipes for two important ingredients for many drinks: Simple Syrup and Sour Mix.

    Preparing Garnishes

    As I said before, garnishes are one of those items that demonstrate the importance of appearance in the drinks that you pour. Garnishes very rarely add any change of flavor in the drinks, they are merely there for appearance, like parsley on a dinner plate. Fourtunatly, cutting these is not a major science, only a skill that needs to be taught once. There are three types of garnishes common to many mixed drinks: Wheels, Slices, and Wedges. Granted, there are others, such as olives, cocktail onions, marishino cherries, and celery stalks, but their use is often restricted to but a few drinks, and no prep work is required. So there. Whatever the type, garnishes should be kept chilled in a covered container until ready to serve.


    Fruit Wheels are the easiest of the garnishes to prepare. These are cut from oranges most often, but lime and lemon wheels are possible.

    1. Place the fruit sideways. Slice off the ends. (where the stem and bud should be)
    2. Slice the fruit in 1/8" sections, remove the seeds, if any.
    3. Make a small slit from the center of the wheel to the outside, so that it can fit over the rim of a glass.
    4. Done. Pack and chill.


    Slices, simply put, are merely fruit wheels cut in half. Lime slices are most common, followed by orange slices.

    1. Remove the ends of the fruit.
    2. Cut the fruit in half, the long way.
    3. Slice into 1/8" thick "half moons."
    4. Add a small slit for the rim of the glass.
    5. Done. Outta Here.


    Wedges are only slightly more difficult to prepare than the wheels. Lemons are the most common wedged fruit, followed by limes.

    1. Slice the fruit in half the long way.
    2. Halve the Halves once agan, producing Quarters.
    3. Congradulate yourself, you're done!

    Pre-Mixing Simple Syrups and Sour Mixes

    Many drinks call for an ingredient known as "Simple Syrup." Others list "Sour Mix" as part of the listing. So what are these concoctions anyway? Well, there's really nothing to them, but as you will see, they are often important.

    Simple Syrup

    The title of "Simple Syrup" holds no secrets. It really is simple. It is merely a concentrated mixture of syrup and water. Making this is no major task, either.

    To make 16 oz. of Simple Syrup:

    1. Bring 1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) of water to a nice boil. (You do know how to boil water, right?)
    2. Slowly stir in half a pound of superfine sugar, stir until it is completely dissolved.
    3. You now have a mixture known as Simple Syrup. Allow it to cool, then pour it into a sealable bottle. It should stay fresh for about 2 weeks, so make more when nessessary.

    Sour Mix

    Unlike Simple Syrup, this mixture is a bit involved. Sour Mix contains lemon juice, egg white, and some sugar as well. It is added to Sours and many Highballs in place of lemon juice, and to add a bit of froth. Here's a good recipe for it.

    You will need:

    • 8 oz. lemon juice (roughly 4 lemons worth)
    • 2 tbsp. Superfine Sugar
    • 1 tbsp. Egg White


    1. Blend Lemon Juice and Sugar with a spoon until all of the sugar is dissolved.
    2. Slowly stir in the Egg White. If you stir too quickly, the egg white will turn to foam, and you don't want that.
    3. Pour into a bottle, and keep refrigerated. This will last about a week, so plan accordingly.

    Some Basic Bar Setups

    It's hard to beleive, but there is actually some order to the collage of bottles located behind the bar. These vary by the 'Tenders preferance, or by the frequency of certain drinks. This is the psychology regarding the basic arrangements: Efficiency above all else.

    The Speed/Cocktail Bar

    The most general and simplistic of setups, the Cocktail Bar, is one that is not difficult to learn. 70% of all mixed drinks can be made using this setup alone. Basically, the light liqours (Gin, Vodka, Rum) are grouped together to one side, and the dark liqours (Scotch, Blended Whiskey, Burbon) are to the other. The group that is used most often is placed to the handedness of the bartender, and to the age of the crowd. Generally speaking, a right-handed 'tender serving to a younger crowd would keep the lighter liqours to his right, for easy access. This placement of booze governs the placement of liqueurs and mixers. You will find that Dry Vermouth, for example, is placed near the Gin to facilitate the making of a Martini, while the Sweet Vermouth and Blended Whiskey are grouped for the making of a Manhattan. Club Soda is best placed by the Scotch, while the Coke should be within easy reach of the rum. Use your discretion when constructing your own setup, but keep efficiency in mind when placing the bottles, as well as utensils, ice, and garnishes. Whew.

    Mixing Drinks a Step at a Time

    So now that you have learned about bar tools, glassware, cutting fruit, and the arrangement of bottles, the next step is to learn about how to pour drinks. And even though it may seem somewhat daunting to memorize hundereds of recipes and amounts, not to mention prep and glassware, it is one of those things that is best taken a sip at a time.

    How to Pour and Measure Booze

    There are actual techniques to pouring liquor beyond grabbing the bottle and dumping stuff out of it. And these methods will allow you to measure out exact amounts while preventing messes. Before I cover the methods, you should know how to grab the bottle and pour stuff out of it. An effective pour requires a Speed Pourer, among other things. To pour, grab the neck straight on, like you were shaking hands with it. Lift the bottle, and invert the ends so that the bottle is completely vertical and your elbow is raised slightly. There! That's all you need to know. On to the Methods.

    The first, the "Jigger Method," is the easiest for the beginner to acheive an exact pour, but is somewhat awkward and slow. The liquid is poured into a Double Jigger, or some other form of measuring device, and then dispensed into the glass or shaker. As I said, it is slow when compared to the other methods, but there are several benefits to it. The first is that you will get a percise measure. For this reason, many bar managers will require you to use one to avoid over/under serving. Another plus, is that you can creat the illusion that you are serving more than you really are. By partially filling the Jigger, perhaps a half of an ounce short, then dumping it into the glass and following it with a "one-count" straight in the glass, you can make it appear that you are serving a full Jigger, as well as an additional splash. So you may get tipped more. It's all in the wrist.

    The other method I will cover is the all-out "Speed Pour." For this, you rely on the ingeniuity of a little plastic spout, and your own ability to count seconds. For this, you invert the bottle as described before, and pour directly into your container of choice. As soon as the stream starts flowing, begin a "one-thousand-and-one" count. Count one second for each 1/2 oz. that is going into the drink. A 1 1/2 oz. pour would be three seconds, a 3 oz pour would be six, and so on. Easy, fast, and effictive, but it takes some practice to get comfortable with this one. A good practice technique is to fill an empty booze bottle with water, and put a speed pourer on it. (after finding a suitable purpose for the liqour, of course!) Practice pouring various measures into an unmarked container. Compare this amount with the intended amount in a measuring cup, and repeat. Soon you will be comfortable with this professional style of pouring.


    The drinks known as "Fillers" make up about 70% of the World's Cocktail Recipes. Some of the drinks that fall into this category are the Gin and Tonic, the Screwdriver, and the Rum and Coke. Generally speaking, highballs are drinks that include liquor and mixers that are poured directly into a glass of the same name, usually over ice. No outside shaking or stirring is required. This is how to make a basic highball.

    1. Fill a Highball glass halfway with ice.
    2. Pour 1 Jigger (1 1/2 oz., a three count) Liqour over the ice
    3. Fill the remainder of the glass with mixer(s).
    4. Stir, if the mixer is non-carbinated. (Stirring sodas makes them go flat)
    5. Garnish and serve.

    Now was that not easy? Pat yourself on the back. You now know how to mix 70% of the World's drinks. Congrats.

    Stirred Cocktails

    Stirred cocktails include some of the high-end drinks such as the Martini, the Manhattan, as well as others that are served "on the rocks," Like the White Russian, and the uhhh... Black Russian. Trust me, there are plenty of others that fall into this category. Stirring a drink is nessessary for several reasons.

    • Some drinks have ingredients that do not normally blend well, and thus require some outside help through mixing. Mudslides are a good example.
    • Mixing with ice, followed by straining, chills the drink without leaving big cubes in there.
    • Mixing a drink with ice produces a drink with more clarity than a drink shaked with ice. Shaking produces ice slivers, which make the cocktail look cloudy.

    There. Several good reasons. Now that you know why, here's how:

    1. Fill a mixing glass 2/3rds of the way with ice
    2. Add the ingredient of the least measurement first. (e.g. the Vermouth in a Martini.)
    3. Add the secondary ingredients.
    4. Stir very well with the straight end of a bar spoon, until condensation forms on the outside.
    5. Strain into the appropriate glassware
    6. Garnish and serve

    There is a variation on this process for those non-cocktail glass drinks that are served on the rocks. And this simply involves pouring the stuff into the ice-filled glass, and stirring it there. Wow.

    Shaken Cocktails

    At last! The defining activity of the Pro Bartender. Not only does this look cool, once you get it down, it shows others that you know what you're doing. Did I mention that it looks cool? Anyway, a good, sealable, cocktail shaker is needed for this, as you could of guessed. Shaking has it's advantages. Among these are:

    • Blending drinks that otherwise could not be mixed, such as those containing (Yuck!) egg.
    • Getting some drinks to that Sub-Artic temprature.
    • Mixing many drinks at once with speed and ease.

    How to Shake? Glad you asked. Here's some steps to the art. Please note that this is for using the Standard Shaker, not the Boston Shaker, which is silly.

    1. Fill the shaker 2/3rds of the way with ice, if required.
    2. Add any non-booze ingredients first, to reduce dilution.
    3. Add the Liquor.
    4. Cover the shaker with the strainer, then the cover.
    5. Support the top and bottom of the shaker while holding it vertically.
    6. Give several firm, yet fluid vertical shakes, until condensation beads on the outside surface.
    7. Remove the cover, pour through the strainer into the required glassware, garnish, and serve.

    General Recipes

    Of the many cocktail recipes available, some are quite general, and can be customized to different liquors. For example, you can make a gin fizz with vodka, or modify a scotch highball to include rum. Such is the case of the recipes listed here. They are both common and popular, and are usually the first drinks a bartender learns.

    The Recipes


    • 1 1/2 oz. Liquor
    • 3 oz. Sour Mix

    Shake with ice, strain into a Collins Glass and top with 1 oz. club soda.


    • 1 1/2 oz. Liquor
    • Ginger Ale to Fill

    Serve in a Highball Glass, garnishwith lemon wedge.

    Fruit Daiquiri

    • 4 parts light rum
    • 1 part white Creme de Cacao
    • 1 part fruit liqueur
    • fresh fruit

    Blend and serve with a straw. For a frozen daiquiri, add a cup of crushed ice, and blend. The fruit liqueur should be the same as the fresh fruit used, Strawberry Schnapps with fresh strawberries, etc.


    • 1 1/2 oz. Liquor
    • Ginger Ale to fill

    Pour into a highball glass and serve.


    • 1 1/2 oz. Liquor
    • Club Soda to fill
    • Splash of Lime Juice

    Serve in a lime-garnished Highball Glass.


    • 1 1/2 oz. Liquor
    • 3 oz. Sour Mix

    Shake and strain into a Collins Glass, top with 1 oz. Club Soda, garnish with cherry and orange.


    • 1 1/2 oz. Liquor
    • 3 oz. Sour Mix

    Shake and strain into a Sour Glass, or over ice in an Old-Fashioned. Garnish with Cherry and Orange Slice.


    • 1 1/2 oz. Liquor
    • Club Soda to Fill

    Serve in a Highball Glass.

    This concludes the Crash Course in Mixology 101. Hopefully, you will leave with a better understanding of this art/science/skill. With the knowledge presented here, you could be on your way to a rewarding carrer as a Bartender, or you will at least know how to manage your own household bar for a party or whatnot. Whatever you choose to do with this, is totally up to you, but hopefully, you have enjoyed these lessons. Now get out there and pour, you silly kids!

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