Bartenders We Love

Five Things That Make A Great Bartender Other Than Being “Hot”


large_IMG_4218_3956To celebrate The Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, Castro bartender, comedian and author Yuri Kagan came up with five things that make a great bartender.

1. “Hot” is not enough 

A six-pack, low cut T-shirt and looking great in tight jeans may initially land you a job in some establishments. But that’s it. Longevity in the job comes from personality, skill and multitasking oders. Personality is what wins the game. We’ve all been annoyed by pretty but incompetent servers who think that posing is all the job requires. Meanwhile, the line gets longer.

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2. Don’t be a booze know-it-all

When a customer leans into your station, resist the urge to educate on the distillation process of various spirits or waste time on arguing the difference between top and bottom shelf vodka–unless the customer asks. People come to bars to unwind, not for a history lesson.

3. Create a show

It really is all about the drama, and not just at gay bars. You are the entertainment. (Along with the Kay Perry vids on the big screen or the ballgame.) Slow, busy, bar patrons are checking you out. Making the mundane look interesting is key. Keep up several conversations while mixing your fabulous concoctions. Tell stories. They don’t even have to be true as long as they are interesting. A true bartender has the gift of being able to keep a conversation going seamlessly among multiple people.

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4. Size matters

Don’t be obvious about how precise you are measuring the alcohol content of a cocktail. It makes people think that they are getting less alcohol–even if the opposite is true. People who think they are getting stiffed don’t return. Be generous.

5. Good guys finish first

Smile even when your heart is aching. In fact, don’t talk about your personal life at all. Ever. Patrons are there to have fun, not be your therapist. It’s just sending your life down a rabbit-hole without the benefit of a hallucinogenic. No one needs to know all about your BS. People come to unload their problems and not hear about yours.

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The Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic is almost here. Eleven cities have already picked bartenders to send to the Grand Finale in Key West, with just two West Coast events remaining–Seattle (May 17) and San Francisco (May 27).

Comedian Yuri Kagan has spent the past decade bartending at watering holes around San Francisco. From thumping gay clubs like Badlands and mixology taverns like Blackbird to dives like Edge. Check out his book, Vodka & Limelight.