If you’ve worked behind the bar for a while, I’m sure you’ve come across customers who just can’t decide what to order, or were simply feeling adventurous about their drink. The idea of letting the bartender take control is an incredibly freeing one for the guest – there is no menu to agonise over, no cocktail to regret not ordering, just their tastes, and the bartender’s skill.
So, what do you do when someone says ‘surprise me’ or orders a bartender special?
For bartenders, nailing a ‘surprise me’ drink can be quite tricky. It requires part conversation, part psychology and part sincerity. Make sure to converse with the customer – find out what their favourite spirit is – if they want it sweet/lemony/fruity etc. Try to deduce what kind of a drink they would like based on their personality – are they likely to want something for Instagram, are they aiming to get drunk?
And of course, there is sincerity – if someone thinks you’re genuinely recommending a drink, they’ll be more likely to buy it.
The first obvious thing to do is upscale it. This customer is most likely not restricted by a budget, or they wouldn’t go free-falling into their rounds. Use premium alcohol, fancy ingredients and exotic garnishes. It’ll surely impress the guest and definitely add to the bill as well. You might just get a bigger tip too if you use a top tier cocktail base.
Why not use this opportunity to sell those flavours, liqueurs or brands that are uncommon or don’t sell easily? It is a good way to introduce these bottles to the customers who are willing to experiment and are not afraid to step outside the box. If you do a good job with their cocktail, they might go and tell other people, who will in turn come and visit the bar for its unique ingredients.
Avoid spending a lot of time just trying to deduce the customer. Trying to accommodate someone’s taste is not an exact science. You don’t need to give them multiple flavours to sample until they find the one that is just right. Just as personalised cocktails can be a challenge for bartenders, they are also a gamble for the customers. You can’t please everyone and while you must strive to, it does not define you as a bartender.
For bars that can make the concept work, customised concoctions draw the guest into the bartending experience, and give the venue a chance to flex its mixology muscles.
This one is for consumers:
If you go to a crowded bar and ask for a special, you’ll most likely be handed a cocktail that is already being made in bulk for another order, possibly with a different garnish. We hate to do it too, so it’s just best you use this trick on a slow night or on a weekday and we’ll be happy to accommodate your requirements.
All pictures are for representational purposes only. Images from Pixabay.