Did you just accept your first job as a bar manager or lead bartender? Do you want to start learning the skill sets you are going to need when you do take the job. Here are a few ideas and suggestions on what you can start to think about now, and practice to get you prepared for your role as a bar manager/lead bartender.


Cocktail Menu FUNdamentals:


1. Diversify your glassware.


Try to make cocktail’s that go in rocks glass, bucket, martini, coupe and highballs. This will help to distribute the distribution of glass ware and relieve any burden on any one type of glass.


2. Offer different cocktails with different base spirits.


Have a vodka drink, a gin, bourbon, tequila, rum and possibly a brandy. I like to match the spirit with the style of cocktail that I think that consumer might drink. So for vodka I tend to make this cocktail either fruity, carbonated, and basically easy to consume…..and make. Gin I tend to make something a little more adventurous. With Bourbon or Rye, usually something more classic…..etc


3. Offer a variety of beer options.


Have different styles on your tap and compliment the taps with maybe some more adventurous beers in the bottle.

  • Pilsner/Lager
  • Amber/Golden Ale
  • Pale Ale
  • IPA
  • Stout or Porter in the Fall/winter and maybe switch it over to a Hefeweizen in the spring/summer

In the bottle you can try out some of your more hard to find styles of beers like Belgians, Lambics, Sours, Ciders and seasonal beers. If any one of those styles become really popular, maybe consider adding it to the tap. Be aware that once a cider goes on the tap, it can flavor the beer lines and it will be hard to get the flavor of cider out of that line.


4. Start to learn the business of the bar.


Learn how to calculate the cost of a cocktail, how to do an inventory for the first time and calculate your bar costs. This is important because your bonus will be dependent on your ability to hit your targeted profit margins.

Some other advice about starting your first bar program:

  • Don’t make too many changes to quickly. If it’s an existing bar program, don’t gut the whole thing and from scratch. Look at what the program has done well in the past and slowly begin to make changes. You don’t want to freak out your regulars or your staff.
  • Learn to love excel. This is going to be your new best friend when you run a beverage program. everything from ordering, inventory tracking, costing cocktails, you name it. You’re probably going to be using spreadsheets as much as you’re using your Boston Shaker now. Here is a training video on 10 things you should know about Excel.


These are just some general tips and will get you started with your first beverage program. At the end of the day, make sure you listen to your customers and build strong relationships with your vendors now, they are so important in this business.


Do you have any tips for new bar managers / lead bartenders. Leave them in the comments below