Bartending isn't an easy job. You need to know how to make popular cocktail recipes and the drinks every bartender should know, how to upsell, how to ensure customer satisfaction, identify people stealing alcohol, and more.
To make things easier, you should really have a cheat sheet that covers the most common issues that will arise. Common drinks, seasonal things like summer cocktails or winter cocktails, or even a cleaning checklist.
Read on to check out our free bartender cheat sheet, look at some easy drinks to master, and get some more tips on bartending.
Bartender Cheat Sheet
A bartender cheat sheet is a document that bartenders keep behind the bar covering some basic things that are likely to come up during their shift. Most importantly, it usually contains recipes for basic drinks, which we'll cover below. However, you can also include cleaning instructions, guidance on how to use the bar POS system, different beer keg sizing, and more. Essentially, it's a way to make day-to-day operations easier and help new hires.
Basic Bartending Drinks Cheat Sheet
There are hundreds of different drinks that people will ask a bartender to make. Keeping track can be difficult. Beyond all the things listed in a bartender job description, you'll also be expected to understand pouring beer, pouring wine, pouring alcohol, how to use bartender tools, and more.
To help, here are five drinks for your basic bartending drinks cheat sheet:
You'd be hard-pressed to find a cocktail bar that doesn't have some form of margarita on the menu. It's a sweet, delicious treat that is the single-most popular mixed drink in the U.S. If a bartender can't make one, they aren't going to be making that bartender salary for long.
- 2 oz. tequila
- 1 oz. Cointreau
- 1 oz. lime juice
- 1 lime slice
- 1 pinch salt (for rim)
How to Make a Margarita
- Coat rim of glass with salt and fill with ice
- Add tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and ice to a shaker
- Strain into glass
- Garnish with slice of lime
One of the most commonly ordered drinks in many bars is the martini. A classic James Bond staple, this drink is great for all seasons, so it can be slightly modified for your menus for spring cocktails and fall cocktails. It can also be made using either gin or vodka.
- 3 oz. gin
- 1.5 oz. dry vermouth
- 1 speared olive or lemon twist
How to Make a Martini
- Pour gin and vermouth into a mixer with ice cubes, stir
- Strain into a chilled martini glass
- Garnish with an olive or lemon twist
Bloody Mary Recipe
The Bloody Mary is a classic fall cocktail that is a staple of many a brunch or lunchtime meal. It takes a few more ingredients than other basic cocktails, so it's a great choice for a bartending cheat sheet, so you can avoid making any mistakes when crafting.
Bloody Mary Ingredients
- 2 oz. vodka
- 6 oz. tomato juice
- 1 tablespoon ground horseradish
- 2 dashes hot sauce
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1 pinch celery salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- 1 lemon slice
- 1 celery stalk
- 2 speared green olives
How to Make a Bloody Mary
- Coat the rim of a highball glass with celery salt and fill with ice
- Squeeze lemon juice into shaker, add vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper and shake with ice
- Strain shaker into highball glass
- Garnish with a celery stalk and green olive spear
Old Fashioned Recipe
Unsurprisingly, the drink called the Old-Fashioned has been a staple of American bars for more than two centuries. It's also a staple of many upscale bars and restaurants, so it's a great drink to have on the menu for maximizing your bar profit margin.
Old Fashioned Ingredients
- 1.5 oz. bourbon whiskey
- 1 sugar cube
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 orange slice or cherry
How to Make an Old Fashioned
- Place sugar cube in an old-fashioned glass and cover in bitters
- Add a teaspoon of water, muddle until sugar cube dissolved
- Fill glass with ice, add whiskey
- Garnish with orange slice or cherry
Gin and Tonic Recipe
Surely a drink with the ingredients in the name doesn't need to be included, right? Well, you'd be surprised how often people overmix or improperly measure the ingredients for a gin and tonic. This classic summer cocktail deserves better, so make sure you've got this one down.
Gin and Tonic Ingredients
- 2 oz. gin
- 4-6 oz. tonic water
- Lime wedge
How to Make a Gin and Tonic
- Fill highball glass with ice
- Pour gin, then top with tonic to taste
- Gently stir, then garnish with lime wedge
How To Create a Bartender Cheat Sheet
While the list of drinks above can be used for a majority of bars, you may need something a bit more specific for your own operation. You can download our free bartender cheat sheet and add your own drinks, or start from scratch.
Just follow these steps to create a bartender cheat sheet:
First, add the drinks you sell the most of. If your bar is in a tropical location, you'll have different popular drinks than if you had a bar in the Midwest. Take a look at your inventory levels and the data from your bar POS system to determine these drinks. Stick to 5-10 drinks and adjust as necessary over time. You can even get new ideas for this sheet from applicants during a bartender interview.
Second, add in other important info. Things like the bar layout, location of restaurant cleaning supplies, and even important phone numbers are great choices. Think of your bartender cheat sheet as a much smaller restaurant training manual that only touches on the surface of the most common tasks. It provides additional value as your team can quickly find the info they need without having to sort through pages of operational and restaurant tech guidance.
Third, laminate the cheat sheet. This may sound like an odd step, but anyone who's worked behind a bar can attest to the fact that it gets messy. A cheat sheet is only useful when it's not damaged, so take the time to make yours waterproof and hang it or place it at the bar. You can always make a new one and laminate that when changes are made due to menu engineering.
Cheat Code Successful
Bartending can be a lot of work, so using a cheat sheet is a good way to avoid making mistakes and train new employees. Take the time to create one and share it with the team to streamline operations and get to increasing sales. You should also look into using a wine cellar app or inventory scanning app like BinScan to save the bar money and make you look good.
Our bartender cheat sheet is also a great way to learn how to make basic drinks if you're looking to add skills to your bartender cover letter or bartender resume. Just make sure you know the bartender age requirements in your area, so you don't apply for a job you can't legally get.