The ‘perfect serve’ is the first part of a customer’s journey and the last part for a bartender. But what is a ‘perfect serve’ and how do bartenders achieve this? Learn about serving a cocktail perfectly and what it takes to master this skill…

What is the 'perfect serve'?

The overriding factor of the perfect serve is quality. Quality of choice, quality of product and, just as important as, but with nothing to do with, the drink, the quality of the service. Quality is implied with all the points below which make up the perfect serve.

Glassware - Using the right glassware for the right drink is paramount for the presentation of a beverage. Not only does the glassware affect the appearance, flavours and aromas of the drink, but it can also affect the guests perception of the drink; no more so than when the wrong glass is used for the wrong drink. Choose your glassware wisely. When moving your glassware your fingers shouldn’t touch the top third of the glass. Treat this as the guests domain and keep away from it.

Ice - Ice is the unsung hero - or villain - in your cocktails. Firstly, you want large solid cubes, preferably clear, produced with filtered water; although a bartender often doesn’t get much say in the ice used at their bar. Second point on the agenda about ice is how you use it. When shaking or stirring cocktails making sure you’re using enough ice and filling your shaking or stirring vessel 3/4 full of ice; using too little ice when you shake or stirring over dilutes the cocktail whilst insufficiently chilling it. When filling a glass to build a drink make sure that the ice reaches over the lip of the glass. Ice melts as you pour ingredients over it so filling a glass so will ensure that, once the cocktail is complete, the glass is still full of ice, not just floating shards; all ensuring a continuously cold drink with minimum dilution.

Ingredients - High quality ingredients are essential to producing a high quality drink. As a bartender you might not get much of a say as to what you’re pouring into a guest’s glass; what they want is what they want and it’s what you’re going to give them. Here the key is trying to upsell them onto a better product, but sometimes they just don’t want it; never be pushy when upselling.

bartender pouring cocktail

Pour - The perfect drink isn’t just about the quality of the ingredients in the glass but also about the quantity of those ingredients. This is also called balance, and a drinks flavours should be balanced to ensure the perfect serve. This doesn’t mean sweet always needs to be balanced by bitterness; some drinks are designed to be overly sweet or, vice-versa, overly bitter. Using jiggers to accurately measure your ingredients as well as following recipes properly are both essential factors to creating the perfect drink.

When poured into a glass most drinks should reach up to about a quarter of an inch below the rim. This allows the guest, and yourself, to move the drink without spilling it, as well as giving the guest some room to raise it their lip and sip.

Garnishes - Your garnishes are fresh produce and often the first component of the drink seen by your guest; therefore, these need to be of the highest quality in order to do your perfect serve justice. Check your garnishes at the beginning of every shift, and don’t just throw one onto your drink, give it a look over first, if it doesn’t fit your high standards then dispose of it and get another.

Garnishes are not just there for their appearance and should be placed next to the straw, if used, so that the guest can smell it as they sip their beverage.

All of these things you know, it’s executing them every single time you make a cocktail that will make you stand out by creating the perfect serve. Working methodically is the best way to produce the best drinks, and if you remember all of the above points as you select and pick up your glassware, fill your vessels with ice, pour your ingredients, select and place your garnishes, then you’ll be serving perfectly every time.

It’s Not Just the Drink

The perfect serve isn’t just about the drink in the glass, because bartending isn’t just about putting drinks into glasses. The perfect serve combines a high level drink with a high level of service. This includes being welcoming, friendly and forthcoming to your customers, attentive to their needs and understanding their wants. Going to the bar is about the whole experience of being in that location, and you, your appearance and your demeanour are as much a part of that as the perfect drinks you’re producing.

Are you interested in practicing your perfect serve? Have a look at the International Bartender Course we offer at European Bartender School.