Finding a bartender might not be hard, but nabbing a quality one might. A good bartender is more than just someone mixing up pretty drinks behind the bar. He needs a personality, work ethic, and a way with his guests.
We chatted with Hector Antunez, owner of Baru Latin Bar in Miami to learn about finding the best bartender. Antunez says with bartenders being a "dime a dozen" finding someone with substance "is a rare gem" that might take some digging. But fear not, it's possible. Here are four tips to follow.
Solid work ethic is a must. "The most basic attribute that I seek in an employee is whether the person is going to show up on time and execute their tasks in an efficient manner with a cheerful attitude," says Antunez. These traditional service attributes are key to finding a good employee but can be neglected at times due to simply looking at a bartender for only his impressive cocktail-making skills. "Every industry has its struggles, and interestingly the food and beverage industry is specifically susceptible to forgetting these basic tenants."
Genuinely outgoing and hospitable. It's important for a bartender to understand his guests and is engaging to their needs. "I never want my staff to forget that our guests visit us to socialize and make connections," says Antunez. "The bartender is a key component in making our guests feel that they gained something of value when they come into our establishment." While guests are at the bar for the scene and the cocktails, Antunez explains they are also there to mingle and can be adventurous. "Bartenders are hosts as much as they are chemists, and they must anticipate guests desires both on and off the menu. Our guests love to try new things and be surprised."
Work with a sense of urgency, while never appearing stressed or unhappy. Antunez describes those in the service industry as "servants" to the guests. A bartender's job is to provide an enjoyable experience to the guest, waiting on them quickly and efficiently, while always having a smile on his face. "A great bartender will always have a menu, a cocktail napkin, and a glass of water ready for their guest to assure them they are important."
Knows the meaning behind the best drink. Besides knowing the hottest new cocktails out there to make his guests, it's important for a bartender to understand why a particular drink is perfect for an individual. Antunez says he always asks his "potential hires" two things to help him decide who to bring onto the team: 'What is your favorite drink to make for your guests?' and 'What is your favorite drink to drink?' "What I am looking for is more than impressive knowledge and creativity. I'm looking for the bartender who knows the best drink is a drink that makes the guest smile and leaves them wanting more."