There are two kinds of bar managers in this world: those who encourage the free pour and those who are wholeheartedly against it. While each side of the argument certainly has some valid points, a lot of it might just come down to proper training. The free pour is a skill that needs to be practiced and perfected so that the drinks still taste great, customers are happy, and the bar is still turning a healthy profit.
Free Pouring Basics:
1. If you can count, you can be taught to free pour with great accuracy. The general rule of thumb is that every one count is equivalent to one-quarter of an ounce. Most drinks take 1.25 to 2 ounces. That means that to make a vodka soda with 1.25 ounces of liquor, the bartender should count to 5 before cutting off the alcohol.
2. Always pour from the neck of the bottle. Gripping the bottle from the base does not allow for the same level of accuracy. You need to make sure that all of your staff get into the habit of grabbing and holding the bottle from the neck so that they can easily flip it back and forth for accurate pours.
3. Test bartenders regularly. This doesn't have to be anything too formal or intimidating. Just think of it as a chance to calibrate everyone's skills. You can even add a little competitive spirit and see who can pour with the most accuracy.
- The quickest and cheapest way to test skills is to simply ask for a 1.25 ounce pour into a glass. You can then pour the liquid into a jigger to see just how accurate the bartender can be. This method does give them the benefit of being able to eye their work, which seems fair considering it mimics real world bartending.
- Another great way to train and test is to set up a row of shot glasses and simply have the bartender go down the line and try to get the same pour each time. This method allows them to develop a bit of a rhythm as they go so that they aren't stopping for a few minutes each time they stop to measure their results.
- You can also invest in a variety of pour testing products that require the bartender to blindly pour into a glass tube. This method also provides an excellent way to train so that the bartender if forced to go by feel. The tubes are marked with a variety of different measurements so that you test different pour amounts.
- These kits tend to run about $100. If you are interested in truly training your staff and helping them to learn a new skill, then the kits can be well-worth the money.
The more your bartenders are able to practice and test their proficiency, the faster they will go from counting in their head to developing a pouring muscle memory that will allow them to serve up drinks all night long with incredible accuracy. Ultimately, this provides the bar with a variety of benefits, including:
1. Faster service. Free pouring can speed up the process during busy hours because bartenders don't have to deal with a jigger.
2. More profits. Well-trained bartenders mean fewer over-pours.
3. Great flair. A talented bartender also serves as a source of entertainment. They can provide the customer with great visuals and a delicious drink.
The truth is that with the right training, your bartenders can pour just as accurately without a jigger and you can enjoy all the benefits of free pouring.