Award winning bartender and Bar Manager, Boris Ivan, discusses the basics of bartending and how you can improve your hospitality skills…

London, Slovakia, Czech Republic and China are, to name but a few, some of the world’s top cities where I’ve had the pleasure of building my repertoire of knowledge about all things bartending.

In last 12 years of my career, I’ve always tried to memorise which approaches or bar tricks have had the most positive feedback from my guests and here I’ve pulled out some of the key learnings from my journey.

All the great moments and all the memorable nights have added to my skills base and I want to share these skills with you…


Whether you’re recommending cocktails or simply serving the classics, it’s important that you have an insight into each and every drink your bar serves.

I’ve learnt along the way that educated bartenders who are up to speed on spirits, serves and general bartending knowledge are those individuals who have helped build the great reputation that some of the leading cocktail bars have around the world.

If you know your serves then your guests have confidence in you. Perceptions are a wonderful thing and we have the power to control these. Don’t worry if you’re starting out and trying to get your head around the recipes; it’s important that you make the client feel like you’re in control and you’ll soon become a master of your trade.


Over the past few years, trends in bartending and mixology are rapidly changing, adapting and evolving and although, on the whole, this is fantastic it can also be confusing for both bartenders and guests.

Bottled cocktails, molecular gastronomy, Japanese tea ceremonies and many other influential trends are becoming part of modern mixology around the globe. These trends do help create better guest experiences but they are putting pressure on the busy bartender to produce show stopping cocktails for each and every customer.

A lot of young bartender get caught up in the techniques and forget about the balance of their drinks and it’s important that you listen to and understand your guest’s tastes so that you get their serve right each and every time.

Although it’s important that you understand what’s happening and how the industry is evolving, it’s also equally important that you get the basic skills mastered and once these are second nature then worry about the wizardry.


It’s also all about helping your guests identify the drinks that are right for them and improving their experience in your bar.

Here are my tips on how to nail it each and every time…

  • No.1: As soon as a guest pulls up in your bar make sure to acknowledge they are there and give them a bar menu. Little do you realise this gesture makes them feel important, noticed and helps buy you a little more time if you’re working behind a busy bar. Always try to see your guests before they see you, and remember a smile goes a long way.
  • No.2: It’s important you identify exactly what the guest is looking for as quickly as you can – have they just come from dinner or are they heading for a romantic meal? Are they looking for sweet, sour or savoury? Understanding this will quickly help you identify what they are looking for from their cocktail experience. This way you can educate and advise them, all the while improving their relationship with you.
  • No.3: Don’t just take orders from your guests – why not inform them about particular serves before they even ask for a drink. As you know, we all have a tendency to stick with what we know and sometimes we need a little encouragement to be a little more adventurous. It’s best to ask your guest what tastes they are in to and what spirits they enjoy – that way you’ll be able to offer them a cocktail which marries these together perfectly and sell them an ‘experience’.
  • No.4: Once the order’s placed and the guest sits patiently waiting for the taste sensation you’ve promised, it’s important that you perfect the serve, that you add your own flair and, in my opinion, that you give it the secret ingredient – ‘passion’. Adding all you’ve got to making the cocktail and ensuring your full attention is on it will help create a unique taste each and every time.


Now that you’re up to speed on the A-Z of the ‘perfect’ bartending skills, here are just a couple of new recipes to add to your repertoire:


30ml TANQUERAY® No. Ten

30ml Herbal liqueur

30ml Red vermouth

2 x Dashes of orange bitters

Method: Stir all ingredients into a mixing glass with a mix of ice cubes and a small block of ice and strain into an old fashioned glass over a fresh block of ice. Garnish with grapefruit zest.

(2.8 standard drinks*- 2.6 units per serve)



20ml Red vermouth

2 x Dashes of orange and mandarin bitters

Method: Stir all ingredients into a mixing glass with a mix of ice cubes and a small block of ice and strain into a pre-chilled single martini glass. Garnish with both orange zest and a cherry.

(2.2 standard drinks*- 2.5 units per serve)

Boris started his career in the bartending industry while still at University in Slovakia. Since then he has gone on to study the art of Japanese mixology and has worked in many award winning bars around the world.

(*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol)

The TANQUERAY, JOHNNIE WALKER BLUEL LABEL words and associated logos are trade marks (C) Diageo 2015.

Original Article: Diageo Bar Academy