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Whiskey Sour

Whiskey Sour

The sour is one of the fundamental cocktail families every bartender should master. In this article, we will review the history of the sour, variations on the sour, and how to make the best. We will also touch upon how to take this classic formulation and make it your own with flavor and spirits twists.

For much of human history, water was hazardous to drink. Since the dawn of the Neolithic age, when humans began to sow their own crops and domesticate animals, they began to notice that when an abundance of fruit or grain were left to the elements, they would begin to transform. This transformation was due to exposure to wild yeast strains – which eat the sugar of fruit and grains, turning it into alcohol. This happy accident was humanity’s introduction to the science of fermentation. Wine and beer became a staple of every subsequent civilization, and until the advent of distillation a few centuries into the first millennium, they reigned supreme. With distillation, humans could now create alcoholic beverages that lasted more than a few days (remember, this was the era pre-preservatives) and was safe from contamination from the bacteria that caused common ailments such as dysentery or typhoid. Adding distilled spirit to water was the first form of water purification. More than this, alcohol was just popular – every civilization imbibed some form of either fermented or distilled grain and fruit, and it became even more popular with increasing urbanization.

So what does all of this have to do with the Whiskey Sour? Cocktails that follow the formula of spirit + citrus + sugar all have one thing in common: they started as a curative concoction. Most commonly, whiskey (or gin or rum) were carried in large barrels on ships traversing large swaths of ocean. Every sailor was allotted a daily ration of beer or spirit, along with their rations of water and food. The British Navy, in particular, is credited with having a fondness for beer that turned to a fondness for rum in the mid 17th century. The advent of “grog” – watered down rum – is attributed to Admiral Edwarn Vernon of the British Navy (nicknamed “Old Grogram”), as a way to make water that had gone off in flavor during long voyages at sea taste more palatable and to reduce the levels of crew intoxication. But beyond these daily applications of distilled spirit, it was common to add a half squeeze of lemon or lime into a tot of spirit to stave off scurvy (a deficiency of Vitamin C) and avoid the unpleasant flavor of water sitting in a barrel for up to two months.

The sour cocktail grew in popularity throughout the mid- to late-19th century, appearing in the seminal bartending guide of it’s era – Jerry Thomas’s The Bar-Tender’s Guide – and the whiskey varietal is mentioned as an established cocktail choice in an 1870 Wisconsin newspaper. From there, it grew like wildfire to become one of the most common cocktail types on any menu, serving as the basis for perennial favorites such as the Daiquiri and the Margarita.

So how do you even make a sour? You must start with the basic foundation of spirit + sugar + citrus; from there, the varieties and options are vast. Let’s start with the most common version, which is the classic Whiskey Sour. Let’s start with your whiskey: you should choose a whiskey (usually bourbon or rye) with a proof of 90-100 (45-50% alcohol by volume) to ensure it still retains a good amount of that quintessential whiskey “burn.” The Whiskey Sour should be shaken, since it contains citrus, and you want to achieve a good dose of dilution from more vigorous interaction with ice. Next, let’s choose our citrus. Lemon is the classic but you can achieve new flavor combinations with other citrus, whether more common like grapefruit or more exotic, like yuzu. Then you will want to choose your sweetening agent; I prefer rich simple syrup (2:1 sugar to water ratio) to provide a nice texture and viscosity. The final step is to ensure you have balance amongst the elements.

Here is my go to recipe:

Classic Whiskey Sour

Ingredients:

2 oz whiskey

1 oz lemon juice

¾ oz rich simple syrup

Instructions: combine ingredients in shaker. Add ice, shake vigorously. Strain into coupe or stemmed glass. Garnish with lemon wedge.

Now that you have mastered the basic version, let’s examine two of the most popular variations: the Boston Sour and the New York Sour.

The Boston Sour

The Boston Sour is marked by the addition of egg white to the Classic formula to add body, texture, and a more delicate flavor. You can substitute egg white for aquafaba (water from a chickpea can), which can provide options for vegans or just those who are squeamish about the potential of imbibing a raw egg. Achieving a fluffy foam on the drink is essential to master. I prefer to deploy a reverse dry shake (shaking with ice, straining the ice, then shaking again with no ice) but a traditional dry shake can also work (shake with no ice, then shake with ice). Whichever method you prefer, I always suggest giving the last bit of foam left in the shaker a back and forth shake before topping the drink to ensure the fluffiest part of the eggwhite is reserved for the top. To achieve a smoother foam, double strain the cocktail through a fine mesh strainer.

The traditional garnish for a Boston Sour is Angostura bitters, dotted onto the eggwhite foam. Decant your Angostura into a bitters bottle with dasher top or into a eyedropper for greater precision. Dot the eggwhite (or aquafaba) foam with two parallel lines of three dots, then, using the dropper or a cocktail pick, draw a line down the center of the dots to achieve tiny hearts. This adds an extra bit of artistry, whimsy, and flavor to the cocktail. Once you have mastered the basic garnish, you can experiment with other shapes and figures, or even cut out your own logo or design from a plastic deli lid and use an atomizer filled with Angostura to spray the stencil.

Boston Whiskey Sour

Ingredients:

2 oz whiskey

1 oz lemon juice

¾ oz rich simple syrup

1 egg white (or 1 oz egg whites or aquafaba)

Instructions: combine ingredients in shaker. Add ice, shake vigorously. Strain out ice, shake vigorously again. Double strain into coupe or stemmed glass. Garnish with Angostura dotted on top of foam.

The New York Sour

The New York Sour is a bit of an oddball, but a cocktail that has been popping up on cocktail menus more frequently. This breed of sour is widely accepted to date back to the late 19th century with a birthplace that does not logically follow the name: Chicago. This drink also goes under the name of the “Continental Sour” and it may be that the name was given due to New York having a reputation for high society, luxury hotels, and bustling commerce (though it also played host to the other end of that spectrum with slums, tenements, and poor working conditions). Regardless of the origin, the New York Sour is considered one of the main types of whiskey-based sour cocktails every bartender should know how to craft.

New York Whiskey Sour

Ingredients:

2 oz whiskey

1 oz lemon juice

¾ oz rich simple syrup

½ oz red wine (suggest a more fruit-forward varietal such as Malbec or Zinfandel)

Instructions: combine ingredients except wine in shaker. Add ice, shake vigorously. Strain over ice in a short glass. Float wine across the top by pouring gently on top of the drink.

Making Your Own Signature Sour

Nothing elevates a bartender’s acumen like crafting your own cocktails. Experimenting with flavors, proportions, and presentation encourages flexing the basics and pushing creativity to craft new, delightful quaffs. Once you master the three basic types of sours, begin to add in different spirits, sweeteners, citrus varieties, and flavors. My personal favorite creation is the Ginger Sour, which I craft with whiskey or gin, deploying either a ginger-infused syrup or muddling fresh ginger. The addition of the piquant ginger adds an edge to the otherwise soft-palated drink, while also enhancing its refreshing nature. Ginger is also a common ingredient that is easy to find, and has wide appeal. So, what will your signature sour be?

Erin’s Ginger Whiskey Sour

Ingredients:

2 oz whiskey

1 oz lemon juice

¾ oz rich simple syrup

1 inch fresh ginger

1 egg white (or 1 oz egg whites or aquafaba)

Instructions: combine ingredients except egg white in shaker. Peel and dice one inch of fresh ginger, muddle. Add egg or aquafaba. Add ice, shake vigorously. Strain out ice, shake vigorously again. Double strain into coupe or stemmed glass. Garnish with a slice of candied ginger.

How to Become a Bartender with No Experience

How to Become a Bartender with No Experience

How to Become a Bartender with No Experience

Written by Carrie Jean Lipe

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Thinking about being behind the bar for the first time is equally exciting as it is terrifying. I remember being a host, staring at the bartenders.

They were laughing, pouring beautiful drinks, and cracking jokes to the busy bar top. I knew I’d be there one day. But first, and as it goes, I had to walk before I could run.

But what I really had to do was learn how to become a bartender with no experience.

My goal for you today is to take the terrifying part out of becoming a bartender. I believe with a little education and a lot of practice, by the end this you’ll understand how to become a bartender–all with no experience.

We’ll cover the hiring process, learn easy steps to becoming a bartender, and hear from a bar manager on what they look for when applicants don’t have the skills… yet.

Let’s get you ready for life behind the bar, shall we?

Understanding How to Become a Bartender: The Hiring Process

Before we venture off into uncharted territory, let’s make sure we understand what’s expected of us as baby bartenders. First, we’ll start with the hiring process. Without the ability to get hired, we lose all chances at achieving the ultimate goal of becoming a bartender.

Here’s what we’ll cover.

  • Legal Requirements
  • Writing a Resume
  • Looking for a Job
  • Interviewing
  • Proving Your Skills
  • Landing the Job

Legal Requirements–Age and Safe Service Certifications

Make sure you are old enough to be a bartender before heading off to apply for jobs. Each state and country varies, so do some research.

Once you know you’re of age, look into getting certified in how to serve alcohol safely and legally. Every bartender has to go through this responsibility training (again this varies by where you live!), so it’s good practice to have this done already.

You’ll hear this safety license referred to as: responsible service of alcohol, alcohol awareness serving certification, or liquor serving license.

Pro Tip: Some establishments will reimburse you for this training. But if you want to set yourself apart from other applicants, this is a fine way to do it. Managers will have one less thing to worry about when hiring you, making their job easy.

Writing a Resume

If you think you don’t need a resume to become a bartender—think again. I understand it may be hard to put your skills into words, but having a strong resume will help you stand out amongst a crowd of fish.

You have three options for creating a powerful resume.

  1. Hire an expert off Upwork, or a similar platform.
  2. Use a free template.
  3. Write it yourself.

If you choose to write it yourself or even use a free template, we’d recommend getting feedback from at least three people. Especially those with plenty of experience in the service industry.

Looking for a Job

Once you have a resume that will smash your competition, are of a legal age, and can serve alcohol safely, you are ready for the big leagues.

Well, tryouts at least.

It’s time to look for a job!

Start online through posted ads or head out on foot with a folder of your resumes printed out. I even like to get the fancy, thick paper so the hiring managers know I take this job very seriously.

More tips on how to impress the bar manager are coming up soon!

Interviewing

Since you have the bases covered, your shots at landing an interview are high! Kind of like mimosas at brunch—they’re bound to happen.

And don’t be surprised if you get asked to interview on the spot. The F&B (food and beverage) industry is known for its high turnover, especially post-pandemic. Some restaurants really need help, and quickly!

Prepare beforehand by looking over the drink menu (food menu too, if there is one!). Be ready to answer a common question like, “why did you choose to apply here over other places?”.

For scheduled interviews, show them you have your stuff together by arriving early, dressed nicely (appropriate to the dress wear required), smile, and write questions ahead of time.

As a previous bar manager, I can tell you firsthand to not worry about being nervous. We are all human, and we all experience emotions. Just breathe slowly and try to stay focused on presenting your skills as calmly as possible.

Proving Your Skills

The practice shift.

It’s a daunting thing.It happens. But not always!  

In fine dining or well-known bars and restaurants, it’s common practice for hiring managers to ask an individual to come in for a sneak peek at their skills.

You’re going to be nervous and probably unpaid.

They’ll ask you to make drinks on the rocks versus neat. They’ll have you pour draught beers and take payments. Some of this you can practice at home. Some you can learn through being a server, host, or bar back first.

Remain confident. Be honest. Stay open. And if you don’t know what to wear, just ask the person you’ve been in contact with.

If you can remember one thing during your practice shift (aka stage), I’d tell you this. Remember to smile, stay busy, and at the very least engage with customers confidently but briefly. I’ll tell you why this is so important later.

Landing the Job

All the hurdles have been cleared. All that’s next is to stick the landing and wait for the job offer.

Don’t be caught off guard if you’re asked to come in for another practice shift or if you’re offered a bar back position instead of becoming a bartender straight away.

With no experience, being a bar back is an amazing way to learn the swing of things and make decent money while you’re at it. Think of it as a paid apprenticeship.

And if you work extra hard for the veteran bartenders, they’ll tip you better and give you more responsibilities. Do I smell a mentor?

9 Simple Steps on How to Become a Bartender (Yep, Even with No Experience)

  1. Know the Job
  2. Play Your Bartending Life
  3. Have Bartender Dreams and Aspirations
  4. Solidify Your Resume
  5. Build Relationships and Rapport
  6. Seek Out a Mentor
  7. Network and Job Research
  8. Stay Open Minded to Working Your Way Up
  9. Master Some Skills

1. Know the Job

Know what you’ll be expected to do when you step foot behind the bar.

Watch videos and read about a typical bartending shift. You’ll want to research a few things like  setting up the bar, getting ready for service (pre-service), what to do during service, and breaking down/closing the bar.

2. Plan Your Bartending Life

Ask yourself what type of establishment you’d really just freakin’ love to work in. Is it Chili’s or a club setting? I love hotel bars or food-heavy bars like gastropubs. You can even niche-down to wine, breweries, or craft cocktails bars.

Have a goal for how much you’d like to make. What time of day do you want to work? Where do you want to work?

With bartending, the floor is open.

3. Have Bartender Dreams and Aspirations

Some bartenders are fine working at their local watering hole. We love that. Some of you want to become a professional mixologist and win competitions. We love that, too.

Have dreams and aspirations to work towards so you know exactly where you want to be.

4. Solidify Your Resume

Once you gain more and more experience in the service industry, be sure to update your resume regularly so you’re ready to transition to bigger and better things when it happens for you.

5. Build Relationships and Rapport

In the lay of bartending land, relationships and rapport is key. Not only with your clientele, but with other bartenders.

If you have no experience, having the right relationship can really help you get your foot in the door.

6. Seek Out a Mentor

If you’re set on becoming a bartender fast, having a mentor can be a sure-fire way to do it. A mentor can guide you, 1-on-1, on making basic drinks, pouring techniques, and much more.

Plus, they probably already have tools to learn on and a network of people to lean on. They also have more than likely heard of who needs help in local bars.

7. Network and Job Research

Did someone say networking? Oh, right. That was me.

Networking is fun when you’re learning to become a bartender because it often includes, well, going to a bar! When you’re there, take a look at how they’re holding their bar tools. What bar tools are they using?

Tell them you’re learning to be a bartender. If they’re not busy, they might even show you a drink or their go-to technique!

You can also do some networking online via LinkedIn and/or Facebook groups.

8. Stay Open Minded: Working Your Way Up

Bartenders have been doing their craft for a while. It can be hard for those with no experience to walk on to a bartending team.

That being said, stay open minded to working your way up.

You might start off as a server, cocktail person, or bar back. It’s honestly a great way to learn (that’s how I started!) and a fantastic opportunity to show your new team exactly what you’re capable of.

9. Master 3 Soft and 3 Hard Skills

Have you heard of soft and hard skills? Soft skills are difficult to measure because they’re not very tangible. But hard skills are easy to measure and prove. Here are a few of both, so you can practice mastering both soft and hard skills before you set out on your journey of becoming a bartender.

Soft Skills

Hard Skills

Flexibility

Food Knowledge

Self-motivation

Knowledge of Basic Math

Work Ethic

Degree, Awards, or Certifications

Advice from a Bar and Hiring Manager: What Skills Matter When You Have No Experience

I’ve worked in restaurants and bars since 2008. After getting my degree in hospitality and food management, I managed bars throughout the country at a large hotel chain and even at a few standalone bars/restaurants.

After some research, on my own accord and on behalf of all of you lovely humans, we’ve narrowed down the skills that actually matter when you’re learning how to become a bartender with no experience.

Drumroll, please!

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The top skills that bar managers look for are work ethic, attitude, and a willingness to learn or adapt. Some have adopted the hiring practice to look for people with the right attitude, instead of skill. We can teach skills. The right attitude can’t be taught!

But if you do need help with the hard skills, check out our online course.

Now you know how to become a bartender, even with no experience!

You’ve gotten to know the hiring process, learned easy steps on how to become an actual bartender, and heard from bar managers with years of experience in the industry. You’re closer to being behind the bar than you think.

If you want to become a bartender but are still stuck at home, you might like this 1-on-1 in-home bartending course from us here at Local Bartending School.

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