Home Bartending: Balance And Tricks


Bartending – even at home – is serious stuff.

Sure, the fun side is whipping up some tasty drinks for family and friends.

But you need to be aware of other things when you’re throwing a party.

  • Know what you’re serving.

  • Know who you’re serving.

Knowing what you serve means pay attention to what goes in the glasses you serve.

Main tip: serve yourself first.

No, don’t pour yourself a full drink each time and guzzle it down. You won’t be much fun or serving many more drinks.

Here’s a trick. Have straws available. Use a straw like a baster and extract a small sample of the wine or the cocktail. Taste it before you hand it to your guest. If you feel like you’re imbibing too much then spit it out; you’ll still get the taste left on your palate.

The best bartenders do it. Here is a shot of Stephen at the Front Porch Café in Miami doing just that.

(In an upcoming post we will highlight Stephen and some other great bartenders around the country.)

When you do it at home, it shows your guests you care. Plus, you will save them – and yourself -- from embarrassment.

I can attest to it. Recently, one of my biggest bartending faux pas happened at a holiday party with my friend Bill who drinks red wine.

“I have one of my favorite Pinot Noirs,” I told him. It was a recently bought Costco Pinot Noir from Carneros.

Bill said, “Perfect.”

I poured him a glass, but I noticed he didn’t have much more throughout the evening.

Later, after everyone left, I took a quick sip of the Pinot – and spit it out. It was musty and approaching vinegar. Clearly, the cork was compromised. (Costco took it back without question, as always.)

Here's another tip: Don’t be afraid to buy wine with screw top bottles, in boxes, or from in kegs. Many good wines are doing this because cork is becoming unreliable and scarce, as we found out here.

Needless to say, I was embarrassed about giving Bill bad wine. I spoke to Bill later who brushed it off as if nothing happened – which leads to the next point.

Know who you are serving.

Bill is a laid-back, nice fellow who never has an angry word or complaint. And he doesn’t consider himself a wine connoisseur.

Still, I should have picked up on his first, unexcited response to his first sip of the wine.

You also want to make sure the taste of your wine choices or your creations fit your guests’ palates. I always ask if a wine drinker if he or she prefers dry, sweet, oak, butter, herbs, or grassy. A cocktail drinker I ask: fruity, more citrus, or spicy.

Doing this gives your guests the OK to voice their opinion – to accept or reject -- the concoction you’ve mixed.

However, there are bigger reasons to be aware of who you are serving – even in your home.

If someone is drinking at your home and causes a drunk driving accident, you could be liable. The consequences are worse if the drunk driver is under age.

Another tip: make sure your home or renters insurance covers liability claims.

Another tip: take a bartending course. Yes, even if you don’t want to be a professional bartender.

If you love mixing drinks, these courses can be fun. But they’re also instructive.

I took the Harvard Bartending Course – even though I have done some professional bartending.

If you can't get to the Boston area, look for a course in your region. Make sure the course includes a TIPS course which means Training for Intervention Procedures by Servers of Alcohol.

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