Behind bars: Christmas

Dave Ali, Nonya, Glasgow

How do customer drinks orders change as the temperature dips?

Guests expect some kind of mulled wine/cider as a given. If the bar you’re in has room for an induction hob, it’s great to have a mulled drink on the go. It drapes your bar in wonderful alcoholic, festive spice smells. Furthermore, it’s terribly easy to serve; simply ladle the drink into a cup straight from the pot and spruce it up with a nifty garnish. Classic toddies, or gin/brandy toddies are great too, if the equipment for a mulled drink isn’t feasible.

Do you notice a move towards certain spirits in winter?

As bartenders we notice an increase in less complex or challenging spirits and cocktails in December particularly. So, vodka and vodka-based cocktails, along with a spike in orders of classic cocktails. This is due to the ‘daytrippers’ who surface at this time of year at family dos and work nights out, etc. Consequently, it’s vital for drinks menus to have at least a couple of accessible, fruit-heavy, sweet tipples around the festive period.

How can outlets make their cocktail list more festive?

A focus on the warmer spices is a good guide. The obvious ones: cinnamon, star anise, allspice, cloves, etc. will serve you well in your winter list. Less obvious though would be the warming, aromatic spices used in southeast Asian cuisine, cardamom, coriander seed, Szechuan pepper and cumin. They can really enhance warmed or mulled punches.

What hints and tips would you offer bartenders to make things easier when things start to get busier?

Batching cocktails is something I’ve come to realise saves so much time, increasing efficiency without decreasing the quality of your product. Shaving seconds off of the making of each drink over the space of a month will save many hours and the guest gets the same drink faster and more consistent each time.

How important is it that bar staff take care of themselves throughout the more challenging winter shifts?

Incredibly. Use energy drinks cleverly and sparingly. If you get a break, make the most of it. Eat yummy, hearty food. Don’t be tempted by the cheeky half pint and a shot in the pub next door. You may think it will help you get through, but in reality it will make you sluggish and lethargic for the rest of the shift. Hangovers are the enemy, so resist the temptation to get on it after all your busy shifts.