Pouring 101: The Best Way to Decrease Alcohol Loss

pourFlair bartending isn’t just about impressing customers with fancy tricks, it’s also about refining the skills needed to make, or in this post, save money for a bar owner.

If bartenders can’t pour accurately, a bar will lose money. You may think – “ehhh, a long pour here and a small spill there isn’t that big of a deal.” But, what if your bar employs six or seven bartenders and they all do this? What if none of them are accurate at pouring alcohol? What is this costing the bar owner?

To give you an idea of the true expense, let’s break down an example using real numbers. An inexpensive, or “house” bottle of vodka runs around $6 in cost to a bar. There are approximately 30 shots in a bottle. Depending on the location, most bars use an ounce & a quarter of alcohol per mixed drink. Therefore, if we take the bar’s price per shot and multiply this by 30, the result is the revenue (or sales) generated for that bottle. If we subtract the $6 cost from that revenue, we obviously get the profit a bar makes from that one bottle.

Let’s also assume that the bartenders, on average, are over-pouring by a quarter of an ounce per shot of liquor. In total, this then equals a shocking statistic: approximately 1/5 of that bottle’s revenue is never collected. 1/5 of the inventory is gone without ever receiving any money for it. This is just on one bottle with one bartender! Now we’re getting somewhere. Can you start to see how this quickly adds up? Furthermore, Vodka is the most popular alcohol for mixed drinks, and bartenders can easily pour two to three bottles a night. One bartender could easily lose $200 a night by over-pouring (or spilling) a measly 1/4 of an ounce of alcohol per drink. Take $200 and multiply that by seven bartenders, and a bar can be short a whopping $1,400 in sales on a few cheap bottles of vodka!

The most important thing a manager or owner needs to know when monitoring alcohol loss is how to pour. If a bar owner knows the skill of pouring accurately, they may then watch bartenders and monitor loss from across a room. They will also be able to continuously train their staff. This is tremendously helpful if a bar doesn’t employ a flair bartender who can teach the rest of the staff this required element to keeping alcohol loss in check.

Pouring Basics

  1. Don’t pour from anywhere except the neck of a bottle. This is where all the money is coming from! This is how a bartender controls the pouring with the most accurate grip.
  2. The key to pouring accurately is the count. We estimate that every one count is a quarter of an ounce…so if a bartender can count to 5, that’s 1.25 ounces….the ideal amount. In addition, the pace at which a bartender counts is really the heart of pouring accuracy.
  3. Know the drink you’re pouring, and adjust your counts accordingly. For example, when pouring a Long Island (a drink that requires two ounces of alcohol), a bartender will pour four liquor bottles at once, thus they should only be counting to two. A two-count is necessary in this case because if one count is equal to 0.25 oz, then 2 oz = 0.25 oz x 4 bottles. Each drink can be different, depending on the recipe and amounts required.
  4. Use the skill of “cutting” to cleanly shut off the flow of alcohol with each pour. Cuts allow a flair bartender to not only shut off the flow of alcohol, but add a bit of showmanship at the same time. There are about 11 different ways to cut alcohol. We won’t got into a lot of the details in this post, but a few of the most popular cuts are the bounce, standard twist, forward twist, wrist snap, backward draw and the forward draw.
  5. When watching a bartender pour, the important thing is to watch their alcohol stream, not their hand. A bar owner can then monitor when the alcohol stops.
  6. We recommend using Spill Stop’s 285-50 metal pour spout. We don’t endorse Spill Stop because we’re getting any advertising money from them. We recommend this brand because it really is the best. The plastic pour spouts are cheaper, but are not as accurate. Metal is the way to go! Don’t believe us? Take two equal bottles of water, attach the Spill Stop brand to one, and attach a generic metal pour spout to the other. The competing brand will almost always pour faster and remain inconsistent with each pour…therefore, bartenders will be less accurate.
  7. Test bartenders regularly. Testing is mandatory to keep bartenders at their best. A bar manager or owner can use tools like a Pour Check, an Exacto Pour or the Fast Tender (from Flairco) to measure pours and accuracy consistently among bartending staff. Most competitive flair bartenders are judged on pouring. In addition, many professional flair bartenders perform level-testing to determine rates of pay based on accuracy and knowledge in this area. This is most common in casinos, especially in Las Vegas.
  8. Don’t just practice pouring – use it regularly. It’s important bartenders not only learn how to pour, but continue to use it on a daily basis while serving customers. After all, just because a bartender can pass a pour test, doesn’t always mean he/she is accurate on the job. Monitoring bartenders during their shift will ensure bad habits don’t resurface.

Need Help or Own a Bar?
Contact us – we’ll be happy to recommend a professional flair bartender in your area to test your entire staff in one day and provide detailed coaching and training. Most likely the money a bar owner invests in this training comes back to them in cost savings within one-two weeks due to improved pouring accuracy.


2 Responses

  1. […] make sure that what is being served is what’s actually being collected in sales. Our post on pouring goes into great detail of how much money is at stake if your bartenders aren’t […]

  2. […] Pouring 101: The Best Way to Decrease Alcohol Loss – Our most popular post to date, this article goes into detail about minimizing alcohol loss and saving money for a bar owner or manager. We all know that because flair bartenders practice and are regularly tested on their pouring skills at competitions, they are a step above non-flair bartenders in their ability to be a more valuable employee. […]

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