There's something magical about what a bartender does. A bartender's skill goes beyond their obvious talents for getting patrons blitzed. There is both a science and an art to creating drinks, and the world of professional mixology is filled with its own behind-the-bar slang, industry-specific jargon, and secret codewords. Bartenders perform alchemy behind their shiny countertops, amid the twinkling glasses and amber bottles, and they've been brewing up their magic for millennia. Throughout history, they've maintained a more or less consistent presence in societies.
As far back as Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, bartenders have played an important role in bringing people together, keeping thirsts quenched, and ensuring the troubles of the day are forgotten. Over the centuries, they've had plenty of time to develop their own substantial, unique lingo.
Behind The Stick
Meaning: Serving drinks from behind the bar. The term refers to what used to be the wooden stick of the tap lever that is pulled to dispense beer from a keg. Those pouring drinks were, technically, working behind the stick.
Use It In A Sentence: "John and Maureen are behind the stick tonight, and Nancy and Beth are cocktailing."
Meaning: A menu item or ingredient that is currently out of stock or otherwise unavailable. The term is used in both bars and restaurant kitchens. There are multiple origin stories for the term, several of which center around bartending. According to one version, bartenders in the Old West often served powerful, 100-proof liquor. When a patron became too rowdy, the barkeep would serve them less potent, 86-proof liquor, thus 86'ing the drunken customer.
Use It In A Sentence: "We ran out of tomato juice, so we've 86'd Bloody Marys for the rest of the night."
Meaning: A complimentary shot given to a friend or colleague of the bartender. It can be served either upon the guest's arrival or with the check at the end of the meal or round. Traditionally, it's a shot of Fernet-Branca, but sometimes it's a regional favorite or house specialty.
Use It In A Sentence: "Here's your check and a bartender's handshake to end the evening."
Building A Drink
Meaning: The process of making a drink that doesn't require mixing, blending, or shaking, save for the stirring that is done by a straw or swizzle stick. The phrase is used to describe the creation of any cocktail that involves ingredients added one on top of the other. Basic mixed drinks like a gin and tonic or rum and Coke are "built," as are layered drinks like a B-52 or Slippery Nipple.
Use It In A Sentence: "I'm building a drink for everyone at Table 12. Would you mind grabbing two Bud Lights for Table 14?"