Bartending Essentials: Speed Rack, Speed Gun, Ice Bin

Let’s dive right into what you need to know about these three crucial items every bartender will use. First and foremost, you can’t make a great drink without ice. Which means you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the..

The Ice Bin

As a bartender you’ll be chilling drinks in your cocktail mixer, blending ice to make daiquiris, and filling glasses with ice to serve cocktails on the rocks. The ice bin is almost always located immediately on the other side of the counter from where you’re customers are going to be. Although the location of the ice bin is not particularly important, having plenty of ice on hand is. Your ice bin should be stocked at all times and it is primarily your responsibility as the bartender to keep it full. If you notice that it’s running low and you happen to have a helper or barback on hand, ask for their assistance in refilling it. Otherwise, you will need to take any down time or break you have to refill the ice bin using your establishments ice machine. The ice machine can usually be found in the kitchen or back area completely out of sight from your customers.

In addition to serving ice in drinks, commonly used juices and mixers will be available in your ice bins. They are stored in containers similar to the image on the right with each color representing a different mixer. For example, red will usually represent cranberry juice, orange for orange juice and yellow for sweet and sour mix. These will vary between establishments but below are many of the mixers you can find in either the refrigerator or the in the ice bin.

  • Grapefruit Juice
  • Orange Juice
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Grenadine
  • Sweet & Sour Mix
  • Pina Colada Mix
  • Bloody Mary Mix
  • Cream
  • Lime Juice

If you are the one to select which juices to place in the ice bin or within arms reach, you should obviously select those that you will be using the most. Usually these are cranberry, orange juice, sweet & sour, and pina colada.

The Speed Gun AKA the Snake

Speed GunThe speed gun is so essential to bartending that it goes by more than three names depending on where you’re from. It provides you with exactly what it sounds like, speed and efficiency in serving drinks. With it you have a variety of sodas, juices and nowadays even energy drinks to flow at your disposal.

Each button on the speed gun represents one of these ingredients with a simple to use letter label to tell you which is which. There are usually either 6 or 10 buttons with one almost always representing water. Mastering your speed gun at a new establishment will take a little time, however even without practice using one is a breeze.

Remember that in almost all drinks, the use of your speed gun will come last as most cocktails are filled with a soda or mixer once the alcohol is poured. For example, a cranberry vodka is a shot or ounce of vodka then fill with cranberry juice. Take a look at the speed gun below. You’ve most likely seen them used by your bartender. Looks familiar right?

The Speed Rack

This is also known to most as the “well”. It contains several bottles of your most commonly used liquors and at most establishments will also be the most affordable or lowest costing variety of that specific spirit. Don’t be surprised if you don’t recognize the brand name of the bottles in the well.

When a customer orders a well drink they are looking to be served cheaper alcohol from your speed rack to get a better deal. “Top-shelf” usually refers to one of the highest quality brands you offer. For example if your customer orders a “Well Gin and Tonic” they are expecting to be served the basic gin from your speed rack. But if they instead go for, “A Gin and Tonic top-shelf” then they are perhaps expecting Tanqueray or whatever more expensive and better quality brand your bar stocks. This is also why it is important to know off-hand which brands your bar offers. Many times customers prefer a specific brand in their top-shelf drink and will likely tip better for providing a drink to their preference.

Speed racks are aligned in many different ways primarily because they come in different sizes and types. However you can find the following liquors in most bar’s speed rack.

  • Vodka
  • Tequila
  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Scotch
  • Bourbon
  • Triple Sec
  • Brandy
  • Dry Vermouth
  • Sweet Vermouth

The point of having a well or speed rack is to allow the bartender to work quickly and easily without searching through a sea of liquors but rather to have the easiest access to the bottles which they use the most. In order to make this possible, you’ll want to align your alcohols in a format which makes sense to you. Bartenders often place their most commonly used liquors to the side of the speed rack that they stand on. The order listed above works quite well for a majority of bars. While others might find that they need tequila first and still others might need rum.

For a while I thought there was a common set order for most bars, but after consulting other bartenders I’ve found that there are too many orders to list. Work with your fellow bartenders and managers to ensure that the order you select will be agreeable for all parties pouring drinks. Memorizing the order is important as you’ll always want to be able to serve your long list of orders within a minute. That’s the magic number for all large orders no matter how difficult. Although not always possible, shoot for a goal of one minute and you’ll keep your customers happy.

Now that you’ve learned about three pieces of essential bartending equipment you can feel even more confident behind the bar. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the location of your equipment, liquors and various tools in the bar before starting your first shift. Becoming efficient in a new environment will take time which is why we aim to give you all the knowledge you’ll need before you get hired.

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