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How to Elevate Any Bar Program

During his Cocktail Catering session, Justin Pasha (The Cup Bearer) identified the key areas that will elevate any bar program.

Justin Pasha served as the master of ceremonies during this year’s Swizzle Competition. Here he speaks to the judges. 

“The bar experience should be the same as the food experience,” he said during his session. “You have to think of these mixologists the same way you think of your chefs.”


The first place to start upping your cocktail game is to invest in the highest quality ingredients. Fresh juices, premium mixers, modern garnishes, and craft syrups can all play a pivotal role in elevating the flavor profiles and sophistication of your cocktails. Also, it’s important to consider ingredients for non-alcoholic options as well.


It may seem simple but having the right bar setup can be all that separates you from a stellar bar program to one that just gets by. Consider the tools you have behind the bar; are there any that need replacement? Why not add a few showstoppers like the Flavour Blaster gun or a smoking torch? Additionally, how often do we hear that first impressions are everything? Every. Single. Day. Which is exactly why your bar’s décor can be just as important as what is on the menu. Cozy, soft lighting sets the right mood for whiskey cocktails, but they don’t have quite the same effect on a tequila and margarita bar. Make sure your décor is giving off the right vibe so your guests can truly enjoy your cocktails. 


Make sure you have the staff to match the level of cocktails that you are serving. Experienced staff who know their way around the bar are essential to showcasing the cocktails you took the time and effort to develop. Being a bartender should be about more than pouring drinks, it can also be “bar theater.” Mixing and shaking cocktails is a delicate ballet in some respects: the elegant stir of a spoon, the graceful pour of a bottle, the rhythmic sound of your shaker. 

Recipe selection

Lastly, make sure your menu stays interesting. While you want to have some of the standards, it is also important to pay attention to cocktail trends. 

Additionally, when building your recipes and menu offerings, try to focus on cocktails that have four ingredients or less, and options that can easily be batched. 

“This is still catering after all,” Pasha said, “this is not a bar.” 

Finally, don’t forget the flair. Whether it’s a beautiful garnish, a smoked glass, or colored ice cubes, this is where the impact happens. 

“You need something catchy,” Pasha said. “It’s that little something that’s worth Instagramming, that drives home that sense of mixology.”

Amber Kispert

Senior Content Producer

Amber is the Senior Content Producer for Catersource. Amber previously worked as a Communications Specialist for LeClair Group and a reporter for the Woodbury Bulletin, both located in Woodbury, Minn.  As a self-described "foodie," Amber loves to experience the world of food and beverages, and is excited to help share the stories of Catersource and the world's caterers.