How to Set Up a Speed Bar for Bartenders

by Kay Tang; Updated September 26, 2017
Bartender Tossing Shaker in the Air

By setting up a speed bar, bartenders can serve frequently ordered drinks more quickly and efficiently. Because they don’t have to wait as long for a drink, customers are happier and may return for second and third rounds. By generating more sales, bartenders wrap their shifts with more money in the tip jar.

The Speed Rack

Happy couple celebrating together in Bar

The speed rack -- a bottle-width steel shelf -- is located under the bar at about knee-height for easy access. Known as the “well,” this rack is attached to the bar’s apron and holds the most frequently used and lowest cost liquors such as rum, vodka and gin. By setting up these liquors in a particular order and memorizing where they are, bartenders rely on muscle memory to improve speed and accuracy.

Order of Liquors

Bartender pouring cocktails

The industry standard for the order of liquors on the speed rack is: rum, vodka, gin, brandy, whiskey, scotch, bourbon and tequila. However, the order of the bottles will depend on the preferences of the majority of your clientele. Bartender Mixed says the common order of liquors on a speed rail is: vodka, tequila, gin, rum, scotch, bourbon triple sec, brandy, dry vermouth and sweet vermouth. Place the liquor in an order that lets you serve your customers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The High End on Hand

Classic bar counter

If you’re bartending at an expensive restaurant, you may want to set up two speed racks -- one for house brand liquors and a second for frequently used high-end spirits. While high-end liquors tend to be lined up at the back of the bar, save time by having a call speed rack in front of you. An example of a second rack is the following line-up: Absolute, Tanqueray, Bacardi, Jose Cuervo, Dewars, Johnny Walker, Jack Daniels, Seagram’s VO, Kahlua or Amaretto, and Rose’s Lime or Grenadine. Customize the call speed rack according to your customers' preferences.

Storage for Speed

Bartender is making a cocktail

In the middle of a shift and knee-deep in customers, the last thing you want to do is run out of liquor and restock. It can mean leaving your post, picking up a box of bottles and lugging the box back to the bar. Storing the most commonly used liquors in a cabinet or storage area near the speed well so you can restock quickly. Be sure to comply with your local health codes when storing your liquor. The standard requirement is that cabinets should be at least 6 inches above the floor, according to BarNinja.

About the Author

Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.

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