While you may know common practices such as proper techniques to check ID's, are you familiar with the science behind alcohol and how it affects your guests?
Your job demands that you know a lot about alcohol.
Your friends probably recognize you as the expert when it comes to what drinks are popular, how to mix a perfect cocktail, and when the latest craft beer is due to be released.
Your manager knows you are skilled at checking IDs, keeping track of what guests drink, and cutting people off when they’ve had enough.
But there are even more basic things you need to know about alcohol if you’re going to serve your guests responsibly. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of alcohol abuse and identifying ways to help treat it and prevent it.
As a bartender, server, or restaurant manager, you are on the front line in the struggle against alcohol abuse. Your knowledge can make the difference in a guest leaving your establishment safely or as a danger to themselves and others. So let’s take a look at three basic facts about alcohol—knowledge that can be critical to you serving alcohol responsibly and safely.
Let’s look at:
- How alcohol is made
- How alcohol affects the brain
- How strong alcohol is
How alcohol is made.
Alcohol is made in one of two ways: fermentation or distillation.
For at least the past 7,000 years, people have been fermenting plants (such as fruits and berries) or grains (such as barley) to make alcohol. The making of wine pre-dates written history; archaeologists have found evidence of it dating back millennia. Somehow, someone figured out that if you covered up fruit or grain and left it for a long time, it made beer or wine. Later, they figured out that a substance known as yeast was their friend, breaking down the sugars in the plants or grains to create alcohol.
Distillation creates harder alcohols such as vodka and whiskey. This process takes fermented alcohol and removes the water from it through the process of heating and cooling.
How alcohol affects the brain.
The effects that you see can be deceiving. Alcohol can cause physical and behavioral changes in your guests. Some people get more physically active and boisterous. Others become overly-friendly and loud. This leads many people to believe that alcohol is a stimulant. It’s not. It’s a depressant.
How does that work? It’s because alcohol slows brain activity—including the parts of the brain that normally keep people behaving in socially acceptable ways. The more they drink, the more they might become uncoordinated, struggle with memory, lack in judgment, and struggle with major motor skills.
You’ve seen it plenty of times—the slurred speech, the unsteady movement, the poor behavior. All this can happen when people drink more than they should. It happens because of the depressing aspect of alcohol, the way it keeps the brain from reacting as quickly as it should to provide people with proper responses to situations.
It’s what makes driving while intoxicated so very dangerous. Impaired drivers are not able to react as quickly to what they see on the road, whether it is a stop sign, another car, a pedestrian, or even the proper lanes on the street. Knowing how alcohol affects the brain and impacts your guests’ behavior can help you to identify signs of intoxication, enabling you to take appropriate measures to keep them safe.
How strong alcohol is.
No one has to tell you that there is a difference between the effect of a wine cooler and that of a Long Island Iced Tea. You can tell from tasting, and from seeing how they affect your customers that one is stronger than the other.
Different drinks have different strengths. The way you measure a drink’s strength is through ABV—alcohol by volume, the percentage of a drink that is alcohol.
What are some common drink strengths?
- Distilled spirts range from 20 percent to 40 percent.
- Wine ranges from 12 percent to 14 percent.
- Beer ranges from 4 percent to 6 percent, with craft beers having a wider range of 2.5 percent to 15 percent.
Knowing the variations in the alcohol strength of different drinks will enable you to more effectively gauge how much your guests have consumed.
Up your game—learn even more.
You and your staff can learn all of this and more by completing ServSafe Alcohol training. Developed by the National Restaurant Association, ServSafe Alcohol reflects best practices from industry experts and is designed to help you improve your responsible alcohol service skills to mitigate risk and protect your customers and your business.
If you are looking to get ServSafe Alcohol certified, save 10% with coupon code: AWARENESS (valid from April 1-30).
If you would like to learn about how to bring ServSafe Alcohol solutions to your organization, contact our sales team.
The more you learn about alcohol and responsible alcohol service, the more you can help prevent alcohol abuse and provide top service to your customers while keeping them safe.