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How to Become a Bartender

Are you interested to know how to become a bartender? Working as a bartender may seem like an easy job to outsiders, but the reality is that it requires more than just physical stamina. There are also prioritization and people skills involved.

After speaking with industry insiders, we learned how to become a bartender and what it takes to move up in that career.

If you’re thinking about becoming a bartender, here are some tips that will help. These have been broken into three categories: work experience, bartending knowledge, and soft skills.


Section 1: Work Experience

how to become a bartender

When you are trying to get your foot in the door or learning on the job, there is a lot of information that can be overwhelming.

1. Don’t go to bartending school

While taking classes can be beneficial, it is not a substitute for hands-on experience.

In bartending, experience is critical. A diploma from a school can teach you techniques and ratios for cocktails, but it doesn’t prepare you to work on busy nights.

Alternatively, you can attend events such as the Nightclub & Bar Show, where industry professionals share their experience and knowledge. There are also practical workshops available.

2. Start as a barback or server 

All three people interviewed for this article felt that attending bartending school would not be as beneficial as real-world experience.

Stuart McGuire, vice president of Wolf Spirit Distillery, says that one should first work as a cocktail or food server to learn about the trade. Then progress into a barback, service bar position, and finally, a complete bartender.

Kevin Thiel, a bartender at Chicago’s high-volume sports bar, barbacked and served before becoming a bartender. He said that this experience helped him transition to being a full-time bartender with ease because he was already familiar with customers.

David Toby, now beverage director of Jack Allen’s Kitchen and Salt Traders Coastal Cooking, also started as a barback, starting from age 18. By the time he was 22 years old, David had felled in love with bartending because of all the skills taught to him by top-tier professionals. Eventually, David became a general manager and was later promoted to beverage director, where he learned more about operations within the hospitality industry.

3. Get the proper certifications

Local laws may vary, but bartenders should be aware of the requirements in their area. Click To Tweet

Two popular courses in the food and beverage industry are TIPS and ServSafe.

4. Be ready to move around

Bartenders are always on the move, which can lead to work-related injuries if you’re not careful.

Consider investing in non-slip footwear. They will help you avoid slipping and falling, which can lead to injury or damage to your company’s property.

Thiel advises you should make sure that the tasks are done promptly when prioritizing obligated to beintoxicatedEssential. You don’t want to seem chaotic or out of place.

5. Protect your guests

Bartenders are not just there to mix drinks and ring up customers. They also need to make sure that the environment is safe for their patrons, which means they must be intoxicated or underage drinking. The TIPS alcohol certification gives them strategies on how best to deal with dealing.

In the #MeToo era, customers or other employees might also need help dealing with unwanted advances. Some bars now use a codename when a customer needs assistance–“angel shot.” This means aid is required, whether kicking out an offender, ordering a ride, or calling the police. 

“I’ve been in situations where I had to keep my eye on something going on around me,” says Thiel.

6. Avoid bad habits 

Bar staff often like to drink together after their shift is over. This can be good in moderation, but Toby warns that too much of it could lead to problems.

“It is important to know where the line should be drawn,” he says. “Have fun but not too much, or it can lead to negative impacts on health and relationships as well as with work.”


how to become a bartender


Section 2: Bartending Knowledge

As a bartender, your earning potential is dependent on what you know and how well you can work with others.

1. Learn how to mix and measure

As you work your way up from barback or server to bartender, the knowledge and skills needed for a job in this field can be obtained through online resources. “For an entry-level bartending position, most of the basic knowledge and technical training can be self-taught,” McGuire says.

2. Be versatile and knowledgeable

If you cannot mix many types of cocktails, then your options for bartending jobs will be limited. If a customer asks for something unfamiliar or new and different, they might leave because the bartender does not know how to make it.

Customers are not just expecting bartenders to make a drink; they want them to know all the different flavors and types. If you ask for recommendations off of their menu, you must knowunderstandingNecessary what kind of tastes go well together.

3. Know your bartender lingo

Do you know what these terms mean on the rocks, neat, dirty, shooter, jigger? How to become a bartender involves being familiar with all the bartending terms.

how to become a bartender


Section 3: Soft Skills

It’s not only about mixing cocktails when you’re a bartender. It would help if you balanced the mixing of cocktails with chatting up customers and creating an inviting, open atmosphere.

1. Be sociable

Bartenders also need to be good at dealing with people. They should know how to make a cocktail and have an understanding of the bar’s beer and wine list.

Thiel says that it is essential to deal with the different levels of interaction. It’s not just about making drinks but also understanding how you can talk and build a relationship with customers.

2. Master multitasking

Bartending is a high-pressure job, and the ability to multitask under pressure will be necessary. Essential to juggle many drink orders at once while still socializing with guests and making sure your bar area is clean.

3. Be precise 

Precision and accuracy are essential if you want to be a successful bartender.

When making a profit, bar and restaurant owners need their cost of goods sold (COGS) to stay within budget. If bartenders are overpouring drinks because they’re in a rush or trying for extra tips from guests, the manager will notice sooner rather than later. 

4. Be humble

Bartending is not about showing off your skills and making drinks as showy as possible. It is about serving people and making them feel welcome.

The most important part of being a bartender is understanding the needs and desires of your customers. The more personalized you can make their experience, the better.

5. Be realistic

You cannot be a great bartender without working at it consistently. You need to start as an entry-level barback and work your way up. Click To Tweet

It is typical for less experienced bartenders not to get the most lucrative shifts because more senior employees want those busy nights and are willing to work extra hours.

To be prepared for when a busier shift comes up, make sure you practice during the slower nights. Thiel explains that

“Once you get behind the bar, someone’s going to want a Saturday night off or a holiday off, and they are not always in your control.”


how to become a bartender


Final Thoughts on How to Become a Bartender 

As you embark on a career in bartending, keep these tips on how to become a bartender close to your heart and remember that experience is the best teacher.

So learn from your peers, lookout for opportunities to learn new skills, and work your way up. As time goes by, you will develop the skills needed to succeed as a bartender.