How To Become A Bartender

Have you dreamed of becoming a bartender? It’s easier than you think. Before you know it, you can be behind the bar mixing fabulous drinks and meeting fascinating people.

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You don’t have to go to bartending school to get started, though don’t throw out the option. Some higher-end establishments require a degree in bartending.

If you want to know how to become a bartender, here are a few tips to get you started.

Tips on How to Get into Bartending

Starting a bartending career is easy, though it can take some time to land a position. However, before you start dropping off applications there are a few things you should do.

female bartender mixing a drink

Know the Bartending Requirements

Bartending seems like a glamorous job, but it takes a lot of hard work. Bartenders are expected to always smile and engage with the customers. Along with mixing and serving the drinks, you may also have to take and deliver food orders if you work at a restaurant bar.

Keeping the bar clean and stocked are other job requirements. You also have to check ids on all customers and keep an eye on their intoxication levels. Closing out tabs and your cash register at the end of your shift is also part of the bartending job.

Find Out More About Bartending as a Career

If you’ve never worked in the service and hospitality industry, it’s a good idea to get a feel for it. You don’t want to spend a lot of time training as a bartender if it turns out you hate the job.

Spending some time at a local bar during slow and busy times is a great way to get a feel for the industry. You can watch the bartender mixing drinks and talking with customers. Slow times are the perfect time to ask questions, just don’t forget to tip your bartender.

Think About Your Earning Potential

bartender getting tips

If you’re wondering what you need to do to be a bartender, an important step is to think about your earning potential. You can make a living as a full-time bartender, but how much extra cash you have to spend depends on a few factors.

Your earning potential is affected by:

  • The state’s minimum wage. Bartenders have a lower minimum wage rate than others due to tips. The law presumes that the daily tips make up the difference in minimum wage rates.
  • Your shifts help determine your tips. Daytime shifts are usually slower, even at busy restaurants. Most customers are there for lunch, not an adult beverage. Evening shifts are the best, especially on weekend nights. Depending on the location and type of establishment, you may not notice the lower minimum wage.
  • If you work with a barback or other bartenders on your shift, you are expected to share tips. You and the other bartenders get equal shares, and then each gives a specified percentage to the barback.
  • How skilled you are behind the bar affects your tips. Friendly bartenders that can pour great-tasting drinks will make more tips.
  • Bartenders’ salaries are also based on seniority. The longer you stay at an establishment, the higher your rate of pay.

If you’ve decided that bartending is a career you want to explore, and you’re old enough to pour and serve alcohol, it’s time to get started as a bartender.

How to Start Bartending

Want to know how to become a bartender with no experience? You start by getting a job in the industry. Here’s how to get a job as a bartender.

Become a Certified Bartender

Some states require all bartenders to take a short course for certification. Even if your state doesn’t, it’s still a good idea. You can take the class online, just search for bartender requirements. From there, pay the small fee and take the timed test.

The questions are based on state liquor and alcohol laws, especially how they apply to minors. Laws regarding overserving customers are also covered, along with how to prevent and handle unruly customers. It’s important information every bartender needs to know.

As a certified bartender, you have an advantage over other applicants applying for the position. It may be your first bartending job, but the certification shows you are serious about it.

bartender in school training

Start Your Bartending Career as a Bar Back

It doesn’t sound like a glamourous position, and it’s not. Barbacks are responsible for cleaning the bar top and glassware. You’re also expected to restock coolers and do most of the heavy lifting.

As a barback, you are a bartender in training. You don’t need prior experience. Your job is to assist the bartender. What the position does is give you a great learning experience, you also get a weekly paycheck and tip outs from the bartender.

While you’re working, you’ll gain useful skills and knowledge that will help you get a job as a bartender.

  • You’ll learn the different brands of beer and liquor when you stock the shelves and coolers.
  • Watching the bartender will teach you how to pour shots and mix drinks, along with the popular beverage names.
  • Moving around behind the bar will help you get more comfortable with the area and with customers.
  • Learn the bartending terms, especially when they apply to drinks. For example, the difference between “neat” and “on-the-rocks”.
  • Know when normal bar rush times are and how to prepare for them.
  • You’ll also be able to distinguish between the various types of glassware
  • Know what garish the garnishes are.

Supporting your co-worker is one of the best ways to become a bartender. They’re more inclined to teach you the tips and tricks of the trade.

Look for a Job at a Restaurant Bar

Being a barback isn’t for everyone. It is hard work, especially on busy weekend nights. Another way to get into bartending is to apply for a job at a restaurant bar. You may not get the bartending position instead, you’re offered a server or hostess job. Go ahead and accept the offer. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door, especially if you don’t have experience.

Restaurants tend to promote employees to higher positions before hiring new ones. If you start as a hostess, you can quickly move up to a server, and then bartender. You will have to show that you are a conscientious worker who’s willing to learn. It also helps if you are already certified. It’s one of the bartending requirements most restaurants expect.

There’s a good reason why a restaurant bar is a good place to start. Hours are shorter and the customer base is slower, with less exotic requests than traditional bars and nightclubs. You can get the hang of pouring draft beer and mixing simple drinks. These are skills you will need when you move on to a busier location.

Find a Mentor

Whether you’re a server or a barback, try to find a bartender that’s willing to mentor you. There’s almost always one person at your job that’s willing to show you the ropes. It also helps if you give them support, it’s payment for the education they’re giving you.

Barbacks want to keep their bartenders fully stocked and ready to grab whatever they need. Avoid asking questions when they’re busy, wait for slow times when you have time to talk.

Servers don’t have to keep the bat stocked, but they can help bartenders by promptly removing drinks customers ordered. You can also help run food out to bar customers when your tables are slow. The help will make the bartender more willing to show you how to get started in the industry.

Practice Pouring and Mixology

pouring a cocktail into a glass

Watching is a great way to learn how to bartend but you need to have practical experience. You may not be able to pour behind the bar, but you can become a bartender at home.

All you need are a few glasses, liquid, mixers, and a jigger. It’s the small shot glass that measures your pour. A jigger equals one shot which is the standard pour unit.

Practice pouring shots, it’s harder than it looks. It’s easy to overfill a jigger wasting liquor. Spills and overpours cost bars money, and if you want to know how to get into bartending you need to have a smooth and steady pour.

Once you have pouring down, the next step towards becoming a bartender is practicing mixology. It’s best that you find some friends or family to sample your concoctions. Bartender requirements include a zero drinking policy when you’re working. You also need to stay sober to mix the drinks.

Start with the basics like rum and cokes and screwdrivers. Once you have those down, you can move on to more complicated beverages like a Tequila Sunrise.

Don’t Be Afraid to Create New Drinks

Once you’ve mastered the basics of pouring and mixing, why not create unique drinks? Focus on one liquor like whiskey or vodka and then learn all about it. Find out its history and try old drink recipes. You can also create new ones.

When you get a job as a bartender, you have something that sets you apart. You can mix custom and craft cocktails for customers. You’ll not only increase your tips but following as well. If you move to another location, many of your loyal customers will follow you.

It ensures you have a steady revenue stream. Bringing your customers to the new bar can also increase your starting salary. All bar owners appreciate and welcome new business.

The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Bartender

Now that you know how to become a bartender, you still want to consider the pros and cons. You know it can be hard work and great tips aren’t a guarantee, but there are other factors to think about.

  • Bartending is often a mentally stressful job. On evening shifts, you have to worry about intoxication and unruly customers. You have to stay alert and be ready to diffuse a situation before it gets out-of-hand. Daytime shifts mean more time with customers that expect you to be happy and always willing to listen.
  • You know bartending takes a lot of work, but you need to understand much of it is physical labor. Bartending shifts typically run from 6 to 8 hours, and you are constantly on your feet. Sore, swollen feet are a common problem among bartenders, along with back pain from lifting kegs and cases of beer.
  • It is a high-pressure industry from customers and managers. Everyone has high expectations from the right drink to a correct pour. The pressure only increases during busy shifts.
  • If you want to make top tips, you want to work evening and weekend shifts. It does mean giving up your weekends and sleeping odd hours if you work at night. Some evening shifts don’t end until after 2 a.m.

These are downsides for some people, but others look at them as advantages. Not everyone cares about making weekend plans when there’s an available shift at the bar. You may also thrive under pressure, it keeps the job from becoming boring. If you love meeting all types of people, and keeping them under control, then bartending is a career you can excel at.

mixing a cocktail

Learn Bartending and Start an Exciting New Career

Now that you know what it takes to be a bartender, is it still the career you want to pursue? It does have some downsides, including unstable pay. It’s impossible to predict how much you’ll make in tips per shift. You can go by averages, but the uncertainty can be stressful when bills are due.

With that being said, there are plenty of reasons why bartending is a great industry. You make cash tips and get to meet people from around the world. If you work at a bar that has live music, you get a free concert while you’re serving drinks. It’s a fun industry that is rarely boring and is always looking for new talent.

If you’re ready to be a bartender, start by getting certified and then find a job at a local bar or restaurant.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

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My Bartender

Written by My Bartender

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