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Last Updated:
April 29, 2024

Learn How to Become a Bartender: Essential Tips to Land Your First Bartending Job

Discover how to become a bartender with essential tips on skills, training, and experience needed to excel in your first bartending job and beyond.
Learn How to Become a Bartender: Essential Tips to Land Your First Bartending Job
By
Bogdan Patynski
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DISCLAIMER: Please note that this information is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or other professional advice. You're responsible to comply with all applicable laws in your state. Contact your attorney or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.
Table of Contents

Ah, being a bartender can be a wild ride! You get to meet all kinds of people, serve up delicious drinks, and be the life of the party. But it's not all fun and games - it can be a challenging job that requires a lot of skill and finesse.

You need to be able to work in a fast-paced environment, handle difficult customers with grace, and keep up with the latest cocktail trends, all these happen at the bar. Plus, you'll probably have to work late hours and weekends at the bar.

If you have a creative flair for mixing drinks and are ready to take on an exciting challenge, then bartending is the career perfect for you.

How to become a bartender? Here's what you need to know!

How to become a bartender you say? first and foremost, you need to have a passion for mixing and creating different drinks, that's one of the pillars of bartending skills, but keep reading and discover everything you need to know about bartending.

How much a bartender makes?

When it comes to bartender salary, it really depends on where they work and how experienced they are. On average salary, in the US a bartender makes around $12.30 per hour, but some of the top barkeeps can earn more than $21.10 an hour. Plus, don't forget that bartenders also get tips from their customers, which can really add up to the bartender's salary.

The number of tips a bartender receives can vary a lot depending on how good they are at their job and how generous the customers are feeling. So, if you're thinking about how to become a bartender, it's worth considering working in a fancier establishment, as you may be able to earn more money in tips.

Overall, bartending can be a pretty sweet gig if you're willing to put in the work and provide great service to your customers. Just remember, the more you put into it, the more you're likely to get out of it!

Be a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to bartending knowledge

Before you hop on in your first bartending job, know that when it comes to bartending, many bartenders have found that being a jack-of-all-trades is the key to success. From mixology to customer service to managing bar inventory and handling cash Successful bartenders need to have a wide range of knowledge and skills to thrive in the industry.

Plus, successful bartenders stay up-to-date with the latest bar trends, allowing them to recommend drinks that are sure to impress customers in the bar area. So, if you want to become a bartender, focus on mastering every aspect of the job, from mixology to customer service and everything in between.

Get ahead as a bartender with these essential skills

Being a barkeep is not only all about to pour-liquor into your customer's glass or serving alcohol at the bar, you must also possess a diverse set of skills to succeed in the industry.

From crafting delicious cocktails to providing top-notch customer service each busy night at the bar, or managing bar inventory to handling cash, there are several essential skills that every bartender needs to master. Here are some soft and hard skills a bartender must have:

Know your drinks

First up is knowledge of different types of alcohol. As a barkeep, you need to know the difference between gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila, and more. You should also know about the different types of wine and beer. Being able to recommend drinks and suggest pairings to customers is a big part of the job.

Mixing drinks

Next, there's the skill of mixing and pouring drinks. This involves knowing how much of each ingredient to use and the correct techniques for pouring and mixing. We will discuss this in more detail later on.

Memory

Bartenders need to have a sharp memory to keep track of drink recipes, customer preferences, and inventory levels. Effective memory techniques such as repetition and association can help bartenders recall information quickly.

Knowing a customer's preferred taste profiles helps bartenders create personalized cocktails that keep them coming back.

Organize like no other

As bartenders need to manage multiple tasks simultaneously, such as restocking inventory, cleaning equipment, and keeping track of customer orders, while also providing top-notch service in the bar. A bartender's ability to stay organized and prioritize tasks is essential for a smooth and successful shift.

Cash management and math

Being a bartender requires solid cash management and math skills, as bartenders need to handle cash and credit transactions, calculate tips, and manage inventory costs.

A bartender should know how to accurately count money, make changes quickly, and perform mental calculations to keep the bar running smoothly.

Physical stamina and adaptability

The bartender role demands physical stamina and adaptability, as bartenders need to stand for long hours, lift heavy objects, and move quickly to keep up with the pace of the bar.

A successful bartender knows how to stay physically fit and mentally sharp, adapting to changing situations and taking on multiple tasks at once without missing a beat.

Knowledge of bartending tools

Barkeepers need to have a thorough understanding of all the tools of the trade, including shakers, jiggers, strainers, and glassware, in order to mix and serve drinks with precision and style. A good bartender knows how to handle and care for their tools, ensuring they are always in good working order and ready to use. More of this later.

Customer service skills

Serving customers with quality customer service skills is much important in the hospitality industry, as they are responsible for serving beverages to customers and ensuring their satisfaction throughout their visit. The bartender should know how to engage with customers, anticipate their needs, and handle difficult situations, such as dealing with intoxicated customers, with tact and professionalism.

Being a great bartender goes beyond just the basics and hard skills

Being a barkeeper is not just about pouring drinks and collecting tips. It's an art, a skill that takes a lot more than just the basics. Sure, you need to know how to mix a good drink, but being a great bartender goes beyond that.

These soft skills will you help up your game in your bartending career.

Be sociable

A bartending position requires one to be sociable make the guests feel a welcoming atmosphere and build strong relationships with customers like no other job.

Master multitasking

Busy hours at the bar are like a warzone, with drink orders here and there and the bar managers dealing with customer issues, we know it's chaotic at times at the bar, but a professional bartender juggles these tasks at the same time, from creating the perfect cocktail and serving alcoholic beverages to handling cash with grace, this is one of the most important skills to have.

Be precise

In bartending jobs, precision is important. Bartenders must accurately measure ingredients, carefully mix drinks to the right specifications, and ensure that each drink is consistent and of high quality. Even the smallest mistake in measurement or mixing can ruin a drink's taste and damage the bar's reputation.

Great Listener

you need to be a great listener. People come to a bar not just for drinks, but also to unwind, socialize, and vent about their day.

A bartender is not just about "to-serve-alcohol", as a bartender, you're like a therapist, and you need to be able to listen to your customers' stories and engage with them. A friendly ear and a kind word can go a long way in making your customers feel welcome and valued.

Great Attention To Details

Another important trait of a great bartender is attention to detail. From remembering customers' names to ensuring that every drink is made to perfection, the small details can make all the difference in creating a memorable experience for your customers in the bar.

Don't forget about the presentation - a well-crafted drink served with a smile can elevate the overall experience for your customers. And of course, you also have to watch out for those people who are not of the legal drinking age. These soft skills will get you by a long shot.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to bartending

Sure, you can read all the cocktail recipes in the world and watch all the bartender tutorials on YouTube, but there's no substitute for getting behind the bar and actually making those drinks yourself and gaining bartending experience from it.

It takes a lot of trial and error to get the perfect balance of ingredients, the right shake or stir technique, and the presentation just right.

Don't break the bank on bartending school - explore other options

A hiring manager is often more interested in practical hands-on experience, training, and skillsets than a college degree. While attending a bartending school can be a great way to get started, it can also be costly.

Fortunately, there are other options available to those who want to break into the industry to become a bartender while not attending a bartending school, such as starting as a bartender's assistant or working as a member of the wait staff at a local bar.

And hiring managers often prioritize experience and skills over formal education, so it's important for a new bartender to gain as much experience as possible. Learning to tend bar involves more than just serving alcoholic drinks in the bar area.

Starting from zero

Now, how to become a bartender from scratch? If you want to become a bartender. Even with or without prior previous experience, it's important to have the right training under your belt.

There are several types of training available that can help you learn the ropes of the industry and hone your bartending skills and soft skills.

Seller Training

This type of training is usually required by law and covers the basics of responsible alcohol service, such as checking IDs, recognizing signs of intoxication, and refusing service to customers who are already drunk.

Some states require that all alcohol servers complete this type of training before they can work in a bar or restaurant.

RAMP Training

RAMP stands for Responsible Alcohol Management Program, and it's a certification program that teaches servers and bartenders how to prevent alcohol-related incidents and keep customers safe.

RAMP training covers topics like identifying fake IDs, recognizing the signs of intoxication, and dealing with aggressive behavior.

Alcohol Server Training Program

Similar to seller training, this type of program covers the basics of responsible alcohol service.

However, it's often more comprehensive and may cover additional topics like liability issues and the legal consequences of serving alcohol to minors or intoxicated individuals.

Hands-On Training

As the name suggests, hands-on training involves actually doing the job under the guidance of a trainer, supervisor, or even a bar manager.

This type of training is ideal for those who learn best by doing, and it allows new bartenders to practice their skills in their trial shift, a real-world environment.

Management Training

The management training is geared towards those who are interested in eventually becoming a bar manager. This training covers topics like inventory management, staff scheduling, and financial planning.

Online Training

No need to attend bartending school! just kidding, online training courses are becoming more and more popular in the hospitality business, and they can be a convenient option for those who are unable to attend in-person training sessions.

Online training discusses a wide range of topics and may include video lectures, interactive quizzes, and other multimedia content.

Mixology - hone your craft

A Beginner's Guide to Cocktails

Mixology is the art and science of mixing drinks. Whether you're a seasoned bartender or a home enthusiast, learning the basics of mixology can take your cocktail knowledge to the next level. Here are some tips for beginners to get started:

Equipment. Before you become a bartender and start mixing cocktails, you'll need to invest in a basic bartender kit.

A cocktail shaker, jigger, cocktail strainer, and mixing spoon are essential tools that every home bartender should have. You can also add a muddler, citrus juicer, and ice crusher to your arsenal.

Measurements. One of the most important aspects of bartending is being able to properly measure the ingredients for each cocktail.

You don't want to ruin a drink by adding too much or too little of an ingredient.

The standard units of measurement are ounces, milliliters, and dashes. Most cocktails require 1 to 3 ounces of each liquor, with some international competitions using milliliters.

Dashes are used for small amounts of flavorings or bitters. It's important to know how to measure accurately if you want to be a great bartender.

And if you're feeling confident, you can try out the free pour technique, which involves measuring out the right amount of alcohol without using a jigger.

Ingredients. Stock up on a few essential ingredients that can be used to make a variety of cocktails. A good selection includes gin, vodka, rum, tequila, dry vermouth, and whiskey. You'll also need some mixers like tonic water, soda, and juice. And yeah, don't forget the garnishes like lemon or lime wedges, olives, and cherries.

Simple Cocktails for Beginners. Now that you have your equipment and ingredients, it's time to start mixing. Here are some simple and popular cocktails that are perfect for beginners:

  • Gin and Tonic: Fill a glass with ice, add a shot of gin and top with tonic water. Garnish with a lime wedge.
  • Margarita: In a shaker, combine 2 oz of tequila, 1 oz of lime juice, and 1 oz of triple sec. Add ice and shake well. Strain into a salt-rimmed glass and garnish with a lime wedge.
  • Whiskey Sour: In a shaker, combine 2 oz of whiskey, 1 oz of lemon juice, and ½ oz of simple syrup. Add ice and shake well. Strain into a glass and garnish with a cherry.
  • Screwdriver: Fill a glass with ice, add a shot of vodka, and top with orange juice. Garnish with an orange slice.
  • Dirty Martini: Fill a mixing glass with ice, add gin or vodka, dry vermouth, and olive juice, and stir for 30 seconds. Strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with green olives on a toothpick.

Experiment. Once you've mastered these simple popular drinks, it's time to start experimenting. Try adding different mixers or garnishes to create new flavor profiles. Don't hesitate to try something new, gain experience, and enhance your taste profiles.

Also, don't be afraid to ask for feedback! Whether it's from your customers or fellow bartenders, getting constructive criticism can help you improve and refine your techniques.

And lastly, never forget to give a few drinks to your bartending mentor, because they are the ones helping you how to become a bartender.

Speak the language of the bartending gods

As a newbie bartender, you'll quickly realize that there's a whole new language to learn - the bartender lingo. Here are some bartending terms you need to know:

  1. Up: Refers to a drink that is shaken or stirred with ice and then strained into a glass without ice.
  2. Neat: A drink served at room temperature without any ice or mixers.
  3. On the rocks: A drink served over ice cubes.
  4. Twist: A twist of citrus peel that is added to a drink for flavor and aroma.
  5. Dirty: A drink that has a small amount of olive juice added to it.
  6. Dry: A drink that is made with little to no sweet ingredients.
  7. Wet: Refers to a drink that is made with more than the usual amount of mixer or juice.
  8. Back: A separate glass or chaser of a non-alcoholic beverage that is served alongside a shot or cocktail.
  9. Muddle: To mash or crush fresh ingredients, such as fruit or herbs, in a glass to release their flavors.
  10. Shake and strain: Refers to a drink that is made by shaking the ingredients with ice, then straining the mixture into a glass.
  11. Float: To pour a small amount of liquor on top of a drink as a garnish.
  12. Angel shot: A code word used by customers to discreetly ask the bartender for help when feeling uncomfortable, unsafe, or just a busted date.

Once you master the language of the bartending gods, you'll be slinging cocktails like a pro in no time.

Starting to look for a bartending job?

Finally! from "how to become a bartender" to "how to apply for a bartender position". In the US, you need to have legal working status and be at least 21 years old.

Some states may require additional certification or training, such as an Alcohol Server Permit or a Responsible Beverage Service certification. When applying for a bartender position, it's important to have a clean and well-crafted resume or CV that highlights your relevant skills and experience.

Compared to other jobs, applying for a bartender position requires a unique set of skills and experiences that cater to the hospitality industry. Click here to learn more about how to land a job in the food and beverage industry.

See your ROI in bartending education pay off as you embark on your journey to land your first bartending job. Your investment in learning the craft is the key to unlocking a rewarding career in the world of mixology.

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