A bartending job sounds all fun and glam for outsiders. A skilled bartender can keep clients happy and satisfied despite working on a full-packed bar or restaurant! However, not everyone can keep up with the duties and responsibilities that this job calls for. One has to have the physical stamina, people skills, and prioritization abilities from behind the bar.
If you are thinking about joining the industry, you must prove your worth through skills and experience. Your goal should be more than just a good bartender serving drinks and cocktails. You can go up the career ladder by becoming an exceptional bartender that every client calls on. Here are a few tips for becoming a great bartender with the right experience, knowledge, and soft skills.
1. Bartending School
Not taking bartending classes is not necessarily detrimental to the success of your career. But of course, you will learn all the basic knowledge that you need, most of the skills to be successful are learned on the job. Most bars may also ask for a certificate of training or a school where you took some formal classes.
If you choose to attend school, you’d learn about the techniques such as standard cocktail drink, pour, ratios, and crafting the common cocktails in a structured way. But handling guests on a full-packed Friday is a skill not taught in schools. However, your trainers may share some insights about it too.
On the other hand, bartending school does not guarantee that you will get a job automatically. Attending school will also cost you money. Introductory courses offered online cost around $200, while in-class can range up to $600 for a 40-hour class.
Depending on your goals, you can get some experience first by working as a barback and help with bar inventory, clean the bar area, and bus plates and glasses. This way you can earn and learn about the job first hand. You may also attend Bar and Nightclub shows and learn from professionals who hold practical workshops and other events.
2. Work as A Server or Barback
Professionals agree that the things you need to learn about bartending will come from on-the-job experience. They believe that you will learn more as you work as a server or barback than when you attend school.
If you are interested in making a career of bartending, you should first become a food or cocktail server. This way, you learn the trade from the other side of the bar – just like a guest. Working as a barback and server will also help you familiarize yourself with the customer’s and the POS (point-of-sale) system. It will smoothen the transition as you go towards a full bartender role.
Hearing stories from professionals, you’ll find out their great appreciation for their previous jobs as barbacks and servers. It will show you a lot about the industry so you can better decide whether to pursue a career in bartending or not.
RECOMMENDED: Tricks On How To Increase Your Tips As A Bartender
3. Have the Right Certifications
While not every province and state requires bartenders to be certified, you should be aware of your local bartending laws. There are courses specifically created to help servers and bartenders become licensed to serve alcohol.
In Washington, bartenders must obtain a permit and complete an alcohol-serving course to get a bartending license. You may also check your state’s liquor control board for the requirement for your certification. Here are some state authorities for Liquor and Alcohol control:
- New York – New York State Liquor Authority
- California – California Alcoholic Beverage Control
- Illinois – Illinois Liquor Control Commission
RECOMMENDED: Easy Way To Get Bartender License
4. Be Physically Healthy and Ready for the Job
Although bartenders are confined in their bars, they rarely get some time off during a shift. All movements can be downright tiring, especially if they can’t take a breather in a full-packed bar. If you are not careful, it can lead to work-related injuries.
Make sure that you are healthy physically by taking care of your body, stretching, and exercising. You may also use footwear with good traction to prevent spills, slides, and hurting others or yourself.
Bars and watering holes are busy environments; thus, you have to prioritize your movements. Despite the chaos around you, always move with purpose.
5. Protect Guests
Bartenders are also the first responders whenever there are issues that arise in the perimeter. They do not only mix drinks or ring up customers; they also monitor the place and people. Some certifications cover strategies on preventing drunk driving, underage drinking, and intoxication of a customer.
A bar should be a place where everyone is comfortable and welcome. As soon as there is an unruly customer, bartenders will immediately diffuse the situation by interacting appropriately. Presently, employees and customers also need help in dealing with unwanted advances. Some bars use the codename “angel shot” to order assistance from the bartender when a customer needs it.
6. Learn the Basic Mix and Measure
If you worked your way up from being a server or barback, you have to upgrade your knowledge, learn how to mix drinks, the correct measurements, and all things about alcohol. Those who took bartending classes will have some knowledge, but it will be more challenging when you start handling a bar for real. Observe how professionals do it, learn from various online resources, and keep practicing the things you know.
RECOMMENDED: List of Bartender Duties and Responsibilities
7. Be Flexible and Versatile
Knowing how to fix classic cocktails is advantageous for new bartenders, but you should only be limited to these types. A customer may ask for a unique drink that deviates from the usual cocktail list that you may know. Learn how to mix as many kinds of cocktails as possible to broaden your opportunities.
And although bars have an extensive wine list, drink, and menu on offer, customers always expect bartenders to be a walking encyclopedia of alcohol and wine. They are bound to ask for recommendations if they don’t have anything they like on the menu. You should also know the taste profiles of various drinks, beverages, and wines so that you can best recommend an item that suits their preference.
8. Understand Bartender Lingo
Knowing terms, words, and lingo used in the beverage industry will make life and work easier for you as a good bartender. Once you take on the job, you should also brush up on the terms often exchanged between bartenders and guests so you’ll understand and act on them accordingly.
Tips: Here are some words that you should be familiar with:
- Box – Pour into and out of a shaker, a quick mix without the shake
- Chaser – a mixer drank after a shot of liquor to change the aftertaste
- Neat – an unaccompanied drink, taking a spirit straight
- Nightcap – liquor taken before bedtime
- On the rocks – liquor or wine poured over ice cubes
9. Know the Disadvantages of Being A Bartender
Bartending does come with many perks, but there are also downsides, just like any other job. It may be the dream job you are aiming for, but it’s best to understand the cons of pursuing this career.
It is a mentally taxing career, and sometimes you have to deal with rude and obnoxious customers. You will work with various people, and you have to keep them happy and satisfied with your service.
Bartending is a physically demanding career with late-night working hours and long shifts. You will constantly be on your feet and will lift heavy items to keep your bar well-stocked.
You will work in a high-pressure and demanding working environment. Your weekends will be spent working instead of relaxing.
Work can be monotonous at times. You have to clean bars, check inventory levels, and serve the same drinks again and again.
10. Develop Bartending Soft Skills
A big part of being a great bartender has the right soft skills for the job. Aside from being an expert about drinks and alcohol, you also have to be personable to make customers feel at ease, chat with them, and foster a social, approachable bar environment. Some skills that you should learn and develop to thrive are the following –
One of the critical skills you need to become a successful bartender is the ability to multitask. You will handle various drink orders while you socialize with guests and ensure that the bar area is presentable, well-stocked, and clean. Bartenders also take orders, manage tabs, accept payments, and more!
Having excellent interpersonal skills is another plus point to being a great bartender. It is essential to interact with the guest and build a good customer relationship over the bar. Bartenders should know whether the people they serve are looking for some interaction or would instead be left alone. How you move around these customers will help you succeed in your every shift.
Bartenders are expected to mix drinks quickly without sacrificing the quality. Also, the establishment needs to stay profitable; thus, bartenders must remain consistent with their pour and mixes even when they are in a rush.
11. Getting the Job
Now that you have some backgrounder on the basic knowledge and experience required to become a bartender, here are some tips to finally get your dream job!
Tips: Restaurants and bars will most likely hire bartenders with previous experience. If you’re coming fresh, you can expect to start as a barback and work your way towards operating the bar.
12. Writing Your Bartender Resume
In any job application, a solid resume piques the employer’s interest in the applicant. Some tips to keep in mind are:
- Keep it clear and concise. One to two pages provide managers ample info to scan and decide your fitness for the job.
- Proofread and make sure there are no spelling mistakes.
- Highlight your skills and abilities to bartend, including experiences that will convince the employer of your capabilities.
- Include certifications and related courses attended
- Check for accuracy of details. Don’t forget to include your contact number and email.
RECOMMENDED: Best Bartender Job Description For Resume
How to Find A Bartending Job
Finding the perfect bartending job can be challenging, especially if you set parameters of your own. You have to be flexible so you can improve your chances of getting hired.
Asking for referrals from family and friends may help open doors of opportunities for you. You may also approach and drop your resume at the local bar or restaurants during off-peak periods. Applying personally and introducing yourself to the manager adds a nice touch to your application. Otherwise, you may also explore job sites such as Indeed and LinkedIn, but be prepared for tough competition.
Tips to remember: Don’t be discouraged when you don’t get calls from establishments that you apply with. Rejection is a common part of the job-hunting process. Always be patient and put your best foot forward.
14. Prepare for the Interview
Once you get an invite for an interview, prepare yourself for the potential questions that the employer may raise. It can be a little scary, especially if it’s your first job, but you can ace it with these tips:
- Research their brand and clientele.
- Study the drinks and wine they serve
- Know potential interview questions and prepare answers. You will be asked to talk about your past, working experience, and interest in the industry.
Remember to dress appropriately to create the right impression with these tips. Arrive at the interview venue about 10 minutes early.
15. Show Up On Your Trial Shift
Managers would invite an applicant to work on a trial shift so you can test the waters. Make it your chance to show your future employer your skills and willingness to learn their bar culture. You will be told what you need to bring, wear, and the time of your trial shift. Show up on time and be prepared to work as if you are already hired.
During this trial, listen to what the manager tells you to do and ask questions when you are not sure. Communicate with other staff in the restaurant or bar and help where you can.
Tip: Smile and interact with other people in the establishment. Show your eagerness to learn and work hard. If there are some lapses, it will be chalked up to your rookie status.
RECOMMENDED: How Much Bartender Earn Yearly?
No career is ever easy, but if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. If you dream of becoming a good bartender, you have to put in the time and effort to reach your goals. You must be willing to learn, develop and practice. Experience will be your best teacher in this industry. You can take classes, get certified, but the best ones also started from the bottom and worked their way to the top. Don’t be discouraged if you experience rejections, and always lookout for opportunities. Soon, you’ll develop the skills, knowledge, and abilities to succeed as a bartender.