Behind the Bar – Everything You Need to Know To Be a Bartender!
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a bartender? How much money you could make? Want to know what is different between a bartender and a mixologist? Do you wonder if you have what it takes to do the job?
Let’s dig down deep into everything you want to know about being a bartender!
THE BARTENDING INDUSTRY
Is Bartending the job for you?
Do you want to be a bartender or a mixologist? They’re not the same thing. Maybe you’d be more comfortable starting out in the role of a barback? Perhaps inventory control and administrative duties are more of your style? Maybe bar management is where you’d like to apply yourself.
Bartender or Mixologist?
A bartender is someone who serves drinks at a bar. A mixologist, on the other hand, is a person who is skilled at mixing cocktails and other drinks. (We’ll discuss mixologists more later.)
Is this the visual you had in mind when you think bartending 🙂 Well, this is there too but a lot more tear and sweat go into being a great bartender!
What is Barback?
A barback is a worker whose job is to assist a bartender. Duties include washing dishes and restocking liquor, beer, and wine. Occasionally the bartender may allow them to make an easy drink, a good way to grab some bartending experience if you wish to be one someday.
What is Bar Manager?
A bar manager is someone who orders products, ensures the bartender has everything they need, and also maintains the books. Every good bar manager has a solid background in bartending!
BARTENDING LIFESTYLE – BURNING THE CANDLE AT EITHER END.
Do you want to be a daytime or nighttime bartender? The biggest difference between the two is the types of guests you’ll have the pleasure of serving! Daytime crowds are usually older and tamer; nighttime crowds are younger and wilder.
What’s a day in the life of a bartender?
Whether days or nights, you’re performing the same duties and responsibilities:
- At the beginning of your shift, you’ll need to make sure everything is stocked and ready to go, all fruit is cut and ready, all juices topped off.
- During your shift, you’re expected to listen to your guests, keep their drinks full, clean as you go (don’t forget – customers are right in front of you and watching every move), and ensure everyone is consuming safely and responsibly.
- At the end of your shift, you’ll clean everything, stock back up, and focus on making sure the next shift is ready to go.
What skills are required?
For a bartender, memorization of recipes isn’t as important as it once was. You’ll memorize your regulars’ favorites and whatever is popular locally; however, you can always search for an unknown recipe on the Internet. This makes using technology a growing skillset in the industry, which includes learning how to run Point-of-Sale (PoS) systems!
Here are a few more essential skills:
- Multi-tasking – Being able to take an order while you’re making an order will help you speed through your queue.
- Good Communication – Ensuring that you listen to your guests is important but making sure you and your guest are understanding the same terminology is more important. Let’s go over a few basic terms for your edification
- Chaser or Back – a drink consumed immediately after a shot, usually non-alcoholic
- Chilled or Up – a shot served after shaken with ice and strained
- Muddle – using a special tool – aptly called a muddler – for grinding and crushing ingredients in the bottom of a glass or shaker
- Neat – a drink served straight out of the bottle
- Straight up – any drink is shaken before being strained into a glass, with or without ice (some locations use this interchangeably with ‘neat’ instead)
- Stress Management – Dealing with a fast-paced and constantly changing environment can be stressful! Screaming in the walk-in is often touted as a healthy stress management tool.
How much money can I make?
Bartenders’ salaries can vary greatly from location-to-location. The minimum wage for a service industry employee in Florida ($8.56) is substantially lower than a wage in, say, Washington state ($13.50). (Check your state’s minimum wage for a tipped employee here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/state/minimum-wage/tipped)
Someone bartending on Bourbon Street will likely make more than someone bartending a little pub in Napoleonville. Depending on your location, you can make anywhere from $100 – $500 a shift. Bartenders working at high-volume locations can earn $1,200 per shift!
How many hours a week can I expect?
Bartenders generally work only a couple of 10-hour shifts a week. Flexibility with hours is one of the biggest perks of bartending! This varies from bar-to-bar and location-to-location, but most bartenders work about 30 hours a week. Of course, some bartenders have put themselves through college working six 10-hour shifts a week. It very common for bartenders to work part-time at two different jobs pushing the net hours to over 40/week.
Legal Concerns – A reminder about the laws of serving alcohol.
It’s really important to remember that some states can charge bartenders personally if someone is over-served. Please remember that one of the most important parts of bartending is caring about the people you’re serving. It’s important that everyone makes it to their destination safely so that they can come back to see you the next time you work!
Some states, counties, and cities require licenses or alcohol safety certifications prior to being allowed to work. Check with your local authority for specific requirements.
BARTENDING JOB SEARCH
How can I get my first job?
Pretty much no restaurant will give you a bartending job without prior experience. So how do you get your first job. Here are four ways you can start off, gain experience, and then acquire a full-time bartending job.
1. Start out as a barback.
Learning the trade by starting out barbacking is encouraged! Most restaurants will be comfortable hiring barbacks with no experience.
2. Start out as a server.
Some locations demand that you work for them as a server prior to moving up to bartending, so that makes this a convenient way to get your foot in the door.
3. Train for free.
If you are extremely desperate and really want to get a head start, ask your neighborhood stores if they offer unpaid internships.
4. School and Certifications
Some bartending schools will help you get your first job in the industry after earning their certifications. Google for “bartending school with job placement” in your area.
Where do I look for bartending jobs?
Even today 42% of applicants apply in person and is a fairly common practice. Even if a “Now-Hiring” sign isn’t posted out front, you should still feel comfortable to reach out and submit an application! But do make sure you visit the restaurant during downtime typically 1pm-3pm Mon-Thursday.
Searching for job openings online via Craigslist, Edizeven, or Indeed is an increasingly popular way to find work, too.
Do I need a resume? A cover letter?
Many restaurants and bars may not really read every single cover letter or every detail in résumé, but the fact that you did provide one definitely counts! Remember server/bartender is one of the most popular jobs in the restaurant industry and generates almost 4x more resumes than say a cook.
For a popular bar in say LA, you can easily expect the restaurant owner will receive 50-100 resumes when he just needs to hire one! If you want to get the job, make your application count! Write a cover letter telling me why you are apt for the job.
Shhh… secret.. we ran an experiment on our end to check if a cover letter makes a difference? Here is what we found:
- Out of 10,000 applications that were part of the experiment, only 48% had a cover letter.
- Of the candidates who received a response on their applications 74% either had a great personalized cover letter (addressing the restaurant, why this job is right for them) or a well-written resume.
The above data should make it clear why personalizing your application is extremely important.
Anytime you submit a résumé, you should submit a cover letter. Just remember to keep it brief and sell your strengths! It’s important, to be honest!
Need help with your resume or cover letter?
It’s ok if you don’t know how to write a great cover letter or what to highlight in your resume. We can help with both.
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org (put Subject – “Resume/Cover Letter Help Needed”) or Whatsapp/SMS us at +1 541 209 3780
What are some of the common bartender interview questions?
- Do you have any alcohol safety training?
- How do you handle an intoxicated person?
- What is one of your strengths as a bartender?
- What is one of your weaknesses?
Most interviews will require you to showcase your skill in person. So be prepared to make a few cocktails during the interview.
What’s the career growth path for a bartender?
Skills you’ve learned bartending can take you far in many different fields! From working in a fast-paced office atmosphere to working as a barista at your local Starbucks, you’ll have learned something that can take you to the next level at whatever future career you choose. The patience learned from dealing with a drunk guest at 2 AM will be enough to guarantee you are patient in any future endeavor.
A gradual career path will be to grow into a bar manager. If you wish to continue staying in restaurants you can consider becoming General manager. You can even move to a more corporate role in bigger FMCG companies in the capacity of beverage director or similar.
MIXOLOGY – THE ART OF MAKING A DRINK OVER SERVING A GUEST.
The study of a cocktail
Every bartender is a mixologist, but not every mixologist is a bartender. Some establishments, usually high-volume restaurants, have a dedicated drink maker for the entire facility. These people who are making drinks but not serving them to guests would be considered a mixologist!
A great adage is: A mixologist cares about the drink; a bartender cares about the guest.
Cocktail Competitions and Mixology flair!
There are several competitions for making drinks! Check out the links below: