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How To Become A Bartender

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Side hustle or full-time, bartenders can earn a top-shelf income from pouring pints, shaking up cocktails, and conversing with customers.

You may be wondering how to become a bartender.

How much training is required?

How do bartenders get their start?

Will you enjoy bartending?

Pour yourself a cold one and read on to find out more about how to become a bartender.

Frequently Asked Questions

You may have plenty of questions about how to become a bartender.

The answers to these FAQs may help you on your way to becoming a bartender.

What qualifications do you need to become a bartender?  

Bartending courses can help aspiring bartenders get higher-end bartending jobs, but they aren’t required everywhere.

Some bars and restaurants may require training classes, though.

Bartenders must be older than 21, the drinking age, and usually are required to have a high school diploma.

Experience working as a barback is helpful.

Does bartending make good money?  

Bartenders can make $14 an hour, on average, or more.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean income for bartenders is more than $30,000, with the upper range reaching past $47,000.

Bartenders earn their money through wages, which can vary among bars and restaurants, and tips, which can quickly add up for bartenders who provide excellent customer service.

How much do bartenders make?  

How much a bartender earns depends on multiple factors.

Bartenders in dive bars and lower-end restaurants may get low tips or none and earn lower salaries.

Those working in five-star establishments will get higher tips because the drinks they serve are more expensive.

Bartenders who are good at what they do earn more for two reasons.

Skilled bartenders are likely to be hired by higher-end bars and restaurants that want the best mixologists behind the bar and pay more.

Also, bartenders who provide excellent service to their customers, conversing with them while mixing creative cocktails.  

What You’ll Need to Become a Bartender

To become a bartender, you’ll need a few basics:

  • Be 21 or older
  • Have a high school diploma or GED certificate
  • Driver’s license or passport for identification
  • Bartending license in states that require it
  • Good communication and math skills
  • Ability to stand for long periods

Qualifications for Becoming a Bartender

Successful bartenders share a skill set that includes these talents and traits:

  • Strong communication skills  
  • Multitasking since bartenders are often making multiple drinks at the same time
  • Sharp memory for remembering drink orders
  • Physical ability to stand for hours each shift
  • Math skills for ringing up orders and measuring ingredients
  • Knowledge of bartending terminology and recipes
  • Skills including the best ways to serve wines and pour beers

Experience Needed for Bartending  

Becoming a successful bartender requires experience and knowledge including:

Understanding the Role  

Knowing what a bartender does is essential to being a stellar bartender.

If you’ve worked in bars or restaurants, you probably have this knowledge.

If not, stop by a local bar and restaurant, and watch their bartenders in action.  

Knowledge of Drinks and Recipes

How do you make a Mojito, an Old-Fashioned, or a Singapore Sling?

Margaritas, Bloody Marys, Daiquiris, Sangria, and Scotch and Water – these cocktails and more may be part of your bartending repertoire.

Unless you work at a bar or restaurant that only serves beer and wine, you’ll need a good working knowledge of cocktail recipes.

Knowing about Beers, Wines, and Liquors

Being able to tell an IPA from a stout, pour a draft beer without an excessive head, and tell customers about the latest local craft brews is essential for a bartender, as is having a good knowledge of different types of wine and liquor.

Keeping a Clean Scene

Your bar area, glasses, cocktail shakers, and tools should always be clean.

In larger bars, barbacks should handle much of the cleaning, but it’s up to the bartender to keep bar cleanliness standards high.  

Providing Excellent Customer Service

Excellence in customer service means getting bar patrons just what they ordered quickly and checking with them on whether they want another round.  

Having Point-of-Sale Systems Skills

Understanding the technology of POS systems to charge drinks to customers’ tabs is a must for bartenders.

Accurate bar tabs are an essential part of customer service as well as the profitability of bars and restaurants.

Step by Step Instructions to Become a Bartender  

Just as there’s a method to shaking the perfect dry Martini, there is a step-by-step way to become a successful bartender.  

Getting Started as a Bartender  

Taking the right steps and gaining knowledge will make you a master mixologist.

Follow this plan to become a bartender.

Understand the Industry, Workforce, and Drinks You’ll Make  

Knowing what a bartender does and how to make popular cocktails is key to becoming a bartender.

Bartending courses and certifications will help an aspiring bartender get started.

Start as a Barback or Server  

One way to learn the bartending business is to work as a barback, the bartending version of a busboy, or server.  

Earn the Right Certifications  

Not every state requires a bartending license or training, but bars and restaurants may.

Having certification as a bartender will come in handy when job-hunting.  

Look for Jobs That Fit Your Goals  

When looking for bartending jobs, consider your goals and schedule.

Do you want to work on weekends or weekdays?

During happy hours, late nights, or brunches?

These questions can help you in your bartending job search.

Apply for a Job When You See a Good Fit  

When you spot a bartending opening at a restaurant nearby at hours you’d like to work, apply for the position.  

After You Get Hired

Becoming a bartender is just the start of your new mixology career.

These tips will keep your tip jar full.

Never Stop Learning and Furthering Your Skills  

New cocktails and drink preferences mean you’ll always be learning the craft of bartending.

New skills will take you past simpler tasks like pouring a glass of wine or a pint of lager.  

Be a Great Team Member  

Bartenders don’t work alone.

They fill orders for bar and restaurant waitresses and work with other bartenders, barbacks, hosts, managers, and chefs.

As team members, bartenders should show their coworkers respect, follow directions from management, and be helpful and polite.  

Protect Your Guests  

Bar guests can overindulge, so a good bartender keeps their customers from becoming intoxicated by cutting them off.

Bartenders don’t let inebriated customers drive.  

Tips to Succeed as a Bartender  

Bartending success will follow if you take these bartending tips to heart.

Avoid Bad Habits  

Bad habits such as over-serving customers in hopes of tips and ignoring house drink recipes will hurt the bar or restaurant in the long run.

This, in turn, will make you look bad, and reputations can follow people within the industry.

Master the Art of Multitasking  

A busy happy hour will have bartenders juggling multiple drink orders.

Multitasking plus a sharp memory will serve a bartender well.  

Communicate Well with Guests and Coworkers

The best bartenders make their guests feel welcome and communicate effectively with their coworkers.

Wrapping Up

If you’ve wondered how to become a bartender, now you know how to succeed behind the bar, earning top dollar in wages and tips while giving each customer an excellent experience.

Learn your drinks, practice your customer service, and avoid habits that could hurt you down the road, and you’ll be a competent bartender in no time.

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