How To Become a Bartender (With No Experience)
Updated March 10, 2023
If you enjoy the art of mixing drinks, interacting with many different people and working late hours, then you may be interested in a career as a bartender. In this article, we discuss how to become a bartender, the general responsibilities of this role, the average salary and frequently asked questions about this career path.
What does a bartender do?
A bartender is a professional who works in a restaurant, bar, hotel, club or other establishment mixing drinks and serving them to customers. They may serve customers from directly behind the bar or through wait staff. Many bartenders also assist in maintaining product inventory and supplies for the bar where they work.
Common duties of a bartender include:
Mixing and serving alcoholic beverages and other drinks to customers
Greeting and interacting with customers while behind the bar
Taking drink orders and mixing them according to recipes and customer preferences
Ensuring customers are of the legal drinking age
Collecting payments from customers
Complying with established rules and regulations for alcoholic drinks, other beverages and food
Read more: Learn About Being a Bartender
How to become a bartender
If you’re considering this career, there are a few steps you can take to become a bartender. Consider the following:
1. Earn a high school diploma
While a college degree isn't required to become a bartender, you should have a high school diploma or GED. You should also be old enough to serve alcohol and tend bar in the state where you intend to work. Depending on the state, you must be at least 16 years old to serve alcohol and at least 18 years old to tend bar in a licensed establishment.
2. Attend bartending school
Attending bartending school isn't a requirement, but it can teach you the basics of mixing drinks and serving alcoholic beverages to customers safely. Many hospitality schools offer bartending programs to those who are interested in this career path.
3. Gain experience and work your way up
Completing bartending school does not guarantee you a job as a bartender. You will still need to gain on-the-job experience working in a bar or restaurant setting. Many bartenders begin their careers as waiters or runners before advancing to bartending roles.
4. Work as a barback
Similar to finding a job as a waiter and working your way up, being a barback is a great way to transition into bartending. Unlike a waiter, however, a barback is more directly linked to bartending. You’ll learn all the tools of the trade alongside the pros, which could help you advance more quickly. You also don’t need bartending experience to become a barback.
5. Practice your skills
Once you can mix and serve drinks to customers, it's important that you practice your skills. Get as much practice as possible to perfect your craft. You should also do some research to learn about new mixing techniques, bartending terms and taste profiles.
What skills should a bartender have?
If you’re considering a role as a bartender, here are some essential skills to have:
Strong communication skills are necessary for this role, as well as an outgoing personality since you’ll be interacting with customers on a regular basis.
Multitasking is often a required skill as you may be tasked with several duties at once, especially during peak times like happy hour.
Teamwork is an essential quality for successful bartenders as you’ll have to coordinate with wait staff, cooks, bussers and other colleagues on a regular basis.
Physical stamina is important for bartenders, as you’ll likely need to stand for long periods and have the ability to lift heavy boxes.
A strong memory for matching drink orders to customers is essential, and it helps to remember the names of regular customers.
Math skills are useful for handling cash and tips, especially on a busy night when you may need to do quick calculations.
In addition to soft skills, you’ll also want to acquire some technical skills in this field, including the following:
The lingo so you’ll know how to better communicate with your coworkers. Terms such as “neat” (no ice), “dirty” (a martini with olive juice), “dry” (a martini with a little vermouth), a “call drink” (when someone requests a brand name of liquor), a “free pour” (mixing a drink without measuring the ingredients) and “rocks” (ice).
The tools of the trade, so to speak, including how to use a cocktail strainer (used to strain ice), a cocktail spoon (used to stir), a jigger (used to measure shots) and a shaker (used to mix drinks).
The right way to pour beverages, including wine etiquette and pouring a beer in a way that prevents beer foam from overwhelming the glass.
What is the average salary for a bartender?
The average salary for a bartender depends on a variety of factors, such as experience, skill level and location. A bartender's salary also depends on their hourly wage and the tips they receive from their customers. Bartenders who work in busy restaurants or popular bars may make more money than those who work in smaller establishments. For the most up-to-date information from Indeed, please click on the salary link below.
Average salary for a bartender in the U.S.: $11.70 per hour
Some salaries range from $7.25–$28.30 per hour.
Frequently asked questions about being a bartender
Here are some frequently asked questions about becoming a bartender:
Where do bartenders usually work and what are their typical work hours?
Bartenders typically work late evenings and on weekends in restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels and other food and drink service establishments. Bartending is a demanding job that requires working under pressure during busy hours to provide quality service to customers.
What is the long-term career outlook for a bartender?
Bartenders who gain work experience are more likely to obtain jobs with busy, successful establishments and advance in their careers. Some bartenders are promoted to restaurant management positions while others choose to open their own bars.
Which laws guide the bartender profession?
Several laws regulate the service of alcohol to customers. These laws vary from state to state, but here are some common laws and regulations that bartenders must adhere to:
Required age to work as a bartender
The age requirements for bartending are different from state to state. In most states, adults between the ages of 18 and 20 can work as bartenders, while other states require bartenders to be at least 21 years old.
Licensing and certification
Licenses are not required for bartenders to work in most states. However, some states may require bartenders to attend classes to learn about state alcohol service laws and obtain an alcohol safety certification. In other states, a certification may not be legally required, but may still be required by some employers.
Alcohol sales hours
Bartenders should be aware of alcohol sales hours, which can vary by state. For example, in California, alcoholic beverages may only be served in licensed establishments from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
Selling alcohol to underage customers
Bartenders are not permitted to serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. They are expected to request an acceptable ID that displays the customer's name, picture and date of birth to prove they are of legal drinking age.
Selling alcohol to drunk customers
Bartenders are also not permitted to serve alcohol to highly intoxicated customers. A person who is intoxicated can be identified from their appearance, speech and other indicators. It's a bartender's responsibility to keep an eye out for these signs.
Drinking behind the bar
In some states, it's considered illegal for a bartender to consume alcohol while working, while in other states that decision is left up to the employer.
Related: Bartender Resume Samples
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