Bartender is making cocktail at bar counter

Bartending 101

The Basics: How to Start Bartending

Bartending is a fun job that pays well. If you enjoy working in a dynamic environment where there’s constant challenge, the profession can be rewarding in many ways. This bartending 101 is meant to introduce you to bartending basics like the duties, the wages, skills needed, and how to start bartending – a promising career opportunity.

Success in bartending begins with a set of solid foundational skills. As a bartender, you are not only expected to mix drinks but also to deal with patrons, all while keeping track of multiple things at once. This line of work requires a mix of organizational skills, technical bartending knowledge, a finesse in time management, and an almost natural way with people.

If you’re looking to launch your own bartending career, this bartending 101 article will help you learn essential bartending basics.

What are the Duties of a Bartender?

Male bartender working at counter while female colleague serving coffee to customer

Good bartenders make their job look easy but the actual work entails adequate presence of mind. Bartenders juggle between a number of tasks besides mixing great cocktails.

The responsibilities of a bartender include:

  • Checking IDs to make sure they only serve alcohol to persons of legal drinking age
  • Mixing and serving drinks
  • Keeping the bar clean
  • Placing food orders
  • Suggesting food pairings
  • Processing payments
  • Conversing with customers
  • Keeping the bar stocked
  • Upselling drinks

How Much do Bartenders Earn?

How much bartenders make will depend on a number of factors such as how long they work in a day, the time of their shift, the location of the venue, and what state they are working in.

Employment sites online estimate the average earnings of bartenders in the United States to be around $21,000 to $32,000 a year. But that estimation presumes that bartenders work the regular 40 hours a week. In reality, bartenders work anywhere between 24 to 80 hours weekly.

It also doesn’t factor in the amount of money they earn from gratuities or tips. Contingent upon the factors stated above, bartenders can make an average of $40 to $1000 per shift in tips alone. Yes, that’s a wide-ranging difference! We break this down in great detail on our How Much Do Bartenders Make page with graphs and tables and a lot of math details.

In truth, it can be a financially-rewarding job for someone who’s willing to learn and put in the work.

What Skills are Needed to be a Bartender?

Drink knowledge, expertise in mixology, and being able to work your bartending gear are all basic technical components of a professional bartender’s repertoire. These are bartending 101 skills that you can learn either by taking bartending courses or by working as a barback (bartender’s assistant).

However, the success of your bartending career extends beyond just learning how to use a jigger.

Perhaps the most useful skill you need to have to be an effective bartender is being able to task switch efficiently. Task switching means transferring your focus from one thing to another simultaneously. It is different from multitasking which is deliberately dividing your attentional resources among multiple tasks.

Another important thing to learn is to stay organized. Keeping your workspace neat allows you to keep track of where things are, which helps you build a system of working around your familiarity with the environment.

And most importantly, it pays to hone your communication skills. Customer service is one of the many hats that a bartender wears at work. Making sure your patrons have a good time is especially key to earning good tips.

How to Become a Bartender?

Bartender is making cocktail at bar counterReading about bartending can only get you so far. The best place to learn is to do the actual work. The best advice from bartending veterans is to get hired as a barback or a bartender’s apprentice. This gives you the opportunity to observe and learn the ropes before you can take on the show yourself.

If you want to build substantial technical and practical knowledge about bartending, you can do so by enrolling in bartending courses in-person or online.

Bartending certification and training programs educate you about pertinent alcohol laws in your state, help you learn the tools of the trade and introduce you to basic mixology techniques.

Ready for the Next Step?

Getting a bartending license is a rite of passage for many bartenders. Although some states don’t require bartenders to obtain a bartending license, most businesses still require their new hires to pass an alcohol awareness training program. You can get yours right now!

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