How To Become A Bartender [7 Easy Steps]

how to become a bartender

A bartender is a person who prepares and serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to customers in a bar, nightclub, restaurant, or other establishments. They interact with customers, take drink orders, mix ingredients to create cocktails, serve drinks, and handle payments.

Bartenders must have a strong knowledge of drink recipes and techniques, as well as an understanding of alcohol laws and regulations.

Good bartenders can handle demanding customers and have a good memory for drink orders.

Being organized, having good physical stamina, and being able to work in a fast-paced environment are also essential traits for bartenders.

What Is A Bartender?

A bartender is a person who works in a bar, restaurant, nightclub, or other establishments where alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are served.

The bartender’s role goes beyond just serving drinks. They are responsible for creating a welcoming atmosphere, maintaining cleanliness and organization in the bar area, and ensuring that all drinks are prepared and served to the customers’ satisfaction.

Bartenders must thoroughly understand mixology, which is the art of combining various ingredients to create cocktails.

This requires knowledge of different types of alcohol, mixers, and garnishes and the ability to follow recipes and adjust them based on the customer’s preferences.

Bartenders must also be able to prepare and serve various non-alcoholic beverages, such as coffee, tea, and juices.

How Much Money Do Bartenders Make?

Bartenders’ salaries can vary greatly depending on several factors, such as the type of establishment they work in, their experience level, location, and tips earned.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the median hourly wage for bartenders in the United States is around $12.68.

This translates to a yearly salary of approximately $26,260, based on a 40-hour workweek. However, bartenders who work in high-end restaurants or bars and those who have many years of experience can make significantly more, with some earning upwards of $70,000 or more per year.

Furthermore, the number of tips a bartender receives can significantly impact their overall income.

How To Become A Bartender

how to become a bartender
  1. Get a high school diploma or equivalent.
  2. Complete a bartending program or take online training courses.
  3. Obtain certification in alcohol awareness (e.g., TIPS, ServSafe).
  4. Gain experience through internships or entry-level positions.
  5. Build a strong resume and network with industry professionals.
  6. Pass a background check and meet any state or local bartending license requirements.
  7. Expand your knowledge of basic drink recipes, customer service, and industry trends.
  8. Build a professional demeanor, strong communication skills, and the ability to handle pressure.

Note: Requirements and steps may vary depending on the state and establishment.

Earn A High School Diploma

Though as a bartender, a college degree may be an added advantage, it isn’t a requirement to become a bartender. A high school diploma or GED is the minimum you need to become an effective bartender.

You must not only have a high school diploma but also be at least 18 years old and have attained the required age to drink or handle alcohol in your state or the state where you intend to work.

The legal ages allowed to serve alcohol vary by state; some states allow 16 years plus, while others peg it at 18 to be able to serve in a licensed bar.

Get The Right Certifications

get the right certifications how to become a bartender

Though attending bartending school before becoming a bartender is not required, it is recommended because it will teach you the fundamentals of mixing drinks, crafting perfect cocktails, and serving alcoholic beverages to customers in a safe manner.

Almost 90% of the hospitality schools across the United States offer offline and online bartending programs to those interested in making a career in bartending.

You must be aware that attending bartending schools and getting the necessary certifications doesn’t guarantee job placement, automatically make you a successful bartender in the beverage industry, or make you able to handle a busy night bar, as seen in many cities and neighborhoods.

Bartending schools can also be costly to attend. Most online programs that teach just the basics can cost between $200 and $300. However, if you want to attend a bartending school in person, it will cost about $550 to $600 for a 40-hour course.

The overall decision is yours. as is what you intend to achieve. First, however, start by getting a job in a bar, even as a bar cleaner, or replenishing the bar’s inventory.

This will help you gain experience first. With such knowledge, you can quickly get a bartender job and learn more on the job.

Food Handlers License

A food handler’s license is a certificate that verifies an individual has completed a food safety training program and understands the principles of food safety.

Obtaining a Food Handlers License may be optional for a bartender in all states. Still, demonstrating a commitment to food safety and hygiene is always a good idea, especially if you’ll be handling or preparing food items like garnishes or snacks.

The certification process usually involves a training course and passing an exam that covers topics such as foodborne illness, personal hygiene, and temperature control.

A food handler’s license can make you a more attractive candidate for employment and increase customer confidence in the establishment.

Gain Experience And Work Your Way Up

how to become a bartender gain experience and work your way up

While preparing this article, we spoke with a bar manager who favored real-world bartending experience as a server with excellent bartending skills and a barback over attending bartending school and obtaining certifications.

Experienced bartenders are often favored by hiring managers over certified bartenders.

As previously stated, completing bartending school and gaining certifications doesn’t guarantee a job, but experience as a bartender does.

It would help if you gained experience working in a bar or restaurant, even as a bar staff or dish washing employee. Most people who choose a bartending career path begin as servers or dishwashers in restaurants before moving into a bartending position.

Get A Bartending License If Your State Requires It

A bartender license may be required in your state if you want to work as a bartender. The requirements for obtaining a license vary by state but typically include passing a test on alcohol awareness and completing a certification course.

This license helps ensure that bartenders have the necessary knowledge and skills to serve alcohol responsibly and prevent harm to themselves and others.

To determine if your state requires a bartending license, check with your state’s regulatory agency, such as the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) board or the Department of Revenue.

Once you have confirmed the requirement, enroll in a certification course to learn about alcohol laws, responsible service practices, and drink mixing techniques.

After completing the course and passing the exam, you will receive your bartending license. It is essential to renew your license as needed to maintain its validity. Failing to renew your license could result in fines or other penalties.

Getting a bartending license demonstrates your commitment to responsible service and your ability to handle alcohol safely.

Learn Bartender Lingo

learn bartender lingo how to become a bartender

Bartending is a fast-paced and dynamic profession, so to succeed in this lucrative career, the bartender must communicate effectively with customers and coworkers.

To make this easier, bartenders have developed their own “lingo,” or specialized language, that allows them to communicate quickly and efficiently.

Here Are Some Common Terms Used In Bartender Lingo:

  1. “86”: To discontinue a drink or item from the menu.
  2. “Back up”: To ask for another bartender’s help.
  3. “Cut off”: refusing service to an intoxicated customer.
  4. “On the rocks”: A drink served over ice.
  5. “Up”: A drink served in a cocktail glass without ice.
  6. “Neat”: A straight shot of liquor served at room temperature.
  7. “Floater”: A shot of alcohol added to the top of a drink.
  8. “Chaser”: A drink is taken after a shot to chase away the taste.
  9. “Well drink”: A basic drink made with lower-end liquor.
  10. “Call drink”: A drink made with premium liquor.

Learning these terms can help you understand what your bartender is saying and allow you to communicate more effectively with them when ordering a drink.

Be Patient And Available

how to become a bartender be patient and available

All the bartending skills required to advance in this chosen career path will not develop overnight but rather gradually. You’ll have to work hundreds of hours. You’ll also be made to work the night shift and barback positions.

All these are the steps you’ll go through before you win the trust of the bartender and the bar manager. First, however, there is one thing you must do, and that is to make sure you’re always available whenever you’re needed.

Being patient is the antidote to a successful career as a bartender. If you’re lucky enough to have a bartending mentor, they will teach you the secret of patience while working as a bartender in a liquor shop.

Again, as a bartender, you’re expected to be available and attend to customers even in the middle of the night, especially when you work in a nightclub where you must stay awake all night.

Some nightclubbers can be rude if drunk, but that is part of the work. So you have to be patient and available when they call.

Practice Mixology

how to become a bartender practice mixology

Mixology is the art and science of creating cocktails. To practice mixology, one should follow these steps:

1. Study The Basics:

Learn about cocktail ingredients, ratios, and techniques used in mixology, including mixing, muddling, shaking, and stirring.

2. Gather Equipment:

Invest in basic bar tools such as a shaker, strainer, jigger, bar spoon, and citrus squeezer.

3. Experiment With Recipes:

Start with simple recipes and gradually move to more complex cocktails. But first, try to understand the flavor profiles of different ingredients and how they interact.

4. Practice Techniques.

Perfect your stirring, using a cocktail shaker, muddling techniques, and pouring techniques as these will significantly impact the quality of your cocktails.

5. Taste And Adjust:

Taste your creations and make adjustments as needed to achieve the desired flavor balance.

6. Learn About Ingredients:

Familiarize yourself with different types of alcohol, syrups, bitters, juices, and garnishes and how they can be used in classic cocktails

7. Keep Practicing

Like any art or skill, the more you practice, the better you will become. So continue experimenting with new recipes, ingredients, and techniques to improve your mixology skills.

Get Hired As A Barback

get hired as a barback how to become a bartender

A barback is a crucial bar or restaurant team member responsible for supporting bartenders and ensuring a well-stocked bar.

One of the most common pieces of advice any bar mentor or hiring manager will give you is that you should start as a barback if you want to learn how to be a bartender.

1. Gain Experience:

Consider starting in a different role in a bar or restaurant, such as a server or busser, to gain a solid understanding of the hospitality industry and work your way up.

2. Develop A Strong Resume:

Highlight your previous work experience, customer service skills, and attention to detail. Emphasize any relevant education or certifications.

3. Study The Basics Of Mixology:

A basic understanding of mixology and bartending will give you an edge when interviewing for a barback position.

4. Network:

Reach out to bartenders, managers, and other industry professionals to learn about job openings and build your network.

5. Be Dependable And Punctual:

Arrive on time for interviews and work, dress professionally, and be prepared to work busy shifts.

6. Be A Team Player:

Demonstrate your ability to work well with others, including bartenders, servers, and kitchen staff.

7. Be Proactive:

Offer to assist the bartenders or take on additional responsibilities when needed to show your eagerness to contribute to the team.

8. Be Open To Learning.

Be willing to learn new skills, such as inventory management, ordering supplies, and cleaning and maintaining the bar area.

Following these tips and demonstrating your skills, reliability, and enthusiasm for the job can increase your chances of getting hired as a barback.

Soft Skills Needed To Be Successful

soft skills needed to be successful how to become a bartender

Now that you’re considering a bartender career check out the skills needed.

Here Are The 10 Major Skills A Bartender Should Possess:

  1. Communication Skills: A bartender must communicate effectively with customers, understand their needs, and make recommendations.
  2. Customer Service Skills: Bartenders must be able to provide excellent service to customers and resolve any issues that may arise.
  3. Multitasking Abilities: Bartenders often have to juggle multiple tasks at once, such as making drinks, taking orders, and managing payments from customers.
  4. Attention To Detail: A bartender must be able to mix drinks accurately, follow recipes, and ensure that the bar area is clean and well-stocked.
  5. Time Management Skills: Bartenders must be able to work efficiently and effectively under pressure, managing their time and tasks in a fast-paced environment.
  6. Physical Dexterity: Bartenders must be able to handle bottles, glasses, and equipment with ease and dexterity.
  7. Flexibility: Bartenders must adapt to changing circumstances and be willing to take on new tasks as needed.
  8. Positive Attitude: Bartenders must have a positive and friendly attitude, creating a welcoming and enjoyable atmosphere and making customers happy.
  9. Problem-Solving Skills: Bartenders must be able to resolve conflicts and handle difficult customers with tact and diplomacy.
  10. Alcohol Awareness: Bartenders must be knowledgeable about the effects of alcohol and be able to identify and refuse service to anyone who is visibly intoxicated.

Things That Can Get You Fired As A Bartender

how to become a bartender things that can get you fired as a bartender

There are several actions or behaviors that can lead to termination of employment as a bartender, including:

1. Theft Or Misappropriation Of Funds:

A bartender who steals from the bar, customers, or employers will likely be fired immediately.

2. Selling Alcohol To Underage People

Selling alcoholic beverages to minors or visibly intoxicated individuals. Make sure the customer you’re serving isn’t under the age of 18.

3. Continuing To serve Alcohol To Drunk Customers

If you notice a customer is inebriated or drunk, stop selling alcohol to them. Continuing to sell to drunk customers will get you fired.

4. Drinking Behind The Bar

Inappropriate behavior while on duty, such as drinking behind the bar, harassment, or discrimination, is strictly prohibited.

5. Selling Alcohol After Hours

The sale and consumption of alcohol are strictly regulated in the majority of the United States and Canadian provinces. Violating alcohol laws, such as selling alcohol after the stipulated hours, can get you fired.

It’s important to keep in mind that these reasons for termination may vary depending on the company’s policies and local laws.

Selling Alcohol To Underage Customers

selling alcohol to underage customers how to become  a bartender

Selling alcohol to underage customers is illegal in the United States and can result in serious consequences for both the seller and the customer.

The minimum age to purchase and possess alcohol in the U.S. is 21 years old, and the seller must verify the customer’s age before making a sale.

Penalties for selling alcohol to underage customers can vary depending on the state and the circumstances of the sale but typically include fines, suspension or revocation of the seller’s liquor license, and even criminal charges in severe cases.

To prevent the sale of alcohol to underage customers, retailers are required to check the identification of anyone who appears to be under the age of 30.

Acceptable forms of identification include a driver’s license, state-issued ID card, passport, or military ID. The sale should only be made if the customer has a valid form of ID.

Find A Bartending Mentor

find a bartending mentor how to become a bartender

Finding a bartending mentor can significantly enhance your career as a bartender and help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in this industry.

A mentor can offer guidance, support, and advice on various aspects of bartending, from techniques and recipes to navigating the industry’s business side.

Here Are Some Steps You Can Take To Find A Bartender Mentor:

Network With Industry Professionals:

Attend industry events, conferences, and trade shows, and connect with other bartenders, bar owners, and industry professionals. You can also join industry groups and organizations to expand your network.

Ask For Referrals:

Reach out to your current colleagues and ask if they know any experienced bartenders willing to mentor you. Word of mouth can be a powerful tool in finding a mentor.

Look For A Mentor In Your Workplace:

If you already work as a bartender, consider asking one of your experienced colleagues to be your mentor. Having a mentor who is familiar with your work environment can be especially beneficial.

Utilize Online Resources:

Several online communities, forums, and groups cater specifically to bartenders and bar industry professionals. Participating in these communities can help you connect with potential mentors.

Consider Enrolling In A Bartending School

Bartending schools often have experienced instructors who can serve as mentors to their students.

These schools also provide a structured learning environment and can help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in this industry.

Finding a bartender mentor can significantly enhance your career by providing guidance, support, and advice.

Networking with industry professionals, asking for referrals, looking for a mentor in your workplace, utilizing online resources, and enrolling in a bartending school are all great ways to find a mentor.

Alcohol Sales Hours In The U.S.

alcohol sales hours in the U.S. how to become a bartender

Alcohol sales hours in the United States vary by state and local laws. Generally, alcohol may only be sold at stores between certain hours, with the exception of bars and restaurants, which can serve alcohol during their hours of operation.

In most states, alcohol can only be sold between the hours of 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. at retail stores. However, some states, such as California and Texas, have more lenient laws and allow stores to sell alcohol between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m.

There are also states such as Indiana and Utah that have “blue laws” that restrict the sale of alcohol on Sundays. In these states, retail stores may not sell alcohol before noon on Sundays, and in some cases, not at all.

Local laws and regulations may also limit the hours of sale of alcoholic beverages. For example, some cities and counties may have ordinances that prohibit the sale of alcohol after midnight or before a particular hour in the morning.

It’s important to note that these regulations and laws are subject to change, and it’s always best to check with your local government to determine the current alcohol sales hours in your area.

What Is The Average Bartender Salary 

how to become a bartender what is the average bartender salary

The average salary for bartending jobs can vary widely based on several factors, including experience, location, and the type of establishment in which they work.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for bartenders in the United States was $12.03 in May 2020. The lowest 10% of bartenders earned less than $9.07 per hour, while the highest 10% earned more than $20.49 per hour.

The average bartender’s salary equates to an average salary range of $18,960 to $43,100 for full-time work. However, it is important to note that many bartenders earn a significant portion of their income from tips, which can significantly increase their overall earnings.

In high-end establishments, for example, bartenders can earn hundreds of dollars per night in tips alone.

In addition, the location of the bartender can also play a role in determining their salary. Bartenders in metropolitan areas, such as New York City or San Francisco, earn higher wages due to the higher cost of living and demand for bartending services.

The average salary for a bartender can range widely, but on average, they earn a median hourly wage of $12.03.

Factors such as experience, location, and type of establishment can greatly impact a bartender’s earning potential, and many bartenders earn a significant portion of their income from tips.

Frequently Asked Common Questions

How Long Does It Take To Become A Bartender?

how to become a bartender how long does it take to become a bartender

Becoming a bartender typically takes a few weeks to several months of training, depending on the complexity of the establishment’s menu and the requirements of the state where the individual works.

A Professional Bartender typically undergoes on-the-job training, learning through hands-on experience, observation, and practice.

Some bartenders also attend bartending schools or courses to receive more formal training and certification.

The amount of time it takes to become a bartender will vary based on the individual’s prior experience, aptitude for the trade, and the pace of the training program.

Can You Work Part-Time As A Bartender?

can you work part-time as a bartender how to become a bartender

Yes, you can work part-time as a bartender. Many bars and restaurants offer part-time positions for their employees. As a part-time bartender, you would be responsible for mixing and serving drinks, handling money, and providing excellent customer service.

To become a successful part-time bartender, you must have good people skills, knowledge of different drinks, and the ability to work well under pressure.

On-the-job training or bartending school can provide you with the necessary skills and experience.

How Much Does Bartender School Cost?

The cost of bartender school varies depending on several factors, including the location, program duration, and school reputation. On average, bartending schools can range from $500 to $2,000 for a comprehensive program, although some high-end schools can cost upwards of $5,000 or more.

Additionally, some schools may offer a variety of pricing options, such as part-time courses, weekend workshops, and intensive one-week programs.

Some schools may also offer financing options, such as payment plans or scholarships, which can help reduce the program’s overall cost.

The cost of bartender school can vary widely, but it is important to research different schools and programs in order to find one that meets your needs and budget.

Considering factors such as location, duration, reputation, and pricing options is recommended when choosing a bartender school.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Serve Alcohol?

how to become a bartender how old do you have to be to serve alcohol

The minimum age for serving alcohol in the United States is 21 years old. This means that a person must be at least 21 years old to work as a bartender, server, or in any other role that involves selling, serving, or handling alcoholic beverages. This age requirement is set by federal law and applies to all states in the country.

It’s important to note that there may be variations in the minimum age requirement for serving alcohol in different states or localities. For example, some states may allow individuals who are 18 years old to serve alcohol in restaurants but not in bars.

Additionally, there may be different age requirements for selling and serving alcohol in liquor stores.

It’s crucial for those who work in the alcohol industry to follow the age requirements and to verify the age of customers before selling or serving them alcohol. This helps to reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm and to maintain the responsible sale and service of alcoholic beverages.

The minimum age for serving alcohol in the United States is 21 years old, and it’s important for anyone who works in the alcohol industry to follow the age requirements and to verify the age of customers.

Can You Serve Alcohol At 18?

can you serve alcohol at 18? how to become a bartender

The legal age for serving, selling, and consuming alcohol in the United States varies from state to state, with the minimum age being 21 years old in most states. However, there are some exceptions, such as in the states of:

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island

All these states have minimum ages of 18 under certain conditions.

In general, 18-year-olds may be allowed to serve alcohol in restaurants or bars as a waiter or bartenders, but they are not allowed to sell or dispense alcohol.

Some states also require that they be supervised by someone over the age of 21 while they are working.

It’s important to note that serving alcohol at any age can be dangerous and has serious legal consequences if not done responsibly.

In addition, serving alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated or under the age of 21 is illegal and can result in fines and even imprisonment.

In conclusion, whether or not someone under 21 can serve alcohol depends on the state where they live, and it is important to be aware of the laws and regulations regarding alcohol service in your area.