Becoming a Bartender from Scratch: Tips and Tricks.
Are you interested in learning how to become a bartender in 2022 even if you have no experience? Don't worry, it's not as difficult as you might think. In this guide, we'll share our step-by-step process for becoming a bartender, drawing on our own decades of experience and interviews with three successful bar managers. We'll cover everything from building your bartending skills to establishing the right relationships and finding a bartending job.
But before we dive in, let's address the elephant in the room: what is bartending like in the new reality we find ourselves in? To answer that question, we spoke with Matt Majid, a 17-year bartending veteran, who believes that to succeed in this industry, you have to love it. If you're only in it for the money, you'll never last. With the average age of bartenders dropping, those who are truly committed to a career rather than just a job will stand out and have more opportunities to advance.
Given the current climate, it's essential for venues to have clear house policies that represent their style and size and to remember that they are professionals in their field. While the hospitality industry has been forced to toughen up due to the pandemic, it's still a great tool to have in your toolbelt.
Many individuals interested in pursuing a career as a bartender do not apply for jobs because they don't think they have the necessary experience. However, this is not a valid reason to pass up your dream gig. Following the 9 easy steps we outline below will significantly increase your chances of being hired, even with little to no experience.
First and foremost, it's important to understand what's expected of a bartender. You'll be responsible for setting up the bar, preparing drinks, taking orders, having conversations with guests, and working with your team, among other things. Service can be intense, and you'll need to manage multiple tasks simultaneously.
So, if you're ready to become a bartender in 2022, sign up to receive tips, tools, and recipes to help you become a confident bartender and bring your home bartending skills to the next level.
At the end of your shift, there are a number of tasks that you'll need to complete at the bar. Clean all tools and mats, refrigerate any perishable items, sweep and mop the floor, and thoroughly clean all bar surfaces, especially those that are particularly sticky. After that, cash out, turn off all the lights, set the alarm, and lock up. While you may have support staff or bar-backs to help you with some of these tasks, ultimately you are responsible for ensuring that they get done.
Shifts can vary in length, ranging anywhere from 7 to 11 hours. Because of this, it's important to set goals for yourself in your bartending career. Before simply trying to find any bartending job, take some time to identify what it is that you hope to achieve. By asking yourself a few basic questions, you can gain a better understanding of what kind of bar you'd like to work in and what type of schedule would be best for you.
Consider what aspect of bartending you're most enthusiastic about, whether it's beer, wine, cocktails, or spirits. Each type of establishment will have a unique atmosphere and clientele, making it imperative to choose a setting that aligns with your interests. It's also important to think about what kind of hours would work best for you. Would brunch spots, chain restaurants, and pubs be ideal if you prefer days? Or would you rather work in the evenings at places that are open late into the night?
Earning potential is another key factor to consider. While some bars offer relatively modest tips, others pay their bartenders significantly more. So, it's important to know your financial goals from the outset. This will help you to make informed decisions about what sort of establishment you should be looking for and whether a given position is a good fit for you. Once you're on the job, keep track of your average tips per shift so that you can assess whether or not you're on track to meet your earnings goals.
Assuming a wage of $15.00 per hour for 4 nights per week, you can make $1,200 weekly or $57,600 yearly. However, to increase your income by $22,400 per year, it is advisable to add another shift, improve your current bar or work as a side bartender.
Don't limit your job search to your immediate surroundings, it is possible to secure a bartending job in a different location than where you currently reside. When I moved from Victoria, BC to Toronto, Canada, I reached out via Facebook messenger to two bars that I had pinpointed. By the time I arrived in Toronto, both bars had extended job offers to me.
It is vital to have a clear idea of your desired position in the bartending industry. Do you want to work as a bartender, bar back, bar manager, GM, or even own your bar?
Instead of randomly dropping off resumes, it is wise to have a list of specific bars where you would like to work. This is known as the 10 Bar Hitlist Strategy, which is a more efficient and focused approach to job hunting. You can use a spreadsheet to keep track of your progress.
To make your resume stand out, it may be wise to hire a professional resume writer from sites like UpWork or Fiverr or seek feedback from three people that you respect in the hospitality industry. If you cannot afford to pay for a resume writer, you can use resume templates or use a successful bartending resume as a model. Remember that a well-written resume is a valuable investment that could pay off in the long run.
Clear. Digestible. One Page.
5. Establishing Connections in the Bartending Community
Now that you have done the groundwork by identifying your career aspirations and the type of drinking establishments that fit into your vision, as well as drafting a resume and portfolio that highlights your competence, it's time to pay these bars a visit.
This step is vital, as it can pave the way for a smoother job search in the future. It can also be the most enjoyable one.
To begin with, scour social media to get a sense of the bars you are planning on visiting. This research can also furnish you with interesting icebreakers for when you do visit.
For example, if you wish to work at Canon in Seattle, which ranks sixth on the list of the world's top 50 bars, jot down their website address and familiarize yourself with their offerings.
After this, investigate their social media pages to see if there are events or promotions that you could bring up in conversation.
Better still, initiate contact with them, perhaps by commenting on their posts. This effort can help you build vital relationships with the staff.
When you walk into a bar, remember to follow these tips to establish rapport with the bartender:
- Avoid being demanding when it's clear they're in the midst of a flurry of orders.
- Show genuine gratitude for their service and the drinks they mix for you.
- Ask for their name and find out their background and how long they have worked in the bar industry.
- Throw in a few interesting questions, such as finding out their opinions on the best bars in town or which cocktail is their favorite to mix.
- Be considerate of their time and workload.
- Leave a generous tip and shake their hand before you leave.
If you stick to these guidelines, you can develop meaningful connections that transcend the simple exchange of beverages in a glass.
6. Find a Mentor in the Bartending Trade
As you build relationships in the bar scene, you will come across bartenders who impress you with their skills, knowledge, and experience.
Make use of the opportunity to take these relationships to another level by asking if they can mentor you.
A one-on-one session with a veteran bartender, even if you make a small payment, is sure to flatter them. For you, it's a chance to pick up new skills and establish a solid foundation in the industry.
Showing a willingness to invest in yourself can also be an asset when you go job hunting. Employers prefer candidates who invest in their education and show initiative in advancing their careers.
7. Initiate Effective Outreach Tactics for Bartending JobsHaving identified the bars that captivate you the most, commence interaction with the decision-makers.
Before making face-to-face visits, begin by using the internet.
Amongst my preferred tools are:
- LinkedIn → Usually provides information about the roles and places of work of people who genuinely care about their job in the bars.
- Lusha → A LinkedIn plugin that occasionally unearths personal phone numbers and email addresses.
- Facebook Messenger → Suitable for informal outreach that creates rapport.
Here is an example of a successful cold outreach message using Facebook Messenger that I sent six years ago:
Today, I would abbreviate it a lot, but it still manages a lot of things...
- I started six months before moving. This allowed me enough room to follow up without being bothersome.…
- It is humble…
- There are no expectations...
- I acknowledge the things that I appreciate about them - my 'why' for wanting to work there…
- I mention a personal experience…
- It is self-assured…
These are ideal practices for any form of cold outreach, whether by phone, email, or other means.
The best part? When I arrived in Toronto, I had a work secured for me, without an interview. We only had a conversation to ensure I wasn't a maniac.
When attempting to locate the decision-maker for the bar, the target job titles, in ascending order, are...
Searching for the Decision-Maker in PersonIf you have gotten to the stage of walking up to a bar with no prior notice, bar manager Simon Ogden suggests the following:
- Ask for whoever employs staff for the bar - not the day manager, not the bartender on call, not the restaurant manager (supervised by the bar manager), but the one in charge of hiring staff for the bar.
- If the answer is "they're not here right now," reply with "that's alright, when is a good time to meet them, and by the way, what is their name?"
- Then keep coming back until you meet that person.
8. Start from the Bottom and Work Your Way Up in a Bartending JobIf you are exclusively targeting bars that make you enthusiastic to work for them, you probably don't mind commencing at the bottom.
However, at every stage of your quest for the perfect bartending role, make it clear that you are eager to start at the bottom to learn the modus operandi and progress through the ranks.
The Advantage of Learning Through Staging
My entry into the world of professional bartending began with offering to stage. Staging refers to working without pay in order to gain knowledge and experience, without any guarantee of future employment.
This approach is similar to seeking a mentorship opportunity with a respected bartender, where payment is exchanged for instructional lessons. By volunteering to stage, you demonstrate your willingness to invest in your personal growth and development, as well as your strong work ethic and enthusiastic attitude.
9 Skills to Develop as a Bartender
Contrary to popular belief, the only way to progress in bartending is not by spending all your time behind the bar. In fact, there are several skills that you can improve from the comfort of your own home.
Here are three examples:
You do not need to learn every drink ever created, but mastering these 50 essential classics will provide you with a solid foundation. Try them out at different bars and experiment with making them at home. This will teach you about the composition and texture of cocktails.
Pouring is a major indicator of a novice vs. experienced bartender. Take a look at this video for guidance:
To train at home, you only need empty bottles and pour spouts.
Spirits are the basic building blocks used to create cocktails, yet many bartenders possess little knowledge about them. The following guide can help you get started with understanding spirits:
In addition to technical skills, here are some hard skills and soft skills that are advantageous for aspiring bartenders:
Soft SkillsHard SkillsCommunication SkillsCocktail MakingWorking CollaborativelyPouring LiquorDelegationWine KnowledgeAssertivenessSpirits KnowledgePutting Customers at EaseBeer KnowledgeWelcoming GuestsFood KnowledgeThriving Under PressureBasic Math
These nine steps provide a comprehensive plan for launching your bartending career in 2022:
Special Thanks to the Following Bar Managers for their Advice:
Shawn SooleShawn Soole is a veteran hospitality professional with two successful bars in Victoria, BC, and over 20 years of experience managing bars, from chain restaurants like Moxie's to award-winning craft cocktail bars internationally.
At present, he leads the bar at the well-known Pagliacci's Restaurant in Victoria, British Columbia, and serves as the primary advisor at his Soole Hospitality Concepts management firm.
Are you interested in pursuing a career as a bartender?
Shawn advises, "Overall, personality and work ethic are more important than anything else."
Simon OgdenRegarded by many in the bartending world as a wise magician, Simon Ogden has encountered almost everything in his thirty-year bartending and management career.
From dodging bullets in 90s nightclubs to organizing bartender boot camps that promote community development, Simon is an invaluable source of guidance for the bartenders fortunate enough to work with him.
If you aspire to become a bartender, keep Simon's words of wisdom in mind:
"My hiring philosophy can be summed up by 'hire attitude, train skill,' really. Admittedly, I've encountered bartenders who have absolute and unyielding opinions about the 'correct' way to bartend, and I've found them to be more challenging to work with."
Brant PorterBrant was a determined young man in the hospitality industry who knew he had to take risks to achieve his ambitions.
Growing up in his family's restaurant, he already had many of the skills he needed to advance quickly. At the age of twenty-four, he was named bar manager at Veneto Cocktail Bar & Tapa Lounge, one of Victoria's most prestigious establishments.
If you're considering pursuing a career as a bartender, Brant has some advice:
"Mixing drinks is by far the most straightforward aspect of bartending, so attitude is absolutely critical."
What is the most important challenge you face when learning how to become a bartender? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below 👇 If you'd like to get in touch, feel free to contact me via Facebook.
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