I decided to get into bartending and had no drink-making experience. The first thing I tried was a course at bartending school. The experience wasn’t that helpful, we practiced with colored water, and water doesn't mix or layer the same as real alcohol. A cheaper route would have been to buy the alcohol and mix the drinks at home, that way you can actually taste what you are making so you have an idea of what it is suppose to taste like. Most of the information can be read in a book or found online. Most serious bars don’t care if you have a bartending certificate.
I applied for a bartending job at the Copper Hen. Since I had no previous bartending experience, they offered me an entry-level position as a Food Runner, with the potential for advancing into a Bartending Assistant and eventually bartending. After working there for four months, I started reminding my manager that I had my sights on bartending, and when a position opened up, they decided to give me a shot. I tried to make up what I lacked in bartending experience with being helpful around the bar and restaurant. Eventually, the more you do, the more you learn.
My goal was to be good at bartending and become a vital asset to the restaurant. I made myself as helpful as possible and offered to do any extra jobs to help support co-workers. Anything I could do to help the manager, I would do it. When I started bartending, the restaurant had no bar manager. I could see a need for standardized employee training, and having consistent expectations of how each bartender makes drinks and maintains the physical space behind the bar. I let the manager know I was interested in making improvements, and I would like to become the bar's manager. That position didn't exist yet, so they weren't open to the idea initially. Still, I was already assuming extra duties, after a month or two, they offered me the position and increased my salary.
I work as a bartender and bar manager at a Craft cocktail bar and restaurant in Minneapolis. My workday begins at 7:00 a.m. I make sure the bar area is clean, organized, and all the equipment works properly and is ready to go. Alcohol, drink mixes, garnishes, and ice are all replenished for the day. If it's a day where we offer brunch, I'll put out the alcohol and mixes for specialty drinks, like Mimosas and Bloody Marys. We also host special occasion parties and wedding receptions, so I make sure we have all the requested drinks and supplies.
If I'm not bartending myself, I oversee the bartenders working and help the restaurant manager make sure the restaurant operations run smoothly. On slower days of the week, I'll meet with reps from liquor companies or local microbreweries to try out new specialty drinks we might want to carry and place orders. We close at 9:00 p.m. (which is on the early side for a bar) Everything needs to be cleaned and put away, basically in reverse order of how I prepare the bar at the beginning of the day.
Some of my responsibilities as a bar manager include: assisting with hiring and training new bartenders, resolving employee issues and disputes, reprimanding bartenders that aren't performing well, and regularly attending manager meetings to brainstorm ways to improve operations.
It's fun crafting new specialty drinks. I experiment with new combinations of flavors to be featured seasonally. I'm very social, and I enjoy getting to know the customers and creating a great dining experience.
Trying all kinds of drinks and spirits. Getting to create different cocktails and watch people enjoy them.
Your job is to create a positive experience for the customers. If you're shy and find it hard to be social or don't think you'd enjoy talking to strangers all day, don't become a bartender. You need to have the right temperament. A sensitive or moody bartender won’t be successful. I've worked with employees like that, and it creates a horrible environment for customers and co-workers. Also, a bartender needs to clean and have organizational skills. You can't be messy in an eating establishment where you're serving food and beverages.
The easiest way to become a bartender is to start as a barback. Otherwise, it’s easy to get a job as a food runner or hostess; any entry-level position is a great way to get your foot in the door. Be as helpful as possible and take on extra duties anytime you can. That's the best way to move up in a bar/restaurant.