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What is a bartender?

Learn all about what a bartender does, how much they're paid, and much more!

What is a bartender

What is a bartender?

Bartenders are multitaskers–they make cocktails, keep bar guests entertained, fulfill drink orders for tables, and work with the rest of the restaurant’s team. Bartenders are expected to be familiar with the flavors of wines, beers, and spirits to describe them to guests.

Bartenders have a reputation for being masters of conversation. They interact closely with bar guests and keep both the conversation and drinks flowing. Mixologists take things a step further, building creative recipes for cocktails that incorporate the bold flavors of spirits with juices, syrups, bitters, and other ingredients.

Bartenders work in lots of spaces–they can work for bars, restaurants, catering companies, venues, cafes, and more. The skills and experience required of a bartender depend on the kind of space in which they’re working.

What are a bartender’s duties and responsibilities?

Bartenders are versatile employees with a range of duties and responsibilities, including:

  • Knowledge of flavor profiles and bartending methods

  • Operating bartending equipment like blenders and shakers

  • Producing juices, syrups, and other ingredients for drinks

  • Knowledge of various wines, beers, liquors, and spirits

  • Knowledge of local laws and regulations on alcohol sales and service

  • Good work ethic for consistent, timely service

  • Excellent interpersonal skills with bar guests

  • Working with a team of bartenders and servers

  • Food safety knowledge, including allergy information to avoid cross-contamination

  • Cleaning and organizing the bar

How much are bartenders paid?

Bartenders make an average of $24,0000 to $47,000 annually in the US. As with other tipped employees, their tips often increase their wages considerably. Experience and the kind of bar or restaurant where one works also factor into a bartender’s wages.

What are the qualities that make a good bartender?

Bartenders are versatile masters of their trade, making consistent cocktails, serving drinks to order, and entertaining bar guests. Most good bartenders are multitaskers, knowing what to prioritize to make drinks efficiently.

At some bars and restaurants, interpersonal skills are highly valued. Bartenders should be able to work with a team of other bartenders and restaurant servers. The pressure behind a bar can get high, so it's important for bartenders to be able to keep a level head.

Bartenders also know when it’s appropriate to check customers’ IDs and when to stop serving customers who become intoxicated. A bartender’s job, and the establishment’s liquor license, often depend on bartenders to know who it is appropriate to serve.

How to become a bartender

While many bartenders learn their skills through on-the-job training, the best way to get hired as a bartender is to take a mixology course. These can be taken online but many cities have bartending schools. Most states also require bartenders to carry a liquor license, which can be acquired by taking a state-sanctioned alcohol serving course.

Many restaurants and bars also expect their bartenders to need very little training. So, if you’re a first-time bartender, you might have to train slowly and work your way up through the ranks of a restaurant.

It’s good to browse job ads online to see who is hiring bartenders in your area. But, the best way to get a bartending job is often to ask the manager of the restaurant or bar where you want to work if they’re hiring. They’ll appreciate that you made the effort to try to land a job there and your application will stand out from the stack.

How to hire a bartender?

Hiring bartenders is about finding the candidate with the right balance of skills and experience for your bar or restaurant. When posting job ads online or interviewing candidates, be specific about the kind of bartending experience you want them to have. From dive bars to high-class cocktail lounges, bartenders’ skills do not always translate from one space to another.

When interviewing bartenders, don’t just ask rote questions about their skills and experience. Lookout for candidates with the right personality to fit your team and location. If you expect your bartenders to make small talk and entertain bar guests,  make notes about how they interact with you and others during the interview process. Verify their liquor license and bartending experience before hiring.

Finally, consider how much training you are willing to provide to new hires and hire bartenders that have reliable references or experience to match that skill level. If you’re willing to train bartenders from the ground up, you’ll have a much larger pool of candidates but you should have to have a dedicated training staff to bring them up to speed.

Bartending is an exciting and challenging job that many people enjoy enough to make a lifelong career. Bartenders get to interact with a lot of people and create delicious beverages. As food service roles go, bartenders have a well-paid and often coveted position.

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