How to Become a Bartender: 14 Tips from seasoned pros

How to Become a Bartender: 14 Tips from seasoned pros

So you want to become a bartender?

Working as a bartender can seem exciting and alluring to the uninitiated. But only some have the physical stamina, the ability to prioritize, and the people skills to meet the demands of this job, night after night.  

We sat down with industry experts Stuart McGuire, David Tody, and Kevin Thiel to learn how to become a bartender and progress in this career. 

If you’re considering becoming a bartender, here are 14 tips for setting you up for success.

How to Become a Bartender: 14 Tips from seasoned pros

We’ve divided this advice into work experiencetechnical bartending knowledge, and people skills.

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Professional experience

There are many things to remember when considering embarking on a career as a bartender or learning on the job. 

  1. Do not follow specific training to become a bartender.

While taking classes isn’t necessarily detrimental to your bartending career, it rarely gives you the skills and knowledge you need to succeed. 

According to the professionals we interviewed, your success largely depends on your experience. The school can teach you techniques (like standard pouring) and ratios for certain cocktails, but you won’t need to learn how to handle a full house on a Friday night. 

You can also participate in events such as the Nightclub & Bar Show, where you can get in touch with experienced professionals, learn from them or attend practical mixology workshops.

  1. Start as a bartender or waiter.

The three people interviewed for this article favor hands-on experience as a waiter or bartender rather than training as a bartender. 

“A person interested in bartending should first become a cocktail or food server to learn and understand the indoor beverage business,” says Stuart McGuire, vice president and managing partner of Wolf Spirit Distillery in Eugene, Arizona. Oregon. “The next progression I would like to see is to the clerk, followed by a service bar position before moving into a full bartending role. »

Kevin Thiel, a bartender at a busy Chicago sports bar, cut his teeth as a bartender and server before becoming a full-fledged bartender. This experience introduced him to bar patrons and cash register software, which helped him to level up as a bartender.

“It makes the transition between the two positions easier,” he says. “When it came time to train [as a bartender], my transition time was significantly shorter than someone who hadn’t received any training beforehand. »

David Toby, now beverage manager of Jack Allen’s Kitchen and Salt Traders Coastal Cooking, also started as a clerk when he was 18. “I was learning the skills of bartenders already at the top of their game,” he says. “At 22, I fell in love with the industry and bartending profession. »

Subsequently, he became General Manager and Director of Beverages, accumulating new knowledge about operations and the restaurant industry.

  1. Get the right certifications.

Although not all countries require bartenders to be certified, you should know the local laws. 

Learn more — The complete checklist for opening a bar

  1. Be ready to move

Even when not physically moving their feet, bartenders rarely have time to sit down and take a deep breath. These moves can lead to work-related injuries if you’re not careful. 

Be sure to exercise, stretch, and take care of your body. Also, consider investing in non-slip shoes. Even if your establishment’s rules do not require wearing them, they can prevent you from injuring yourself and causing customers or colleagues to fall. 

Prioritization is also essential, especially in busy environments. “Make sure you’re constantly moving with a purpose, but never come across as messy or out of place,” adds Thiel. 

  1. Protect your customers

In addition to mixing drinks and cashing customers, bartenders must monitor their surroundings for potential problems.

Bartending training covers strategies for preventing intoxication, underage drinking, and drink-driving. 

“You always want the bar to be a place where everyone is welcome and comfortable,” says Thiel. “We try to de-escalate the situation as soon as possible by interacting appropriately and staying on the lookout if a customer becomes unruly.”

In the age of #MeToo, customers or other employees may also need help dealing with unwanted advances. Some bars now use an “Angel shot” codename when a customer needs help, whether ordering a taxi, kicking out the attacker, or calling the police.

“I’ve been in the situation where a client has asked me to review a situation or keep tabs on something,” Thiel says. “That’s when you use your customer service skills and ensure everyone is having a good time. »  

  1. Avoid bad habits 

Bar workers often like to relax together and have a few drinks (or more) after a long day at work. This kind of camaraderie can be beneficial in moderation, but Toby warns that any excess can have harmful consequences.

“It’s important to know where to draw the line and to live your life on your terms,” he says. “Have fun, but not too much; otherwise, it can negatively affect health and relationships, and even your job. Balancing work, social life, school, family, growth goals, and personal health is important when brooding during the long late hours of a bartender’s daily life. » 

Technical knowledge related to the profession of bartender

As a bartender, your potential for success depends on your versatility and knowledge. 

  1. Learn to mix and measure

As you progress from clerk or waiter to bartender, you must learn to concoct drinks and measure liquids precisely. “For a standard entry-level bartender job, most of the basic knowledge and technical training can be learned on your own through online resources,” says McGuire.

  1. Be versatile and competent.

If you only know how to mix classic cocktails like an Old Fashioned or a Pimms Cup, you’re limiting the types of establishments you can work at. Imagine a customer asks you for a Hugo Spritz, and you need to know what it is and how to make one. You must be able to prepare as many types of cocktails as possible to expand your possibilities of working as a bartender.

Customers also expect bartenders to be an encyclopedia of knowledge. Suppose they ask you for a recommendation from the cocktail menu. In that case, you need to understand the flavor profiles and composition of the cocktails or drinks well enough to suggest a drink that matches their preferences.

  1. Know bartending lingo

Neat, dirty, on the rocks, shooter, jigger – do you know what that means? If not, it’s time to brush up on your bartending vocabulary. 

Social skills

Social skills (or “soft skills”) are an important element of the bartending profession. You must balance preparing drinks, conversing with customers, and creating a friendly and approachable atmosphere. 

  1. Be Social

Along with their knowledge of cocktails and the bar’s wine and beer list, bartenders should also have excellent people skills

According to Thiel, it’s important to “[interact] with customers at the right pace and [build] a rapport with them at the bar. To succeed, you must be able to serve people who seek little or no interaction and understand how to have a conversation [with others] and evolve throughout the service. » 

  1. Master multiple tasks at once

The ability to multitask under pressure is essential to becoming a bartender. To succeed, you’ll likely need to handle multiple drink orders simultaneously while socializing with customers and ensuring the bar is clean and presentable. 

Lightspeed’s mobile checkout software makes it easy to multitask and serve bar customers with its ability to take orders, make payments, and manage bills quickly. When it comes to multitasking, speed and precision are a must. 

  1. Be specific 

As mentioned above, accuracy and precision are essential to being an accomplished bartender. You need to be able to make many drinks quickly without sacrificing quality.

For a bar or restaurant to remain profitable, the cost of goods sold (COGS) must stay within budget. The bar manager might show him the door early if a bartender constantly spills drinks because he’s rushing (or trying to earn extra customer tips). 

  1. Be humble

As a bartender, your job is to serve others and to do it well. It’s not about you or how you can make a drink flashy; it’s about how customers feel, how friendly your service is, and how good your cocktails are. 

Focus on your customers’ needs and deliver an amazing, personalized experience – this mindset should be at the core of any great bartender. 

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  1. Be realistic

Understand that becoming an experienced bartender doesn’t happen overnight. You have to work at it consistently and work your way up. 

It’s rare for a newbie bartender to get a top job, like a Friday or Saturday night, because more experienced employees often want those busy jobs and the tips that come with them. 

Hone your skills during quieter nights, so you’ll be ready when you can prove yourself during a busier time. “Once you’re behind the bar, someone will want to have a Saturday night or a holiday free,” says Thiel. “Someone will have to take over.” 

Becoming a bartender: experience and know-how take precedence over skills.  

Keep the tips outlined in this article in mind as you pursue a career as a bartender, and remember that experience is the best teacher. 

Climb the ladder, learn from your peers, and look for opportunities to learn new skills. Over time, you’ll develop the skills you need to work in any establishment and succeed as a bartender. 

How to Become a Bartender: The Ultimate Guide to Excelling in the World of Cocktails and Mixology

Are you fascinated by cocktails, service, and the warm atmosphere of bars? Becoming a bartender could be the perfect career for you. This article will take you step-by-step to help you achieve your dream of becoming a bartender. Discover the necessary skills, possible training, tips for success, and the different specializations in this exciting profession.

Discover the profession of a bartender.

The profession of bartender encompasses several skills and specializations. Beyond preparing and serving drinks, a bartender must know the basics of mixology, flair bartending, and spirit tasting.


Mixology is the art and science of creating cocktails. It encompasses knowledge of ingredients, preparation techniques, and presentation of beverages. Mastering mixology is a key skill for a bartender. 

flair bartending

Flair bartending is a discipline that involves juggling bottles and bar accessories to create spectacular cocktails. This specialization can bring a real plus to your bartending profile and attract customers’ attention. 


The barista is a professional specializing in the preparation of coffee. Although not directly related to the bartender’s job, some barista skills and knowledge can be useful for a bartender, especially in preparing coffee-based cocktails. 

The skills and qualities required to be a bartender

To succeed as a bartender, it is important to have certain skills and qualities, such as:

  • Sense of service: The bartender is a service professional, attentive to customer needs, smiling, and available.
  • Physical resistance: A bartender’s job can be demanding, especially during busy periods. Good physical stamina and the ability to work under pressure are essential.
  • Creativity: A good bartender must demonstrate creativity and innovation to create original and surprising cocktails.
  • Knowledge of mixology: Mastery of techniques and ingredients is essential to prepare quality cocktails.
  • Communication: The bartender must be able to communicate with customers and the bar team to ensure smooth and pleasant service.

Training and Qualifications to Become a Bartender

There is no single training course to become a bartender, but several paths are possible to acquire the necessary skills. Here are some options:

Professional training: Several training centers offer courses dedicated to the bartender profession, where you will learn the basic techniques, mixology, and management of a bar.

CAP and Bac Pro: Diplomas such as the CAP Restaurant or the Bac Pro Marketing and Restaurant Services can give you the basics of the profession and facilitate your professional integration.

Specialized schools: Schools dedicated to bar trades offer quality training recognized in the industry, such as the European Bartender School or the French Barman School.

Once you’ve gained experience and developed your skills, it’s time to build your reputation and grow your career:

Use social networks: Social networks are a great way to promote your work, share your creations, and make yourself known to a large audience.

Attend professional events: Industry trade shows, conferences, and workshops are great opportunities to meet other professionals, exchange tips and ideas, and expand your network.

Start as a freelance mixologist: To gain autonomy and freedom, you can consider working as a freelance mixologist. You will be able to choose your missions and diversify your experiences.

Tips for succeeding as a bartender

Here are some tips for excelling as a bartender:

  • Practice regularly: As with any job, practice is the key to success. Practice making cocktails, juggling bottles, and developing your style.
  • Be on the lookout for trends: Stay informed of news and trends in the bar world to offer original and fashionable creations.
  • Cultivate your network: Participate in events, competitions, and professional meetings to exchange with other bartenders and enrich yourself with their experience.
  • Be curious: Do not hesitate to explore new techniques and ingredients and draw inspiration from other cultures to enrich your know-how.

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