Being a bartender can be great fun. You meet interesting - often cheerful- people, can get up late, and have a chat while working. But once you take a closer look, there's a lot more to it. Everyone who worked in hospitality, no matter if it's behind a bar, as a waitress or waiter, receptionist, you name it, knows it is not all sunshine and rainbows. And it's far from being easy-going.
While you definitely can have a good time working in a bar, it can be very stressful. When it's busy, you can't just take a break - sometimes not even to go to the bathroom because not every guest is understanding and patient. And if you consider relieving a bit of that stress with the occasional drink for yourself, keep in mind that it is not always allowed to drink during working hours behind the bar.
On top of that, it's not just pouring juice, mixing some spirits, or drawing a beer. That's why you can't just decide to apply as a bartender without proper training or decent experience. And often needed certifications or proof of successfully completed bartender courses is required.
To become a master mixologist, you need to educate yourself on how to mix drinks. Plus, you need to learn and optimize your recipes, balance out flavors, and many more things. And that's still only one part of the job. You also have to make sure you treat your customers well, have a chat with them, realize when it's time to cut them off, et cetera, et cetera.
How much money bartenders make
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS, the average annual salary a bartender earns is $24,960. That equals about USD12.00 per hour for a 40h work week. Numbers for top earners are indicated at about $40,000, which makes roughly $19.34 per hour.
- Due to the pandemic, the hourly wage dropped from USD12.30 to USD12, so hopefully, the industry will recover quickly and average wages will increase again.
At first glance, this might not sound super appealing to some. But those are the official numbers only, don't let them fool you. The BLS only tracks what's on the paycheck. It has no way to get insight on tips a bartender gets. And tips are the thing that can lift your salary to $100,000 per year and higher.
So yes, being a bartender can be quite lucrative. Even more, if you're experienced and work at the right place. Busy nightclubs, trendy bars, and fancy, elite places with many customers are the best chance to reach those high tips. As everyone knows, these jobs are highly competitive. So you have to have some good references to land a job like this.
How do I become a bartender with no experience?
Many barkeepers around the world learn everything while working in a bar. They start at the very bottom and work their way up. Learning by doing is absolutely crucial in this field, and you can't start early enough to learn everything you need to know. Either learn at home, work as a barback to learn from pros, or take a course.
There are so many technical things to educate yourself on, like a pretty garnish, handling a shaker, pouring a drink without making a mess, etc. Not to mention the show parts like throwing bottles or mastering the art of creating your own cocktail with your signature flavor. You definitely won't master them right from the beginning.
Why you need to study bartending
As most places require prior knowledge and experience if you want to start as a barkeeper, it makes sense to consider taking a course to learn the basics. There you will learn how to use the tools and how to mix your drinks fast and efficiently. You can also acquire these skills as a barback without taking courses, but it speeds things up when you take a course upfront. That way, the learning curve on the job will be much, much faster.
A bartender course
First and foremost I believe, it is the best way to learn the bartending basics is through a bartender course. You'll learn all the basics to mix great cocktails: different spirits, measuring ingredients, the importance of ice, and so on.
You will also learn a lot about your bar tools and how to handle them. For example, how you open a cocktail shaker when it's stuck. There are many different courses on the market, so make sure you choose one from a reliable source.
Can I learn bartending online?
It's a definite "yes you sure can" from me. Online bartending courses are getting more and more popular. In my opinion, it's a great choice if you really want to get into this field and have little to no experience, especially if you don't have the time or the financial resources to do a course in person.
When attending an online course, you can set the pace and learn all the little things about creating delicious cocktails. Learn how to cut fruits, press juice, strain drinks, open & close shakers, and much more. And, of course, you need to stock up on some essential cocktail ingredients for your home bar.
Are online bartending courses worth it?
Generally, I would say yes. There are some bad ones for sure. And also those that are terribly overpriced, but there are many good courses out there. If you're at the beginning of your bartending career and take this seriously, an online class might offer the best value for money.
The prices are mostly reasonable, and the course material is usually good. You'll be able to learn almost everything you need to know to become a great bartender. And once you know the theory, it's all about practice.