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Drink · November 23, 2015

How to Become a Bartender

First, Know What You're Getting Into

Despite how it may seem, bartending is rarely as fun as it looks from your side of the bar. Shifts can often run from 10-12 hours with few or no breaks, not to mention the hours of prep work and cleaning involved. A good bartender has to be quick with numbers, patient with people, and able to stay cool under pressure, with a good mind for balancing quality with speed. In short, if your primary motivation is a desire to pick up chicks, you might want to reconsider.

Study Up

No matter how many martinis you've mixed for yourself at home, you'll want to brush up on your skills before venturing into the wild. The most straightforward path is a bartending school, which is also the only way to get a bartending certificate (a requirement in certain states).

However, many professionals argue that schools are an expensive waste of time, especially since many curricula are out-of-touch with modern bartending. If you don't need a certificate, you're better off buying a book: The Craft of the Cocktail and the PDT Cocktail Book are two great places to start; they'll help you memorize a handful of recipes and preparation methods.

Make Friends in the Industry

Like most modern professions, success in the world of bartending often comes down to networking. Once you've got the chops to seek out a position, try making friends with the barkeeps at your favorite watering holepreferably at a quieter hour when you can have a conversation. The right contact can be a wealth of helpful information: Anything from great drink recipes and career advice to tips on potential openings.

Stay Humble

At the end of the day, even the most promising neophyte has to start at level one. If you're serious about pursuing the craft, no job is too low-brow: A role as a bar back is a great opportunity if you're starting with no experience, and slinging drinks at a dingy sports bar is certainly better than nothing. With any luck, you'll pick up the right skills (and meet the right people) to earn your bow tie and vest in no time.

Here are a few bartending tips and tricks you'll want to learn as you master the craft:


Nathaniel Nagy

Copywriter, cold brew advocate, purveyor of handcrafted birthday haikus since 2009.