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How to Become a Bartender (without a Course!)

How to Bartender

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WHY WOULD I WANT TO BE A BARTENDER?

LIFE SKILLS

I have always thought it should be a prerequisite in life to work in the hospitality industry, whether it be as a bartender, waitstaff, server or kitchen hand. It teaches important life lessons – how to work well and interact with others, dedication, commitment and patience. You’re continuously exposed to interactions with both customers and co-workers and can make life long ties through the social aspect of working within the hospitality industry. To this day, I still have very close friendships with people that I’ve tended bar with from over a decade ago.

MONEY

Apart from forming close connections with customers and co-workers alike – it can be a great way to earn a living (of course this can depend on where you live/work). There are so many that use bartending and hospitality work as a way to pay there way through university and their studies. It’s particularly attractive due to a lot of venues being flexible with hours – often requiring weekend work which compliments other commitments such as studying.

TRAVEL

Bartending is a universal trade. When I was 21 I lived and worked abroad for a year which gave me the opportunity to travel throughout Europe for almost half of that time and visited 20+ countries – I had some of my greatest experiences of my adult life. Even if you aren’t the most experienced bartender or can’t recall every drink recipe there is to know, as long as you show confidence and personality, commitment and a willingness to learn, you can create opportunities. Bartending can expose you to a wealth of social interactions, creating life long friendships and connections and paying for your travels is an added bonus.


SHOULD I DO A BARTENDING COURSE?

This depends on where you are located. From what I know, there are great courses and schools in both Europe and the USA due to their strong drink and cocktail culture. We’re a little behind in Australia and a lot of the available entry-level courses are very outdated – still teaching drinks that I’ve never once had requested whilst working as a bartender for 15 years.

EXPERIENCE AND PASSION IS KEY

I learnt everything I know through dedication and a passion for both the industry and the craft of making great cocktails. I believe that on the job experience is the most important factor in making a great bartender.

LEARNING

Before starting as a bartender, learn about cocktails, drink recipes, distilling, brewing, wine making, etc. by reading and soaking up as much information as possible (The Bartender’s Field Manual by Tom Blake is an excellent reference). This will ensure you have more confidence when trying to get a position as a bartender. Knowledge of the liquor industry and the beverages that you will be selling will give you the edge over others that have no experience yet.

Once you are hired as a bartender, continue to expand your knowledge through reading, attending industry events and tastings and find yourself a mentor who will teach you to become a better bartender, how to manage a venue and/or how to mix great drinks (depending on where you want to take your bartending career).


CAN I GET A BARTENDING JOB WITHOUT EXPERIENCE?

Good experience and a willingness to learn are two very important factors when getting hired as a bartender. If you don’t have the experience to get your foot in the door, you’ll need to show confidence and a commitment to learn everything there is to know about the industry. Catch 22, you need the experience to get the position and you need the position to get the experience!

At it’s core, bartending is about offering great customer service and a positive experience. Show that you have a friendly personality, that you can confidently interact with customers and show a commitment to your craft and you’ll be hired in no time!


CAN I EARN GOOD MONEY BEING A BARTENDER?

This depends on where you will be bartending. Some countries offer great hourly rates but minimal tips (ie. Australia) whilst other workers rely solely on tips – this doesn’t provide security but I do like the fact that it creates an environment for great customer service. The better the service you offer, the more money you can make. Here’s a quick estimated break down of bartending pay rates per country:

  • Australia – $20-$22USD/hour
  • Canada – $8USD/hour + tips
  • England – $9USD/hour
  • Ireland – $11USD/hour
  • US – $12USD/hour + tips but total pay varies greatly through different states and from bar to bar
  • Note: tips are not expected in some countries including Australia, England and Ireland

CAN I TRAVEL AS A BARTENDER?

Bartending is probably one of the easiest jobs to travel with. The only thing holding you back is a language barrier in certain countries. Almost anywhere you travel in the world, their will be bars and jobs for bartending positions. There are more seasonal jobs in popular tourist destinations such as summer in Europe, including Italy, France, Greece and Spain, and winter in Canada. The pay may be increased substantially due to high seasons and the fact that the typical holiday maker there will have more disposable income (which is handy for tipping!). There are also year round, more consistent bartending positions in countries such as Australia, the UK and North America.


If you are interested in becoming a Professional Bartender, want to make Great Money, Craft Delicious Cocktails and Travel the World then The Bartender’s Field Manual is a MUST read. After clicking the link, scroll to the bottom of the page to download the first 4 chapters for FREE.

At the time of writing, the manual is ON SALE for a LIMITED TIME (only $29). Use the coupon code “stevesbartenders” for $10 off making it ONLY $19.

Bartenders Field Guide

Disclaimer: The links in this article are affiliate links, meaning that I will receive a commission for any referrals. I highly recommend Tom’s Bartender Field Manual with or without these commissions as it is an in-depth guide and extremely well written. It boasts over 300 pages, 33 chapters, 130+ cocktail recipes and tips for working as a bartender. 

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