Want To Become A Bartender?

Everything you ever wanted to know about becoming a professional bartender.

Bartending is one of the most rewarding careers in the modern workplace, both in terms of salary and fun. Find the right job and you'll never dread going to work, and you might even find yourself saying, "I can't believe they pay me to do this, it's so much fun." And you'll make plenty of money along the way, both in tips and actual wages. But many bartenders-to-be don't know where to get started; so if you're wondering how to become a bartender, this article is for you!

Breaking into the bartending business will require two things: Training and Experience. And I'll show you how to get both.

Bartender Training

I'll start with training, because without it you'll never get any experience. Sure there are always exceptions, but it's usually pretty hard to convince someone to put you behind a bar if you don't have plenty of experience mixing drinks and stirring cocktails.

Bartending School

If you're serious about landing a nice gig behind the bar, then you'll need some formal training. Becoming a bartender is no different than becoming any other kind of professional, and there aren't many trades or that don't require some level of specialized schooling. While you probably won't need a college degree in this industry, you will need a "trade" degree, whether it be formal or informal.

A reputable bartending school is your key to a solid "bartending education." Most major cities have several, and many mid-sized cities have at least one. Check your local phone book or search online for your specific are, you shouldn't have any problems finding at least one that will meet your needs.

What makes a good bartending school? For starters, you'll learn how to make pretty much every drink imaginable. Cocktails, martinis, mixers, you name it, they should all be part of the curriculum. And you should learn "hands-on" from a real, experienced bartender who can show you the subtle differences that can take a mixed drink from average to amazing (trust me, those subtleties are important). But the best bartending school should also help you find an apprenticeship or an entry-level bartender job, meaning you'll be getting a leg up on the "experience" side of the equation to go along with your formal bartender training.

Online Bartending School

Can't find a decent school near your home? Or maybe you can't fit class time into your busy schedule? Maybe an online bartending school would fit your lifestyle better?

Thanks to a boom in adult online education, the quality of learning offered by online schools is astounding. Most have figured out a way to work around the early problems of online learning: Lack of face-to-face, hands-on training. Each online bartending school will probably address this issue in a different way, so be sure to ask plenty of questions (via email, usually) before officially enrolling.

Online bartender schools are easy to find, because they're online all you need is an Internet connection and a few minutes to search. All reputable online bartending schools should include a professional website with plenty of testimonials, class information and ways to get in touch with real people.

Home Study For Bartending

While it's not nearly as formalised or prestigious, you can teach yourself how to bartend without attending bartending school. It's generally not advised you go this route, because you won't have anything to show for your efforts (you'll usually get a certificate of completion from a formalized bartender school).

But, if you're self-motivated and can complete tasks without someone pushing you forward, then perhaps this is your best option. It's also nice on the wallet, as bartending schools usually cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, depending on where you live.

If you want to learn on your own terms, you'll need a great cocktail recipe book. I recommend: The Craft Of The Cocktail: Everything You Need To Know To Be A Master Bartender. It includes more than 500 recipes and was written by Dale DeGroff, who has been universally accredited as "The Perfect Mixologist." The guy includes all of his secrets in this text, so you'll actually be learning from a master bartender, unlike the masses of other bartender books (such as "Bartending For Dummies") that contain the same tired, boring cocktail recipes. For about $35 at your local bookstore  (or about $24 on Amazon), it's a steal, and it's the best dollar-for-dollar investment you'll ever make for your career.

Even if you're a seasoned bartender with plenty of formal training you could probably pick up more than $24 worth of nifty tricks out of this one.

How To Get Bartending Experience

Now that you've got some professional bartender training under your belt, it's time to go out and get some real world experience. The nice thing about bartender schools is that they'll often help you find apprenticeships and starter jobs while you're actually going through the program, so when you get out you'll have both training and experience.

But not all of you will be afforded that luxury. So how do you go about finding that first job?

I'm not going to lie, finding your very first bartender job will be the hardest one you find. After you've landed the first one, built up some experience and padded your resume, it'll become easier and easier to find work behind the bar. So how do you get that coveted first gig?

It's a matter of convincing bar owners and bar managers to take a chance on someone with no experience. This is where a fancy bartending school certificate comes in handy, because it shows that you're serious about you career and that you can handle mixing cocktails. But what if you don't have that training, or it's not enough? You'll need to sell you strengths. A good resume should always give any hiring manager all the reasons in the world to hire you. If you don't have experience, explain how your other job or life experiences relate to tending bar.

Sometimes you'll stand a better chance if you offer to work as an assistant bartender for a while. Explain that you'll be a huge asset during the busy times when the fulltime bartenders need extra hands. Then take every opportunity to prove yourself. Remember, sometimes we have to take positions we don't necessarily want in order to get our feet in the door. This is true of any job. Some of the highest paid bartenders (guys and gals who get handed $100 tips all night long) started out at assistant positions, so consider it a "stepping stone."

Now that you know how to become a bartender, what's stopping you from going out there and working towards your dream job?