So You Want To Be A Bartender

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The next in my series of “So You Want to be a …” is Bartender. What could be more fun? Making exotic drinks in a classy lounge setting or an exciting club just like Tom Cruise in the movie “Cocktail.” I used to travel a lot for business and I preferred to eat at the bar. Since I traveled alone, the bar was a friendly, cheerful place and there was always the bartender to talk to. Bartenders make and serve drinks, but it’s not all fun and games.

My husband and I stopped for drinks at a local hotel cocktail lounge after a concert, and the bartenders, both females, were constantly in motion. This hotel is looking for bartenders, and here are seven requirements from the job posting to consider if you are considering a job behind the bar:

1. The night we were in the lounge, there was not an empty seat, the band was playing, and people were standing behind the bar trying to order drinks as well. The bar also has an outside seating area. You have to be able to concentrate, have an excellent memory and be able to multi-task. You have to make and serve drinks quickly, accurately and with the proper garnish. Customers leave their credit cards and “start a tab,” so you have to be organized and work with the other bartenders to make sure that customers tabs are charged correctly.

2. In addition to mixed drinks, you also serve wine. Some people are comfortable ordering wines, but some will ask the bartender, whom they assume is an expert, for a suggestion. To be successful, you need to know your wines and be able to describe their attributes and be able to pair your customer to their preference.

3. The bar is your responsibility, so in addition to serving customers, you are responsible for making the area look inviting. Arranging bottles, cleaning the bar area and tables, washing glassware and keeping the garnishes fresh and available are ongoing tasks.

4. Check IDs. Many bars check everyone, no matter how old you look or how much grey hair you have. You need to be confident without being authoritative when asking for identification. Some people will be flattered, others OK with it, and still others offended and argumentative. If you are uncomfortable with an occasional confrontation, this may not be the job for you.

5. Many bars also have a light menu and snacks. Add server to your job description, with the responsibility of taking food orders, picking up orders from the kitchen, handling special requests and resolving problems.

6. Handling “last call.” The party can’t last all night, especially where there are laws on serving alcohol after a certain time. Good communications and negotiating skills are necessary to close the bar at the proper time. If someone has had a little too much to drink and drive, you need to be aware of the business’ liability and whether you would also be liable should a patron be involved in an accident.

7. The “gift of gab.” Think of the TV show, “Cheers.” You need to be a good conversationalist and a great listener. Making customers feel comfortable and welcome is good for the business and your tips.

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a consultant, blogger, motivational speaker and freelance writer for Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in Training magazine, Training & Development magazine, Supervision, BiS Magazine and The Savannah Morning News. When she’s not writing, she enjoys singing Alto II with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus and helping clients discover what they love and spend their life on it. You can read more of her blogs at and view additional job postings on Nexxt.

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  • Desiree H
    Desiree H
    You have definately covered it all. I was a bartender and a cocktail waitress. It can be fun but not glamorous all the time.
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