What do bartenders do?
So you wanna be a bartender? OK. Make me three dirty martinis, four margaritas (one frozen, three on the rocks, one with no salt), a black and tan, two pina coladas, a manhattan, a scotch (neat), and seven orange crush shooters.
Oh, and I need those all in less than five minutes. Still sound like a job you might want to do? Then read on.
Bartending can be a great job. You get to laugh, joke and have fun with people who come to you to have a good time. You make a few drinks, chat with people and maybe even get to dance a bit. Almost all bartenders are extroverts who don't mind being the center of attention - but you've got to have a long fuse, especially with people who have had a bit too much to drink.
Different types of bartenders:
Show bartenders are the kind you think of when you think of the movie "Cocktail." There is a lot of bottle flipping, tossing and even setting things on fire. Show bartenders typically work in large restaurants and are frequently found in Las Vegas or at resorts.
Educated bartenders (who have extensive knowledge of wines, scotches, whiskeys and bourbons) can work at high-end restaurants or specialty shops, pairing foods with drinks and recommending $100 cocktails.
The average bartender, though, works at a restaurant or bar. You'll be required to quickly make drinks for your guests, serve food and make drinks for the servers to serve to their guests.
Bartending isn't all fun and games. Every so often a person will vomit, and you may be the one cleaning it up. If you're a girl, you will get hit on by drunk guys - and it won't always be pretty. Guys, you too will have your fair share of girls flirting with you, which I promise is not as fun as it might sound. People will grab your arm as your working to get your attention, causing you to spill drinks. You will have bar patrons yell at you for not putting enough alcohol in a drink, others who tell you you're making their drink wrong and many who won't even tip you at all.
You have to be able to tell people "no" and mean it. If someone has had enough, you have to stop serving them, make sure no one else serves them and deter them from driving. Not only can you be held legally responsible if they cause an accident, but stopping someone from hurting themselves or others is the right thing to do. You absolutely cannot serve anyone who is underage. Law enforcement officials routinely hire teenagers to come into bars. If you serve them, don't check their IDs or don't recognize a blatantly fake ID, you will lose your job, if not go to jail.
As fun as bartending can be, it comes with some very serious responsibilities. Bartenders are on the frontlines of what can sometimes be a brutal world. You will see normally nice men and women showing the ugliest sides of themselves. If you ever witness a domestic situation, someone attempting to drug another person or someone taking advantage of someone who has had too much to drink, it is your responsibility to step in. If you can't stomach it, then don't become a bartender.
How much do bartenders make?
Depending on where you work, you can make up to $14 an hour - and that's before tips! But on average, bartenders make $9 an hour. You'll also receive tips from your customers and depending on the restaurant, you might even get a tip out (a percentage of the tips the servers get from their tables).
On a busy Friday night, you can walk out with a few hundred dollars in your pocket (unless you work alone, you'll split the tip jar with your fellow bartenders) on top of the check you'll take home later. On a slow night? Well, let's just say it's a good thing you make $9 an hour.
What are the education requirements?
Depending on where you want to work, none. Many restaurants don't mind hiring an aspiring bartender and training them. It never hurts to do a little research on your own before applying to bartender jobs. Buy a bartending recipe book ("Mr. Boston: Official Bartenders Guide" is a great place to start) and start testing out your bartending skills on your friends.
If you aspire to tend bar in an upscale restaurant, you should consider attending a mixology school. Bartending school will give you the knowledge you need to snag a job at a place where you'll have to know the difference between a bottle of a prohibition-era Macallan re-bottled in 2002 and a Macallan 12-year scotch (what's the difference? about $54,000).
Career paths for bartenders
After improving on your beer pouring skills (and yes, there is a right and wrong way to pour beer) you'll work your way up to the coveted weekend shift - that's where all the money is. After that, you can either work your way into a management position or find a more upscale or better paying place to tend bar.
The future of bartender jobs
According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), the bartending industry is expected to grow at a rate of 10 percent of the next decade. This is about average for all jobs in America.
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