How To Become A Bartender With No Experience
6 Steps to Getting into Bartending with No Previous Bar Experience
So you want to be a bartender? Is it because you saw someone bartending and thought it looked cool? Is it because you talked to a bartender and they told you they make a ton of money? Or maybe you just like people?
Whatever your reason, if you’re looking to become a bartender and you have no previous experience, it’s not going to be easy. It can certainly be done; and we’ll talk all about how below… but know that it’s not going to be an easy road.
At this point you might be thinking “how long does it take to become a bartender anyway?”
It’s a simple enough question but the answer is a tad more complex. Technically, to become a bartender, you simply need to be getting paid to bartend. In this context, you can become a bartender right quick as long as you have an “in” at a bar, restaurant or nightclub. Maybe your cousin owns a bar or your uncle owns a restaurant and you somehow convinced them to give you a bartending job even though you have no bartending experience. In this situation, you can become a bartender pretty easily. Now that’s not to say that you’re going to be a good bartender, just that you’ve got yourself a bartending job.
All right, for the rest of you who don’t know anyone who owns a pub, club or lounge, you’re going to have to do it the hard way. And the hard way is going to take a lot of time and effort – first to learn the soft and hard skills of a bartender and second to get your name out there and land a bartending job.
To become a bartender takes determination, dedication and a willingness to start at the bottom and work your way up. At the end of all that working and learning, though, you’ve got a fun, exciting and well-paying job.
If you fall into the no previous bartending experience category, you’re probably looking for a change from the sort of work you’re used to. You want something exciting and fulfilling that will pay your bills and then some, right?
To clarify, “no previous experience” in this case means you don’t have any bar or serving experience of any kind – you are literally starting from scratch.
Before you get started on figuring out how to become a bartender from scratch, take a good long look at yourself. And be honest. Are you shy? Kind of an introvert? Anxious? If so, then you’ll find being a bartender is likely not for you. Bartending requires you to be outgoing, personable and comfortable in a crowded and fast-paced environment, as well as hard-working and driven. Bartending skills and drink recipes can be learned easily, but people skills are a whole other story.
That said, if you still think bartending is the right job for you then read on…
How to Become a Bartender – Step 1: Do Your Research
The first thing you need to do is figure out what kind of bar you want to work at. There are many types of bars—country clubs, banquet halls, hotel bars, taverns, pubs, nightclubs, lounges and so on—and each place has a different feel. So, you need to think about where you would be happy working.
If you are a golf enthusiast, for example, you might like to work at a country club. If you like clubbing (and the kind of music that goes with it), you might like to work at a nightclub. If you prefer rock and roll music or country music, you might like to work at pubs or live music venues that cater to those music genres.
The next thing you need to figure out is what kind of hours you want to work. Are you looking for a full-time job or a part-time one? Are you trying to work around a class schedule? Your answer will influence the kind of establishment you should be looking at. For example, a nightclub will only be able to offer you part-time work, but a country club, a tavern or a pub might have something more substantial.
Once you have figured out what kind of establishment you’d like to work in, make a list of establishments in your area that fit your criteria. You’ll want to start with as large a list as possible. Once you have that list, go out to some of them (no matter what category they fall into) and order a drink.
Remember, you’re not there just to have a good time so bring a notebook and a pen.
Pay attention to the customer service skills and personalities of the different staff you see at the bar. Make note of how they interact with customers, what they say to you when they ask what you want and when they take your payment and return with your change. What do they do when they aren’t busy serving customers? Do they restock supplies? Polish the glassware? Clean the bar? Mop the floor? Entertaining the guests? Write down everything you notice about what the staff does.
How to Become a Bartender – Step 2: Chat up a Bartender
Where better to learn about the ins and outs of bartending than from someone who works on the frontline? Before you head out to the establishments on your list, you’ll want to write down some questions to ask the bartender. Remember not to go to the bar during busy times. If you plan on chatting to the bartender, make sure they have the time do to so. Afternoon between lunch and dinner, might be a good time to visit a bartender who works in a pub. Upon first opening would work well for someone working in a club.
So now that you have a list of places to visit and know when you’re going to go, here are some examples of what you could ask:
- How long have you been a bartender?
- Do you like being a bartender?
- How did you get started?
- Do you have any stories about dealing with really tough customers? How did you handle that situation?
- What do you think are the pros and cons of bartending?
- What’s your best advice for someone like me wanting to become a bartender?
Ask as many questions as you can. If you’ve ever wondered about anything related to bartending, now’s your chance to ask about it!
How to Become a Bartender – Step 3: Start Learning the Necessary Bartending Skills
Now that you know what skills are necessary in bartending, its time to get those skills. The three most important parts of bartending are:
- Customer service
- Pouring skills
- Drink knowledge
The customer service part of the equation has probably already been instilled in you at one of your previous jobs, so let’s concentrate on the other two parts of the equation.
Learn How to Pour
Pouring skills are important. If you don’t know the proper ways to pour beer or mixed drinks, you’ll be an absolute mess behind the bar. This will take practice, but pouring mixed drinks is something you can practice at home. Learning how to pour beer can wait until you have the job (unless you’ve got a kegerator in your house).
In order to practice pouring mixed drinks at home, you’ll need to get yourself a metal pour spout and a jigger. If you prefer to do your shopping in person, a good restaurant supply store should have what you need.
After you get the pour spout and jigger, you’ll need an empty alcohol bottle. Head to your local liquor store, buy a few 26oz bottles of your favourite stuff and throw a party for your friends!
Now that you’ve got empty alcohol bottles, let’s get practicing:
- Fill the empty bottle with water so that you can practice pouring.
- Insert the pour spout into the opening of the bottle.
- Grab two or three glasses and find a flat surface in your house that is between your waist and your chest.
- Put the glasses on your makeshift bar, grab the bottle and place your index finger over the edge of the pour spout.
- Grab the jigger in your other hand and pour one shot. Stop the pour by turning your wrist toward you—this cuts the pour off. When you are comfortable with this action, you can move on to pouring two shots one after the other.
- To pour more than one shot, you may want to have one of your empty glasses in front of you.
- Position the jigger over the glass.
- Pour the first shot, but when you get to about 1 cm (1/3 of an inch) from the top of the jigger, quickly pour the shot into the glass while continuing to pour from the bottle into the glass (this ensures that you don’t over pour as well as it looks to customers as if you’re giving them a little extra).
- Quickly turn the jigger right side up and fill it again.
- When the jigger is full, cut the pour using the wrist motion mentioned above.
- Pour the shot into the glass.
Now you have basic pouring skills on top of your customer service skills and we’re ready to move onto learning drink recipes.
How to Become a Bartender – Step 4: Learning the Drink Recipes
It’s a myth that every bartender needs to know a gazillion drinks to be proficient behind the bar. If you want to know how to become a bartender, at most, you’ll need to know 30 drink recipes. Out of those 30, about 20 of them will be standard drinks and the rest will be local or bar specific specialties and shooters.
Here are the 20 most popular mixed drinks that a bartender needs to know:
- Long Island Iced Tea
- Singapore Sling
- Bloody Mary
- Tom Collins
- Sea Breeze
- Tequila sunrise
- Melon ball
- White / black russian
- Rusty nail
- Blue hawaiian
- Sex on the beach
- Planter’s punch
Note that if you work at an upscale cocktail bar, the above list will likely look a bit different.
Once you’ve memorized the top 20 drink recipes, you’ve got your pouring skills nailed down and you’ve figured out how your previous work experience can be transferred to bartending, it’s time to start preparing a killer resume to help you land that dream bartending job.
How to Become a Bartender – Step 5: Craft your Resume and Cover Letter
This is where you will have to recognize where your strengths lie…or where they don’t lie. Work experience and skills aside, a poorly constructed bartending resume and cover letter can end your chances of getting that job before the manager even finishes reading them.
Transferring Previous Work Experience to Bartending
Now it’s time to figure out if any of the experience, skills and knowledge you’ve gained over your working life are transferable to bartending.
Chances are, you’ll have something to work with:
- Have you ever worked as a cook at a fast food place? You can highlight your ability to work under pressure.
- Have you ever worked as a cashier? You can highlight money handling and customer service skills.
- Have you ever worked as a janitor or hotel housekeeper? You can highlight time management and cleanliness.
Almost any job teaches you something that can be transferred to bartending.
Writing an effective resume and accompanying cover letter can be an art form in itself. A bar manager won’t know how good you are at pouring mixed drinks, or how many recipes you know, by looking at your resume alone. This is what the cover letter is for. Outside of an interview, this is the only way a bar manager is going to get a real sense of what you know, so take your time and make sure your cover letter sums you up perfectly and sells you with the skill of a top-grossing car salesman.
A good start is to mention that you know you don’t have hands-on bartending experience but that you’ve bartended parties for friends and family and you know the top recipes. Being honest right from the start builds a relationship of trust, which is valuable.
Remember when you bought that bottle of booze to practise pouring and threw that party for your friends? That is now relevant experience. Mention that you don’t have experience working in an actual bar but include that you are comfortable behind a bar and would love an opportunity to come in and discuss your qualifications further.
You may also want to mention that you are willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. This says to the bar manager that you are in it for the long haul and have the drive to work for what you want. Many a bartender started as a barback or runner, learning the ropes first before being promoted from within to a bartending position. Barbacks get tipped out and are able to make good money at busy establishments.
Plus, its an excellent way to get experience and to show the bar owner or manager that you’re serious about doing what it takes to become a bartender.
Here’s the thing, though: if you want to be assured of getting a job where you want to work, it might be a good idea to shell out a little moulah and have a professional resume writer create both your resume and cover letter for you. They know all the right catchphrases, how to construct a resume format that suits your desired job. They get paid to know what works when it comes to building the perfect resume and selling you on paper, and what makes a manager throw out the resume before finishing it.
And if you insist on writing your own bartending resume, you might want to look into taking a bartending resume writing course.
How to Become a Bartender – Step 6: Land the Job
Let’s say you’ve dropped off your resume at the top five places on your list. You won’t get very far if the manager or owner does not see the resume, so a day or two after you drop the resume off give them a call. Ask to speak directly to the manager. If they are not available, ask when a better time to call is, and speak to them then.
Mention that you dropped off your resume recently, you’re just calling to make sure they got it, and say that you’d love an opportunity to stop by and discuss the possibility of working there. If the manager says they aren’t hiring, ask them if you could meet with them anyway to discuss what you could bring to the table.
That way, when they are hiring, they will keep you in mind.
It may be difficult to land a job as a bartender right away. It’s going to take time and effort. And you may have to be willing to start at the bottom—say, in the position of barback— and work your way up to a bartending position.
That’s OK, though. That kind of solid work ethic tells the bar manager or owner that you are thinking long-term, and they are going to be more interested in hiring people who will stick around.
Another trick that keeps you in the manager’s mind is offering to work 2 or 3 shifts for free. If you’re confident in your abilities by this point (and you should be), then offering to work a few shifts without pay is a great way to show the manager what you can do and that you’ll be a good fit there, for three reasons:
- It makes you look extremely confident and secure in your abilities, which is valuable in landing a job.
- It also shows that you care about the kind of place you work at and won’t take just any old job.
- The manager or bar owner gets to see how well you will fit in there without having to shell out any money.
By following these six steps, you’ll be head and shoulders above most other applicants – even the ones with previous bartending experience. Bear in mind that bartending is a highly sought-after position, so you’ll likely be competing with a lot of other people to get the job you want. When you win yourself a bar interview, do your best to stand out from the other applicants by dressing properly and knowing a bit about the bar you’re applying at.
Now that you know how to get a bartending job, take a look at these sample bartending resumes to help you create your own bartender resume:
Now go out and get that bartending job!