Being new at bartending can be a scary time. With multiple people moving quickly behind a confined space and hundreds of recipes to remember, it can become overwhelming quickly.
It is important to stay calm and keep your eyes open. Try to learn everything you can from the more seasoned bartenders and you will do fine.
Here are some bartending tips for beginners to help you get started:
1. There is always more to do behind the bar
It doesn’t matter if it is your first day as a bartender or you are a seasoned veteran, there is always more to do. If you can’t find anything to do, ask your manager or one of the veterans of the bar what you should be working on.
Pro tip: If there is nothing left to do behind the bar and you work in an establishment that has a kitchen, ask the servers or kitchen staff if there is anything you can do. This will make you a respected and admired employee, making it easier to ask for help when you are overwhelmed.
2. Glass Will Break, Drinks Will Spill
Working in the fast paced environment of bartending, it’s inevitable that a glass will break and drink will spill. The most important thing is to clean it up quickly and efficiently.
It is important to remember is that if a glass breaks you should tell the guest not to try to clean it up themselves
If the glass breaks near the ice well, it is necessary to remove ALL of the ice and replace it with new ice.
3. Keep the Bar Clean
This relates to number 2 above, keep your work area clean.
When the bar gets really busy, it will be easy to fall into the trap of taking shortcuts…
Tossing menus behind the bar, not wiping surfaces, not washing dishes, etc.
It is important to keep clean habits regardless of how busy the bar is. Not only will the bar be a safer place, but customers will feel better drinking at a clean and tidy bar.
4. Know How to Pour Alcohol
Knowing how to pour properly is a skill that managers and customers alike will love.
Managers will love that you don’t pour too much alcohol, in turn costing them money…
And customers will love that you don’t under-pour their drinks.
Here is a great video teaching how to do a 4 count free pour.
5. Be an expert of drink recipes
Customers in a bar are often looking to you for your expertise. It is important to have an extensive knowledge of the menu in your bar. Know what spirits and other ingredients are in each drink.
But remember, people will often order drinks that aren’t on your menu, and it is important to have a broad understanding of some of the more popular drinks.
Study the classics and practice them. Your customers will appreciate your knowledge and will tip you well accordingly.
6. Be a professional
You may be just trying to pay the bills, or make your way through college, but it is important to be a professional in a bar. You will be surprised at the kind of people that will sit down in your bar to have a drink.
Many of them could have opportunities for a hard working and courteous employee. People will also tip better when they know they are dealing with a professional.
Which relates to…
7. Know How to Talk to Your Customers, but Keep your conversations short
As a new bartender, it is easy to fall into the trap of spending too much time talking to a single customer. Often customers don’t realize they are holding you back, and it will cause you to fall behind in your duties.
Simply tell a guest that you need to do something and you will be right back. If that doesn’t work, you need to break a conversation. Your best bet is to walk backwards while continuing to talk to the guest until the conversation slows and ends.
Be sure to come back to the customer at some point though and re-engage. You can also try to engage the customer with another person at the bar so that they have someone else to talk to.
8. Stay out of the way of other bartenders
When you are a new bartender, and the bar begins to get busy, make sure you arent a hinderance.
A busy bar can be an overwhelming experience, but it is a great time to watch and learn from the seasoned bartenders.
Often bars are tight and it is important to be aware of the space you are taking up. Since you are new, and you dont know the protocol it is best to watch and learn. Ask the bartenders what you can help with and stay busy.
Bartending is an amazing skill to have, but it can often take a bit of time to learn. Keep your eyes open and stay busy.
As you get more comfortable, you will begin to get into a groove.
The tips above are a great place to start in your bartending journey, but if you want some more hands on experience before stepping into a bar, we suggest this Bar Basics course from A Bar Above. In it you will begin to better understand cocktail ingredients and learn how to cocktails at home. We suggest it to every beginning bartender. Check it out here.
Give it some time, try not to get overwhelmed and the next thing you know you will be a professional behind the bar, raking in the tips.
Devin Scott says
I love how you mentioned that you should keep your conversations short when working as a bartender. My brother is looking to get his liquor license so he can become a bartender. I’ll let him know that he should learn how to keep conversations short when he gets his liquor license.
Liquor license, or certified to serve alcohol? I’m certified to serve for 3 years. How is your brother coming along?