I decided to make the topic of how to become a bartender with no experience one of my first posts because I get asked this question all the time. People are always looking for bartending jobs for a number of reasons, but they feel intimidated because they don’t have experience. I’m here to tell you how to get a job no matter how much or how little experience you have.
Bartending Myths Exposed
One great myth about getting a bartending job is that you have to be certified. Not true. I’m not knocking these schools, I’m sure they can be a great deal of help, but when people ask me I tell them the truth, I’ve never taken one. I’ve worked everywhere from four star resorts to hole-in-the-wall gin joints. This leads me to the first, and often the most effective way, to get a bartending job with no experience. Just get a job in a bar or restaurant. This was my way in. I had been working in a country club for a year when I was 20 years old. A bartender went on vacation and I volunteered to take some of his day shifts. They were shifts that started at 10 o’clock in the morning, they didn’t make much money and therefore no one really wanted them. I was more than happy to fill in. This was my gateway and it changed my life. When the bartender who went on vacation came back, I continued to bartend and I haven’t gone back to be a waiter since. This story leads me to my point.
There are lots of positions you can take in a restaurant or bar that will lead to a position. Don’t get me wrong, I know there was a lot of luck in my situation but it happens. People call in sick and no call-no show all the time. Step up to the plate and show your boss that you’re the man, or woman, for the job. If being a waiter isn’t your thing, it wasn’t mine, I hated it, try bar-backing. If I had to be a waiter for one more week I probably wouldn’t have ever had a career change. But bar-backing is the best way to get a bartending job. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how many bar-backs I hired to be bartenders. I would tell my manager that they need and deserve the chance. Bar-backing is also a great way to get to the know the bar. You won’t be dealing with the customers as directly but you will certainly be busy. Its not an easy job, you have to hustle, but just like bartending you will make great money. There have been nights when myself and three other bartenders would tip out the bar-back and they wound up making more money than we did. In short, get out there and get your foot in the door.
Something else I always here as to why people don’t get bartending jobs is because it’s hard and you have to know hundreds of drink recipes. Again, Not True. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy, but I’ve certainly had harder jobs that didn’t pay nearly as much and were not even close to the same amount of fun. Try landscaping in 100 degree weather and then tell me bartending’s hard. You have to hustle but 9 times out of 10 you’ve had a blast doing it. If you’re worried about bartending being hard in the sense that you have to know hundreds of drink recipes, don’t worry. Everybody who has ever been in a bar already knows half the drinks that will be ordered and they are self explanatory, i.e. gin & tonic, vodka soda. There are two ingredients and they are in the name, how hard is that? If a drink is ordered that you don’t know there is no shame in A. asking the customer what it is, or B. looking at a book. Every decent bar in the world has a cocktail recipe book behind the bar. I’ve looked at this book thousands of times. I know that your probably thinking “how could I look at it thousands of times, don’t you know anything?”. In this day and age of bartending there are so many obscure shot recipes, unless you’re Will Hunting, you can’t possible remember them all. People are constantly coming up with new recipes too and until the name and drink catches on it’s hard to remember what they are. This is why I tell you not to worry about it. The best bartenders in the world don’t know every drink.
Most places serve the same 20-40 drinks anyway and you will have them down pat in no time. Do not be intimidated by your lack of knowledge or experience. Everybody has to start somewhere. Like I said earlier, start out on the day shift. You may not make tons of cash in the beginning but it’s a great place to learn. Please trust me too that 99% of the bars in America struggle to find day shift bartenders. Most of the time they are just happy to have someone show up. They could care less about experience. Show some initiative, learn a lot and you’ll be tending bar at night and making lots of money in no time.
People get jobs all the time that they have little knowledge about, and bartending is no exception. I completely understand the nervousness but it’s something you will have to get over. Hopefully this post gives you the confidence to push forward and go out and get a job. Thanks for reading it and if I haven’t convinced you to go look for a job yet, be sure to come back. We will be posting great cocktail recipes, more useful articles, and even some videos to show you exactly how to bartend.