So, You Want to be a Bartender: 7 Essential Skills for a Successful Mixology Career

Whether you’re considering a part-time gig or a full-time job, bartending can be an ideal opportunity to fill in cashflow gaps, work your way through school, or even as a long-term career.

And, much like funeral services and banking, it’s a relatively stable industry. Even as the restaurant business is impacted by ebbs and flows in the economy, there seems to always be demand for delicious libations to celebrate milestone events, big wins or to relax and take the edge off a stressful day.

With bartending job opportunities expected to grow by 8% over the next 10 years (outpacing the average for other occupations) and an average salary of $45,000 to $73,000, it’s definitely an attractive proposition. However, not everyone can walk behind a bar and feel right at home. It takes the right mix of knowledge, talent, and skills to fill this fast-paced role.

– SEE ALSO: Read Top 10 Steps For Training & Onboarding New Bartenders –

If you’re considering a bartending opportunity, here are 7 critical skills that can help you get a great gig and build a loyal following of regular customers:

  • Flexibility. Having a flexible schedule is a key advantage. Think about it: when you’re out with friends enjoying a drink, that’s when you’d be working. Having the ability to work nights and weekends and being willing to trade off shifts or fill in for co-workers is a must.
  • A strong work ethic. Being a bartender is hard work. It requires long hours on your feet and a willingness to hustle when things get busy. One of the best ways to get acclimated is to get your foot in the door working as a barback. A barback works behind the scenes, restocking, bussing and cleaning up. It’s grunt work for sure, but it’s also valuable experience and gives you an opportunity to find a great mentor from whom you can learn the ropes.

– SEE ALSO: Are Restaurant Workers the Talent Market’s Best-Kept Secret? –

  • Attention to detail. You might not think of bartending as meticulous work, but there’s an element of precision that often goes unnoticed. Not only must you be extremely careful about checking IDs (an underage service violation falls squarely on your shoulders, not the bar owners), but you must also measure and pour with accuracy. Overpouring might earn you a few extra tips, but it costs your owner money and the risk to your job isn’t worth the reward.
  • Willingness to learn. Of course, you’ll need to learn how to mix cocktails but that’s the easy part. Bartending has a language all its own with lingo that you’ll need to know, such as how to make a drink “neat” or “dirty.” Not to mention, you’ll need to develop an appreciation for taste profiles and be able to make drink recommendations to customers. Extra points for being creative and coming up with custom concoctions.
  • Sociability. If you’re a wallflower or naturally just not a “people person” being a bartender might be a tough gig. In addition to mixing drinks, you’ll also need to be able to engage customers, carry on a conversation, and be a good listener. There are some who say being a bartender is half mixologist and half psychologist. Having a good rapport with customers will keep them coming back and tipping generously.
  • Multitasking ability. On a busy Friday or Saturday night, the bar could get packed with patrons. This is even more of a challenge if you work in a restaurant bar where you’re also mixing drinks for dining customers. You’ll be handing not only your own customers, but also servers who are relying on you to help them provide great service to their guests as well. Being able to handle multiple demands on your attention, answer guest questions and keep the drinks flowing requires major multitasking chops.
  • Tech savvy. In the modern bar, the traditional “cha-ching” of the cash register is a thing of the past. Today, everything runs on front-end point-of-sale software and back-end bar/restaurant management solutions. You’ll need to be familiar and comfortable with using tablets and touchscreens to take inventory, clock-in, and to make or request schedule adjustments.

Being a bartender is a great way to meet people, work in an energetic and dynamic environment, and delight customers with outstanding service. Plus, the earning potential is really up to you. The better service you provide, the more generous your customers will be. Nailing these 7 skills can give you a solid foundation to get your foot in the door and build loyal clientele.

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Top 10 Steps For Training & Onboarding New Bartenders

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