WAYS TO LEARN BARTENDING
A lot of people want to bartend but are overwhelmed at the thought of learning how to do so without having any experience. In one of my original posts on this site, I explained how I learned how to bartend (if you haven’t read my bartending story, do so HERE).
The way I learned is one way to get started bartending. But people often ask me if there are other ways. The good news is, there sure is! Below are some other strategies you can adopt in order to start down your bartending path now.
START AS A BARBACK
Barbacks “back” the bartender. This means they set up the bar, cut limes, fill the ice wells, replace empty bottles, etc. A restaurant or bar manager is much more likely to hire a barback with limited experienced than a bartender with limited experience.
Once you have a barbacking position, learning to bartend from this is very hands on. While barbacking, you will be behind the bar during all of your shifts so you will learn drink making mechanics, liquor names, drink recipes, etc. Use this job as a stepping stone to bartending. Learn as much as you can and when the time is right, ask the manager to promote you to bartender. If you’ve been a hard-working, smart barback, the manager won’t hesitate to say yes!
START AS A SERVER
This was the method I used. I describe this method in more detail HERE: (STEP 1). But below, I will briefly summarize what I did for the purpose of this article.
I got hired, with no experience, as a server at a restaurant. While working this job, I read bartending books and practiced free-pouring on my own time, at home. As I learned about bartending from books, I also befriended the bartenders at the restaurant and eventually started learning their trade from them. After a few months, I used this knowledge and experience to pick up bartending shifts at the restaurant. Success!
START AS A CATERING BARTENDER
Catering companies often need bartenders to staff their events. Bartending at a catered event usually does not require much experience. Often times, the only drinks being served at these events are beer and wine. Many catering companies will hire bartenders with little or no experience simply because most available bartenders have restaurant or bar jobs. Use this to bolster your bartending resume and to eventually get you a regular bartending job!
One of the most frequent questions I get is: “Should I go to bartending school?” I have written an entire article on what I think about bartending schools (view it HERE). But in short, my answer is usually: “No, find a way to learn bartending without spending money.”
HOWEVER, some reputable schools can serve a purpose. If you want to expedite the learning process, and aren’t worried about spending the money, bartending school CAN help you. But do your research. Find out if the school your looking at has a good track record and has a good reputation for actually getting its graduates work. Some bartending schools even offer job placement once you’ve graduated. Do your homework!
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