How to Become a Successful Bartender

Bartending is a unique job that combines serving drinks, entertaining guests, and managing a busy bar all at the same time. It can be a thrilling and fulfilling experience for those who love being in the center of the action, but it can also be a source of frustration for those who are not well-suited to the demands of the job.

Like everything worth doing, it is always important to familiarize yourself with what exactly to expect with bartending. So, if you are considering a career in bartending, read on through as we discuss what you are potentially getting into, and notably, what you need to do to make it big.

Bartending Education and Training

Manager in bar training new bartender to make mixed drinks

One of the great things about bartending is that you do not need any formal education or certification to get started. However, it is still a good idea to get some basic training in the techniques, equipment, and drink recipes involved in bartending. Many bartending schools offer short courses and certification programs that can help you get started.

Just keep in mind that while searching for the right school, it is possible to run into one that is not teaching the right things, or worse, not legitimate at all. The industry can be a little shady, and it is best to do your research and make sure you are attending a reputable school.

Getting a Job as a Bartender

The biggest challenge for many people who want to become bartenders is getting their first job. Just like every job, experience is often the most beneficial factor, and it can be tough to get hired without it. Small local bars and dive bars are often good places to start, but they may not pay much. Major chain restaurants and large clubs can be more difficult to break into, as they often prefer to promote from within.

One strategy for getting hired is to start as a barback. This is an entry-level position that involves stocking the bar, filling ice tubs, and bringing clean glasses from the dishwashers. As you gain experience and prove your worth, you may be given opportunities to assist with simple services, like pouring beer and mixing well drinks. Eventually, you may be given your own bartending shifts, and you can start to build your reputation and your client base. This is only one path toward success. The road to becoming a bartender may be arduous, but with a little humility, ingenuity, and hard work, it will happen in time.

Important Things to Consider as a Bartender

To succeed as a bartender, it is pertinent to keep in mind several key elements, such as understanding the basics of mixology, knowing the regulations and laws in your area, creating a welcoming atmosphere for customers, and staying organized and efficient behind the bar.

The Art of Mixology

One of the most fundamental aspects of bartending is the art of mixology, or the science of creating cocktails. Mixology is more than just pouring different liquids into a glass. It is a combination of precision, creativity, and presentation. One needs to understand the basics and be able to create drinks that are both delicious and visually appealing.

Bartender pours an alcohol cocktail in glass

There are a few key principles to keep in mind when practicing mixology:

  • First, you need to understand the ingredients and their flavors. 
  • Second, you need to know how to balance sweet, sour, bitter, and salty flavors in your drinks. 
  • Third, you need to have a good sense of presentation and know how to garnish your drinks to make them look as good as they taste. 
  • And last but not least, you need to have a good understanding of the various techniques used in mixology such as muddling, shaking, and stirring. These techniques can have a big impact on the flavor and texture of your drinks.

Knowing Your Local Laws and Regulations

Another thing to take into account as a bartender is knowing the regulations and laws in your area as these govern the sale and service of alcohol and cover areas such as:

  • the minimum legal drinking age
  • the serving of alcohol to intoxicated patrons
  • hours during which alcohol can be sold

Understanding these is crucial to maintaining a safe and responsible environment for both customers and staff. Bartenders are often the first line of defense in preventing incidents such as drunk driving and underage drinking, and it is their responsibility to know the laws and enforce them. Failing to adhere to these regulations can result in serious consequences, including fines, legal action, and a tarnished reputation for the establishment. As a bartender, it is essential to stay informed about any changes to the laws in your area to ensure compliance and maintain a safe and responsible drinking environment. Here is the State of New York ABC Law as an example.

Finding Your Fit

Finding the right bar to work at can greatly impact a bartender’s overall job satisfaction and success. Every bar has its own unique atmosphere, customer demographic, and drink menu, so take these factors into consideration when searching for a bartending job.

For example, if you’re an energetic and social person who enjoys being in the middle of the action, then a high-volume nightclub may be the perfect fit for you. In this environment, you’ll need to be able to multitask and handle a fast-paced atmosphere, but you’ll also have the opportunity to interact with a large number of people and show off your mixology skills.

Bartender passing a glass of beer to cheerful woman

On the other hand, if you prefer a more relaxed and low-key environment, a neighborhood dive bar may be more your speed. Here, you’ll have the chance to build close relationships with regulars and take your time crafting carefully crafted cocktails.

It’s also important to consider the type of drinks you want to make and the clientele you want to serve. Some bars may focus on classic cocktails, while others may have a more experimental or specialty drink menu. Make sure to consider your own strengths and interests, and choose a bar that allows you to showcase your skills and creativity.

In essence

Becoming a successful bartender takes time, effort, and a little bit of luck. But with the right training, the right attitude, and the right bar, you can make a great career for yourself. If you are passionate about serving drinks, entertaining guests, and managing a busy bar, then bartending may be the perfect job for you. Just remember to do your research, start small, and find the right fit for you.


Feedback from one of our Readers!


Well the insight into the bar lifestyle has helped a lot. I just learned the other night at a club, that you don’t really need a license, just experience. I already started with to get my license. The good thing though I’ll have some of the bartending knowledge down. I learned what exactly a bar back is on your page, and the bartender I was talking to about the job, told me to come back and I might be able to get started as a bar back. It’s too bad I didn’t do my research before hand, but oh well. Thanks for the tips, and the articles are great.

I’m from California and I might be traveling to ny soon… so I’ll come by for a drink if I make it there.

Victoria Rodriguez

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