Beginner Bartending Tips: Basic Bartender Knowledge
So, you've created your first bartending resume, earned your bartending license, and landed a job. Now it's your first day, and you realize you don't know how to work in a bar.
Don't panic. Here are 7 of our best bartending basics tips for beginners.
Tip #1: Nail Your Basic Bartending Knowledge
Learn all those bartending must-knows: how to pour the right amount, make popular drinks, and the meaning of common lingo.
There's more than you might think. Which drinks should be shaken, which should be stirred, and which should be blended? How do you garnish? Do you know about different types of wine, beer, and spirits? Can you identify the liquor when you hear a brand name? What follow-up questions do you need to ask for someone's order?
How about safety?
How do you deal with a broken glass or bottle on a busy night? What food safety principles do you need to follow? How do you keep the ice safe and uncontaminated? Do you know how to recognize a patron that threatens others? Do you know how to act if you do?
Tip #2: Know Your Bar
Find out where everything is behind the bar. Learn where to find bartending tools and how to put things back, so you stay organized during a rush.
What kinds of liquor, beer, and wine do you carry? What don't you carry, and what can you suggest as an adequate substitute?
What's on the menu? Do you know how to make any specialty drinks? What are the happy hour specials?
Tip #3: Take Orders, Then Make Orders
What is the biggest rookie mistake for beginner bartenders? Trying to serve customers one at a time.
It may seem like the safer bet, especially when you're getting in the swing of things. But unless things are slow, dealing with customer orders one at a time will cause delays and create a backlog.
Taking orders in batches when there's enough business to warrant it is one of those key tips for working in a bar. That way, you can pour or mix in batches, distribute drinks, and deal with multiple payments at once.
It's going to take practice to build your memory and confidence. Keep batches small at first – say, three orders at a time or however many you can safely remember. You can build the volume as you get more practice.
Tip #4: Your Job is Serving Drinks
If the media is your main reference for bartending, you may have an overblown sense of how important "being a therapist" is to working behind a bar.
It's important to keep in mind that your main job is to serve drinks. Be friendly, remember your regulars, and make conversation when there's time.
But there won't be as much as you think because one of the top bartending tips your coworkers want you to learn. There's always more to do behind the bar.
Tip #5: Use Your Down-Time
Nobody likes hearing, "if you have time to lean, you have time to clean," but…well…there's a reason it's a popular saying.
In fact, "stay busy" is probably the biggest takeaway for how to work in a bar. Staying organized and making the best use of a lull will save you once you're in the crunch. Use the time to clean and tidy the bar, restock, check inventory, clean glassware, and mop up previous spills.
Ask more senior staff if you're at a loss for things to do, and if you run out of things behind the bar, consider asking the kitchen or waitstaff how you can help – you'll buy the goodwill you might need later.
Tip #6: Take Care of Your Feet
Here's one of the most severely underrated first-time bartending tips: show up on the first day with the right shoes.
As a beginner bartender, you'll spend a lot of time on your feet – and probably, let's be real, spilling liquid and breaking glass. The right shoes aren't just a comfort issue; they're also a safety issue.
The best bartending shoes are breathable but water-resistant with a non-slip sole.
You want to keep your feet cool and dry, so look for shoes that are both ventilated (so you don't get too sweaty) but also designed to repel water. Bonus if they're easy to wipe down so you can remove any sticky mixer residue at the end of the night.
Non-slip is also key. Look for EVA rubber soles and a good tread pattern that creates friction with the floor.
If your first bartending job is your first job working on your feet, make a habit of elevating your feet for 30 minutes as soon as you get home.
Working behind a bar, your feet swell as fluids pool in the tissues. Elevating your feet above your heart for an extended period will encourage the fluids to recirculate – reducing how swollen and achy your feet will feel the next day.
Tip #7: Protect Yourself From Legal Consequences
Did you know that in some states, you can be held liable for the actions of a patron you overserved? Legally liable, as in, your hard-earned money.
One of the most important bartending tips for beginners is to educate yourself about the alcohol laws in your state before your first day.
In some states, formal courses are legally required, and some offer a liability shield. Even if neither of those things is true, knowledge is power – understanding the potential consequences of your actions will ensure that you don't accidentally get yourself in trouble.
Our TIPS training will give you the tools to recognize when you should deny service and learn how to deal with conflicts that might arise on the job. It also qualifies for mandatory compliance training in many jurisdictions. Enroll today!