Thinking about being behind the bar for the first time is equally exciting as it is terrifying. I remember being a host, staring at the bartenders.
They were laughing, pouring beautiful drinks, and cracking jokes to the busy bar top. I knew I’d be there one day. But first, and as it goes, I had to walk before I could run.
But what I really had to do was learn how to become a bartender with no experience.
My goal for you today is to take the terrifying part out of becoming a bartender. I believe with a little education and a lot of practice, by the end this you’ll understand how to become a bartender–all with no experience.
We’ll cover the hiring process, learn easy steps to becoming a bartender, and hear from a bar manager on what they look for when applicants don’t have the skills… yet.
Let’s get you ready for life behind the bar, shall we?
Understanding How to Become a Bartender: The Hiring Process
Before we venture off into uncharted territory, let’s make sure we understand what’s expected of us as baby bartenders. First, we’ll start with the hiring process. Without the ability to get hired, we lose all chances at achieving the ultimate goal of becoming a bartender.
Here’s what we’ll cover.
- Legal Requirements
- Writing a Resume
- Looking for a Job
- Proving Your Skills
- Landing the Job
Legal Requirements–Age and Safe Service Certifications
Make sure you are old enough to be a bartender before heading off to apply for jobs. Each state and country varies, so do some research.
Once you know you’re of age, look into getting certified in how to serve alcohol safely and legally. Every bartender has to go through this responsibility training (again this varies by where you live!), so it’s good practice to have this done already.
You’ll hear this safety license referred to as: responsible service of alcohol, alcohol awareness serving certification, or liquor serving license.
Pro Tip: Some establishments will reimburse you for this training. But if you want to set yourself apart from other applicants, this is a fine way to do it. Managers will have one less thing to worry about when hiring you, making their job easy.
Writing a Resume
If you think you don’t need a resume to become a bartender—think again. I understand it may be hard to put your skills into words, but having a strong resume will help you stand out amongst a crowd of fish.
You have three options for creating a powerful resume.
- Hire an expert off Upwork, or a similar platform.
- Use a free template.
- Write it yourself.
If you choose to write it yourself or even use a free template, we’d recommend getting feedback from at least three people. Especially those with plenty of experience in the service industry.
Looking for a Job
Once you have a resume that will smash your competition, are of a legal age, and can serve alcohol safely, you are ready for the big leagues.
Well, tryouts at least.
It’s time to look for a job!
Start online through posted ads or head out on foot with a folder of your resumes printed out. I even like to get fancy, thick paper so the hiring managers know I take this job very seriously.
More tips on how to impress the bar manager are coming up soon!
Since you have the bases covered, your shots at landing an interview are high! Kind of like mimosas at brunch—they’re bound to happen.
And don’t be surprised if you get asked to interview on the spot. The F&B (food and beverage) industry is known for its high turnover, especially post-pandemic. Some restaurants really need help, and quickly!
Prepare beforehand by looking over the drink menu (food menu too, if there is one!). Be ready to answer a common question like, “why did you choose to apply here over other places?”.
For scheduled interviews, show them you have your stuff together by arriving early, dressed nicely (appropriate to the dress wear required), smile, and write questions ahead of time.
As a previous bar manager, I can tell you firsthand to not worry about being nervous. We are all human, and we all experience emotions. Just breathe slowly and try to stay focused on presenting your skills as calmly as possible.
Proving Your Skills
The practice shift.
It’s a daunting thing.It happens. But not always!
In fine dining or well-known bars and restaurants, it’s common practice for hiring managers to ask an individual to come in for a sneak peek at their skills.
You’re going to be nervous and probably unpaid.
They’ll ask you to make drinks on the rocks versus neat. They’ll have you pour draught beers and take payments. Some of this you can practice at home. Some you can learn through being a server, host, or bar back first.
Remain confident. Be honest. Stay open. And if you don’t know what to wear, just ask the person you’ve been in contact with.
If you can remember one thing during your practice shift (aka stage), I’d tell you this. Remember to smile, stay busy, and at the very least engage with customers confidently but briefly. I’ll tell you why this is so important later.
Landing the Job
All the hurdles have been cleared. All that’s next is to stick the landing and wait for the job offer.
Don’t be caught off guard if you’re asked to come in for another practice shift or if you’re offered a bar back position instead of becoming a bartender straight away.
With no experience, being a bar back is an amazing way to learn the swing of things and make decent money while you’re at it. Think of it as a paid apprenticeship.
And if you work extra hard for the veteran bartenders, they’ll tip you better and give you more responsibilities. Do I smell a mentor?
9 Simple Steps on How to Become a Bartender (Yep, Even with No Experience)
- Know the Job
- Play Your Bartending Life
- Have Bartender Dreams and Aspirations
- Solidify Your Resume
- Build Relationships and Rapport
- Seek Out a Mentor
- Network and Job Research
- Stay Open Minded to Working Your Way Up
- Master Some Skills
1. Know the Job
Know what you’ll be expected to do when you step foot behind the bar.
Watch videos and read about a typical bartending shift. You’ll want to research a few things like setting up the bar, getting ready for service (pre-service), what to do during service, and breaking down/closing the bar.
2. Plan Your Bartending Life
Ask yourself what type of establishment you’d really just freakin’ love to work in. Is it Chili’s or a club setting? I love hotel bars or food-heavy bars like gastropubs. You can even niche-down to wine, breweries, or craft cocktail bars.
Have a goal for how much you’d like to make. What time of day do you want to work? Where do you want to work?
With bartending, the floor is open.
3. Have Bartender Dreams and Aspirations
Some bartenders are fine working at their local watering hole. We love that. Some of you want to become a professional mixologist and win competitions. We love that, too.
Have dreams and aspirations to work towards so you know exactly where you want to be.
4. Solidify Your Resume
Once you gain more and more experience in the service industry, be sure to update your resume regularly so you’re ready to transition to bigger and better things when it happens for you.
5. Build Relationships and Rapport
In the lay of bartending land, relationships and rapport is key. Not only with your clientele, but with other bartenders.
If you have no experience, having the right relationship can really help you get your foot in the door.
6. Seek Out a Mentor
If you’re set on becoming a bartender fast, having a mentor can be a sure-fire way to do it. A mentor can guide you, 1-on-1, on making basic drinks, pouring techniques, and much more.
Plus, they probably already have tools to learn on and a network of people to lean on. They also have more than likely heard of who needs help in local bars.
7. Network and Job Research
Did someone say networking? Oh, right. That was me.
Networking is fun when you’re learning to become a bartender because it often includes, well, going to a bar! When you’re there, take a look at how they’re holding their bar tools. What bar tools are they using?
Tell them you’re learning to be a bartender. If they’re not busy, they might even show you a drink or their go-to technique!
You can also do some networking online via LinkedIn and/or Facebook groups.
8. Stay Open Minded: Working Your Way Up
Bartenders have been doing their craft for a while. It can be hard for those with no experience to walk onto a bartending team.
That being said, stay open-minded to working your way up.
You might start off as a server, cocktail person, or bar back. It’s honestly a great way to learn (that’s how I started!) and a fantastic opportunity to show your new team exactly what you’re capable of.
9. Master 3 Soft and 3 Hard Skills
Have you heard of soft and hard skills? Soft skills are difficult to measure because they’re not very tangible. But hard skills are easy to measure and prove. Here are a few of both, so you can practice mastering both soft and hard skills before you set out on your journey of becoming a bartender.
Knowledge of Basic Math
Degree, Awards, or Certifications
Advice from a Bar and Hiring Manager: What Skills Matter When You Have No Experience
I’ve worked in restaurants and bars since 2008. After getting my degree in hospitality and food management, I managed bars throughout the country at a large hotel chain and even at a few standalone bars/restaurants.
After some research, on my own accord and on behalf of all of you lovely humans, we’ve narrowed down the skills that actually matter when you’re learning how to become a bartender with no experience.
The top skills that bar managers look for are work ethic, attitude, and a willingness to learn or adapt. Some have adopted the hiring practice to look for people with the right attitude, instead of skill. We can teach skills. The right attitude can’t be taught!
But if you do need help with the hard skills, check out our online course.
Now you know how to become a bartender, even with no experience!
You’ve gotten to know the hiring process, learned easy steps on how to become an actual bartender, and heard from bar managers with years of experience in the industry. You’re closer to being behind the bar than you think.
If you want to become a bartender but are still stuck at home, you might like this 1-on-1 in-home bartending course from us here at Local Bartending School.