Top Bartending Rules to Never Forget

You have a lot of choices when it comes to your job or life-long career. One of the most exciting and entertaining careers you can choose to pursue is bartending

“A bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory.”

Albert Einstein

There are countless career opportunities out there for well-trained bartenders once they complete bartending school. Once you master the technical, or hard, skills, there are certain unspoken rules that you won’t want to forget. Especially if you want to spend more than six months making alcoholic beverages. 

Our team at Local Bartending School has made it our mission to get you ready for life as bartenders or mixologists. 

So, mini-mixologists memorize these top 6 bartending rules and never forget them. Let’s get started!

Bartending Rule 1: Always Keep Your Bartop Happy

The first thing you need to consider when bartending for the first time is: keeping the customer happy is very important. 

To start, make sure that you have all of the mixology tools that you’ll need for the day clean and ready. Make sure people at least get what they came for in a timely manner and that you’re serving alcohol in a clean glass. 


Then, you can start to tailor your service for their visit. People go to the bar for all sorts of things, even to grieve. Are they celebrating? Say congrats and offer a champagne toast! Is it a romantic date? It’s probably best to make yourself available but not talk too much.

I like to think of tailoring your service as acting like a chameleon. You want to blend in with your guest’s energy and vibration; it makes them feel comfortable with you! Always follow your establishment’s steps of service and have your own personality but blend in with your bartop.

When your customers are content, cozy, and at ease, the more money you ultimately make off of tips! The more money you make in gratuity, the more you’ll love to bartend!

Main Takeaway: Have the right tools ready to make alcoholic beverages and adjust your style of service to each guest.

Bartending Rule 2: Keep it Professional (Or Say Bye to your Bartending License!)

You need to remember that you are at a job and not a party, so be sure to keep it professional and match your bar’s culture.

Most importantly, don’t give away free cocktails just to be cool or make extra money. The bar owner (aka your boss!) is looking to turn a profit and does not want all of their money going down your bartop’s throat. Plus, you’ll probably kiss your bartending license goodbye.

You can serve alcohol and have fun with your regulars–we’re not saying to be stiff. Just keep it professional. And don’t drink on the job and break the law (yes, there are alcohol laws). You’ll be fired faster before you make any of that tip money you’ve been hearing about.

Bartending Rule 3: Remember Mixologists are Always On Stage

You are the center of attention when you’re behind the bar. A great way to remember this is to pretend you’re on stage!


Watch your body movements (don’t touch your hair or nose!), stay engaging, and remember to have fun!

The last thing that people want to see is a bartender with a bad attitude. Your bartop will see you as negative and lazy. And their tips will reflect that! Stay busy, upbeat, and available and you’ll make 20% (probably more if you use aesthetic garnishes on your alcoholic beverages!) with every check.

Bartender Tip: You might also talk to more experienced bartenders to see what kind of rules they live by. You’d be surprised at all the things we pick up along at our countless bartending jobs.

Follow these 3 first rules and you’ll be able to have a long and successful career in the bartending industry. You’ll make crazy, good money wherever you work.

Bartending Rule 4: Stay Patient and Available

This goes for your bartop, coworkers, and even yourself. Be patient with yourself because you won’t become this amazing mixologist overnight–all good things take time. Like a good whiskey in a Whisky Sour.

Plus, you’ll want to be available not only for your bartop but for your entire team! When you’re just starting out behind the bar, you’ve got to prove yourself. The more you’re available to fill in during a call-off, to burn the ice well in the middle of the rush, or run food for the chef the better!

Your supervisors and veteran bartenders will start to trust you with more and more, and soon you’ll be handing that whole bartop solo.

Bartending Rule 5: Read Your Guest

In the hospitality industry, you might hear the phrase, “read your guest’. This means, to pay attention to facial cues, body language, tone of voice, and the physical environment around them.

Is the table dirty with tons of napkins and your guest is staring at you? They probably want you to come clean up, or pre-bus if your bar serves food.

Are they hardly touching the drink you just made them? They might like it, but don’t have the heart to tell you. Just ask!

You’ll get to know how people act and be able to predict what it is they need next. This is exactly how veteran bartenders and mixologists hone their service and make a ton of money from tips.

Bartending Rule 6: Work as a Team

Both standalone and restaurant bars have a lot of moving parts that all piece together to provide one magnificent service: food and drinks! From the host to the barback, all the way up to the bar owner, every single person is a necessary component.

You’re one part of that bigger picture.

And you’ll need to remember that. Always keep it in the back of your head that you’re not working as an individual, but as one cohesive team. Ditch any old notions of “that’s not my job” or “they’re not my guest”. (That’s super annoying actually, and you’ll definitely have a shorter bartending career than your peers).

Moral of the story, if you have an individualistic attitude behind the bar, you’ll quickly realize that this industry is not for you.

Jot These Down, and Don’t Ever Forget Them!

You now have six whole rules that I wish someone would have told me when I first started my bartender journey.

Honestly, I’ve kept these secrets close to my heart for so long! (Twelve years’ worth of hospitality industry knowledge if we’re counting.)

But it’s finally time I share everything with you people! Training programs don’t always teach things like reading the guest, staying available and professional, and acting as if you were a performer on stage.

I’m confident that if you keep these handy rules in mind, you’ll live long and prosperous in the world of bartending and hospitality industry.

Need a Bartending License to Step up Your Mixology Career? Local Bartending School Can Help!

Sometimes you need a hands-on approach. We totally get that. We teach classic cocktails, cocktail recipes, and other sought-after communication skills.

So, are you in the United States or Canada and want to become a bartender? Enroll at Local Bartending School for 1-on-1 alcohol training and other bartending courses!

From New York to California, we have an instructor ready to get you your bartender certification and so much more!

Carrie Jean Lipe

Carrie Lipe has been writing creatively since childhood but jump-started her professional writing after college. She's an Indiana native, Ball State Hospitality graduate, and a bartender with over 10+ years in the industry. You can find her making basil Moscow mules when she's not writing. Follow her professional journey on Instagram! @contentbycarriejean