In the new era of sophisticated drinks and cocktails, working as a bartender in a high-end bar is more recognised as a credible profession, as well as being a craft with many sub-skills. As a result of this, more are being drawn to bartending as a career choice, just as the glamorous world of bartending, cocktails and exquisite drinks is becoming more particular, refined and attractive.

In this article we talk about what you need to consider if you are considering a career in bartending and offer some useful tips to help you become a success.

Break Into Bartending

bartender preparing cocktail

So for those starting out, what prospects are there for the beginner – how much do bartenders make, and what other bartending tips for beginners could we have to share?

Desirable bartending jobs are not always easy to come by, so services such as EBS Matchstaff are a useful way of finding positions for skilled bartenders. For those with no previous experience it may be a good idea to start out as a ‘bar back’ or ‘bar runner’ – those who work as assistants to the bartenders and perform duties such as stocking and prepping the bar, cleaning glasses and restocking drinks. Working as a bar back can be an excellent way of learning more about bartending.

The average wage for an unskilled agency bartender in the UK is between £7 and £9, but the ones that work hard and are on top of their game can be on a higher salary of over £20k a year, not including tips. Let’s just talk about tips! This is where the money is for those who have great people skills, specialise in great tasting and bespoke cocktails and know how to impress a crowd. So it is definitely worth putting in the extra effort if you want to make it in the bartending world.

One useful thing to learn before really getting started is to know your tools and learn how to handle them well, familiarise yourself with them and endlessly practice using them. The essentials will be a cocktail shaker and strainer, a jigger for measurements, a mixing glass, a bar spoon and a muddler. There are a number of others you’ll pick up along the way, but this is a good set to begin with.

It isn’t always easy to land the best jobs in bartending straight away and can take years of real hands-on experience, but there are other options to fast track your level of expertise. Bartender courses can be a great way of mastering cocktails and understanding where you need to focus your learning to really perfect the right set of skills, be it learning to muddle, stir or shake the right ingredients optimally for the ‘perfect serve’ or just improve your social skills. The European Bartending School’s Basic Bartender Course is just a one week course that trains new bartenders in everything needed to begin a career as a high-quality bartender. On this course you can learn about the essentials in bartending, the spirits used, tools and equipment as well as making drinks and cocktails. But if you don’t have the time to spare, then you could try the Online Bartending Course to get a really basic knowledge of how to best ‘up your game’ and learn some of the essentials.

Cocktails for Beginners

classic cocktails

When starting out you NEED to know at least the most basic cocktails. Depending on where you work there may be slight variations, but knowing the basics will help you with understanding the principles of making a good cocktail. There are also ways that you can stand out from the bartending crowd by playing around with tastes and adding serving tricks. Have fun and learn your own style – ‘flairing’ or mixing botanicals and flavours will not only impress your employer but can earn you more tips too, we’ll discuss this more later in the article, so keep reading.

Martini – this classic cocktail involves gin and vermouth (usually 1:2 in proportions) stirred with ice in a cocktail shaker until the taste is right, then strained into a chilled cocktail glass. Martinis are typically garnished with an olive or a twist of lemon peel.

Mojito – another popular cocktail, this is made with two lime quarters placed in a tall glass, then 50ml rum and 25ml sugar syrup are added and muddled together so the juice is squeezed from the limes. The glass is then filled with crushed ice and soda water, then four sprigs of mint are pushed to the bottom with a bar spoon, as the limes are allowed to rise.

Margarita – the ultimate in tequila cocktails. The margarita uses 37.5ml tequila, 25ml Cointreau, and 12.5ml lime juice added to a shaker filled with ice before shaking for 45 seconds to a minute. This is then strained into a chilled cocktail glass, already prepared with a limed and salted rim.

How to Be a Good Bartender

bartender holding tray with cocktail

In order to be the best, earn the most tips and make the most of this fun and cool occupation, learn, practice and enjoy making cocktails. Ultimately your mood and passion will be what the customer remembers and experiences alongside you. That being said, below we have highlighted some tips for you to focus on while you’re starting out as a bartender.

Here are some basic tips for working in a bar:

Know your drinks – a thorough knowledge of your resources as a bartender can never be overstated, especially for the budding mixologist. Learn all you can about the drinks you are making, the ingredients they are made from, and the tastes they create.

Have some flair – tricks behind the bar can impress guests, but they can also make you quicker and more efficient, so it’s a good idea to learn, practice and improve.

Charm your audience – bartending is about making an enjoyable experience for your guests (as well as making excellent drinks) so don’t forget to smile, to share your knowledge of the drinks, and enjoy a laugh too. And hopefully this tip could lead to tips!

A bartender is someone who knows how to stock the bar with the best ingredients, how to combine them in delicious cocktails, how to entertain and impress a crowd, how to intuit exactly what is needed and when, and also how to enjoy a great laugh and make a memorable night. There’s a good deal to learn, but we all need to start somewhere!

If you want to learn how to become a bartender professionally, why not consider our 4 week globally recognised training course.