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Sometimes people want to go where everybody knows their name. They want to walk into your local pub and the barkeep will serve them up their drink of choice: a pint of honey brown lager, a gin and tonic, a tomato juice or maybe a mango daiquiri. Whatever the drink of choice, chances are the bartender knows how to make it. Bartenders are a wealth of knowledge. Not only do they know how to serve drinks responsibly but they are also some of the best listeners and friends around.

Bartenders serve drinks to customers directly at the bar or prepare drinks to be served by other staff members. Sometimes they work in tandem with another bartender, splitting up the duties. They are very knowledgeable about mixing alcoholic drinks and always know what goes into what. They also need to know which of the 10 or more types of glasses each drink should be served in and how it should be garnished. For instance a caesar should be served in a rocks glass, rimmed with celery salt, spiced with tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper, and garnished with a lime and often a celery stalk.

In addition to serving beer, liquor and wine, they mix ingredients such as fruit juices, cream, coffee, soft drinks, water, sugar and bitters in the right proportions to prepare cocktails and other drinks. They may also make cappuccino, espresso and other special coffees. Bartenders are also in charge of keeping the bar stocked with the proper supplies, and making sure that the bar is kept clean. They are comfortable dealing with cash and have to track all of the drinks sold. Bartenders also check the identification of customers to ensure they are of legal age to drink.

Some say the social interactions with customers are one of the most important aspects of the job. Patrons grow to depend on their bartenders as friends and confidants; just as bartenders look forward to seeing their regulars that come in all the time. Some bartenders are comedians and break the ice with a joke or talk about current events.

It is amazing to consider the people skills that bartenders develop over time, as they meet all sorts of characters. A bartender should be at ease behind the bar and willing to chat with the people around him or her. In a busy bar, they may meet up to two hundred customers a day along with dealing with managers and servers.

While most bartenders focus on serving quickly and efficiently, some may go a little farther. Did you ever see Tom Cruise flipping bottles and putting on a show in the film Cocktail? Or the women in Coyote Ugly, dancing and entertaining? Some bars and clubs do have bartenders that put on shows, and they do this for a good reason -- tips (To Insure Prompt Service). Since bartenders rely heavily on their tips to supplement their income, they must sometimes go above and beyond to earn their tips. Having the proper attitude, a neat appearance and courtesy is often what it takes.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
The major key to becoming a successful bartender is people skills and sociability, some call it the gift of gab. Many bartenders are also good listeners. They must be cheerful, courteous and efficient in their work with good coordination. They must have the stamina and endurance to be able to stand for long periods of time (up to ten hours) and an incredible memory for details. They get along well with co-workers and patrons. Finally, they must use good judgment when serving alcohol, as it is their responsibility to make sure everyone is safe leaving the bar.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Prepare fruit (lime, lemons and celery) for garnishes
  • Take beverage orders from serving staff or directly from patrons
  • Mix liquor, soft drinks, water and other ingredients to prepare cocktails and other drinks
  • Prepare mixed drinks, wine, draft or bottled beer and non-alcoholic beverages for food and beverage servers or serve directly to patrons
  • Pour and invent drinks
  • Serve alcohol responsibly
  • Constantly fill the ice bucket for drinks and cooling purposes
  • Collect payment for beverages; operate cash registers and record sales
  • Maintain inventory and control of bar stock and order supplies
  • Clean bar area and wash glassware
  • May supervise other bartenders and bar staff
  • Serve snacks or food items to people seated at the bar
  • Converse with the customers sitting at the bar
  • Bartenders sometimes have schedules that change from week to week. They work in shifts, usually on the weekends and nights, with the best shifts being Friday and Saturday nights. The shift is usually anywhere from three hours up to ten. They work behind a bar which is stocked with alcohol and other beverages. Be prepared for some late nights, especially in a pub or nightclub.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Bartenders are employed in bars, pubs, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, taverns, lounges, cruise ships, banquet halls, resort areas, casinos and related social clubs that serve drinks (especially alcoholic drinks).

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for bartenders? For some, tending bar is a lifelong profession, however others become head bartenders, restaurant or bar managers and wine stewards. However, since there is a fairly high employment turnover rate in this industry, many bartenders move on to other occupations. Bartenders could also teach at bartending schools or become consultants for restaurants. Finally, since they are always dealing with people, they could move into public relations, customer service or use their best stand-up routine to become a comedian.

  Educational Paths  
Although there is no direct educational route to becoming a bartender, there are bartending courses offered in most cities. Some are quick crash courses, where others can last up to six months, bartending school focuses on learning and mixing various drinks and being a responsible server amongst handling intoxicated customers. Most bartenders have a certification which tests liquor laws, liability and knowing when to stop serving a patron.

Some bartenders learn on the job and work directly under the guidance of an experienced bartender. They can learn how to make cocktails, learn about beer and wine and know how to measure drink amounts on sight.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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