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For the past three years I've had a part time job as a bartender to get me through university. This summer I'm about to graduate, which means leaving the bar work behind me for a full time job. I wanted to look back on the past three years and think about what advice I would give to past me to save myself (and you) some aggro. So I've compiled a list of 10 things you should know about bar tending based on my own experiences on the front line.
1. Don't go to bar tending school.
Seriously don't bother, it's a waste of money. Most bars will train you up anyway because every bar does things differently. If you've been to bar tending school it will be really hard to kick the habits that they've taught you.
2. Learn the basic cocktails, if your bar sells them.
Focus on the ones that are the same no matter which bar you walk into—Martini, Margarita, Sex on the Beach, Woo Woo, etc. Once you've got the hang of the basics it's much easier to learn all the other fancy ones.
3. If your bar offers you a free drink after your shift—take it.
I know it might be 4AM and you might be tired, but these after shift drinks are a great way to get to know your co workers. The closer you are to your co workers the more they will help you when the bar gets busy (and trust me, it will).
4. Try to stay for at least a year.
This sounds like a weird one, right? But one thing you will quickly learn is that bar tenders have their own little community. I know basically everyone who's ever worked in a bar in my city. People who quit after a month are not talked about favourably amongst the community and you may never be offered another bar tending job in that city.
5. The bouncers are your best friends.
Whilst you might be scared of them/hate them as a customer, they are invaluable to you as a bar tender. If a customer tries anything with you, all you have to do is get security over and they'll throw them out for you. One of the main roles of bouncers is to protect you, don't forget that.
6. Sometimes customers are mean to you for no reason.
On the whole most people are polite and you wont have a problem. Every so often though, you'll get someone who doesn't realise that you're trying your best. There's always someone who thinks you can go faster, or that you're making the drink wrong, or that the drink is too expensive. Usually, just putting on a brave face and being calm with the customer is enough, but if it really is too much for you call a manager or bouncer over.
7. You'll get a lot of cuts when you first start working there.
You're going to smash bottles and glasses—that's just a fact of being a bar tender. But you're also going to have to clean it up quickly. This is most likely going to result in small cuts on your hands. You'll be fine, just suck it up, put a blue plaster on it, and keep taking orders.
8. Bar work is team work.
There's going to come a time where it's very busy and very stressful and bar tenders need to be there for each other. If you can see dirty glasses piling up on the table go and collect a few. Ask for help if you're the only one doing cocktails that night and you have nine order piling up. You're people not machines, you're allowed to ask for help.
9. Pulling pints is not as easy as it looks.
It takes practice and trust me, no one can do it at first. But don't worry. You will get there!
10. You are allowed to have fun.
In fact you're encouraged to. Sing along to the music as you're making drinks, smile and laugh with customers, have a good time. It's okay, it's better for everyone if you do.