Being a good bartender takes hard work, practice, and patience. Here are some tips that will help you develop these skills so you can take your craft to the next level.

Keep your eye on the prize

Yeah, it’s obvious, but bartending has been and will always be a hospitality position in which satisfying the customer is the top priority. And Brian Julsen, bar manager at Boulder’s Zolo Grill, couldn’t have said it better:

“What makes a good bartender; being a gracious host, hasn’t changed since the dawn of antiquity.”

Brian’s way of accomplishing this is by being courteous and making people feel special. To him, it’s simple; “make people feel like you valued your experience with them and they will value their experience with you more.”

Of course, this is easier said than done, especially when dealing with difficult guests. By simply reminding yourself that you are there to make guests happy, you will be more attentive and accommodating, which will yield way bigger tips in the end. Like it or not, it’s work, so make the best out of it.

Practice good organization and sanitation

Being organized behind your bar will save you a lot of time and stress. Knowing where everything is and keeping it in the same place will increase your speed and efficiency. Along the same lines, practicing good sanitation habits will impress your managers, make your guests feel comfortable and will help you develop into a top-notch bartender.

Here are some sanitation basics:

  • Wash your hands
  • Don’t touch your face or hair
  • Wash glasses and bar equipment throughout the shift
  • At the end of your shift, clean everything from bar top to bottles

Sure, this will require some extra time on your part, but it’s not something you can compromise on. Once you get yourself in the habit of being organized in your service and responsibilities, keeping it up will come naturally.

Be open to interaction

Many people go to bars for the company and it often ends up that the bartender fills that role. That’s why it’s important for a bartender to be a good listener. It’s not in the job description, but it’s a significant part of the daily grind. However, it’s not only for the guests’ benefit; getting to know your customers will make them more likely to tip generously and, even better, become regulars, which is one of Brian’s keys to success.

“Developing regulars is one thing that every bartender needs to do to survive, yet we rarely share what it takes to make the human connection.”

To connect with people, Brian uses ‘FORD‘: family, occupation, recreation, dreams. “One of those topics is destined to open the floodgates eventually and the stone wall becomes the rushing river because now they have someone to talk to that they feel genuinely cares about their problems,” Brian explains.

For Brian, kindness and camaraderie are what mark a successful bartender. It’s not just about the drinks you put in front of them, but the entire experience your guest has.

Know your product

Knowing what you are serving is a must because to really thrive as a bartender, you have to be able to use your knowledge to go above and beyond, and make a lasting impression. This means not only knowing everything you can about what you’re serving (spirits, beer, wine, etc.), but also making an effort to continue learning more about your craft.

Taking the time to learn just one new thing a week will guarantee your long-term success as a bartender.

Even if you don’t currently serve a particular type of liquor or don’t use a certain ingredient, that doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. The more anecdotes and details, the better. Not only will you be more comfortable behind the bar and better equipped to answer questions, but you’ll be able to re-write the rules, and who doesn’t love that!

Create your own cocktails and specials

Speaking of knowledge, the number of combinations and mixes for making cocktails is endless. So, take advantage and start putting that knowledge to work by making your own drinks to offer as specials.

This is not only a great move to impress your team and move up the ladder, but also a way to overcome the job’s monotony and stay excited about work. Not to mention, it’s your chance to add your personality and style to the menu. If you need some inspiration, get some ideas here.

Don’t let your emotions get the best of you

Being a bartender means dealing with people nonstop, some of whom can be real pricks that just get under your skin.

The perfect example is of a customer who leaves a bad tip. When you’ve given a guest your best and bent over backward to take care of their needs and they respond with a cheap, insulting tip, you see red. Who wouldn’t? But it’s not like you can just close your office door to get away. So, what can you do?

As hard at as it may seem at the time, you just have to shake it off. Bartending is a marathon, not a race.

There will be those bad tippers and rude guests, but at the same time there are the wonderful guests and big tippers. Keep your head and get’em next time.

Ask for help when you need it

You’re going to get overwhelmed. There is no way around it. But the common misconception here is that you have to handle it alone. It seems natural to not want to ask for help, especially when you are really good at your job, but we all get “in the weeds” sometimes.

When you do, asking for help will not only be easier on you but also get business back on track more quickly, for which good managers will applaud you.

Co-workers are there to be your teammates, so utilize them by asking them to complete specific and reasonable tasks. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather a display of responsibility and foresight.

Simple as these pro-tips may be, developing these skills and turning them into habits will get you noticed by your managers, raise your tip average and make your job more enjoyable. 

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