Author Topic: Bartending -- getting started?  (Read 2329 times)

Inaya

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Bartending -- getting started?
« on: April 21, 2016, 08:34:02 AM »
I have some questions for our Mustachian Bartenders, whether full time, side gig, or former. My general question is pretty much, "How do you get started in bartending?"

Forgive me for my complete ignorance, but I really have no idea about any of this. I Googled, of course, but the results I got seemed rife with SEO spam articles and Yahoo "Answers," so I wasn't sure how much of the information I could trust, so I was hoping for some more legitimate information. I hardly ever drink (asking on behalf of a friend), so I'm rather the opposite of qualified to assess the information I find on the Web.

Here are some more specific questions. I realize there are a LOT of questions here--I certainly don't expect anyone to answer them all. I'll take any and all wisdom anyone is willing to offer.
  • Are any of those LivingSocial/Groupon/Google bartending classes legit? Are they actually useful for getting started?
  • How does one tell if a bartending class/school is legit or just a scammy page with good SEO?
  • Is bartending school worth the upfront cost for a total beginner?
  • Other than any legally required certifications (which I can Google), what other sort of certificates would help with job hunting?
  • What other experience is required and/or helpful for getting a job?
  • Are there apprenticeships? OTJ training? Mentoring? (Anyone in the Chicago area willing to meet up and and chat about the profession?)
  • Is there any difference in learning/experience/career path between working at a bar vs. a restaurant vs. gigs (weddings, booze cruises, etc.)?
  • How are the job prospects?
Thanks in advance for any responses, even (or especially) if they're not good news for or prospective baby bartender. I'm looking for a balanced outlook, so positive or negative is all good.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2016, 08:38:49 AM by Inaya »

Gimesalot

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Re: Bartending -- getting started?
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2016, 08:48:03 AM »
    First of all, bartending is not an "easy way to make quick money".  You really need to like working with people and have thick skin.  It's very tough work. 

    To get started, you need to figure out what kind of bartending you intend to do.  Here are some options: Easy (basic mix drinks), Beer, Wine, Cocktails.  Then you need to start learning about the subject.  As a bartender, unless in the easy category, you will need to read and study A LOT.  Once you know what you want to do, and start studying, you will need to figure out which bars specialize in which service you want to specialize.  Then you need to start bar backing for very low pay as you continue to learn.  Eventually when you are ready, you will be able to get a job with your barbacking experience. 

    You are in Chicago.  You will have to bust your hump to get a good bartending gig.

    To answer your questions directly: 

  • Are any of those LivingSocial/Groupon/Google bartending classes legit? Are they actually useful for getting started?
The Groupon classes won't get you anywhere.
   
  • How does one tell if a bartending class/school is legit or just a scammy page with good SEO?
Schools won't get you the best jobs
   
  • Other than any legally required certifications (which I can Google), what other sort of certificates would help with job hunting?
If specializing in wine, Level 1 through Court of Masters.  For others, none
   
  • What other experience is required and/or helpful for getting a job?
Pay your dues and bar back if you want to work at a bar or if you want to work at a restaurant, you can try food running or dishwashing.
   
  • Are there apprenticeships? OTJ training? Mentoring? (Anyone in the Chicago area willing to meet up and and chat about the profession?)
same as above
   
  • Is there any difference in learning/experience/career path between working at a bar vs. a restaurant vs. gigs (weddings, booze cruises, etc.)?
Yes.  The more difficult the job, the more you will make and the less crap  you have to deal with.  My friends who took years and years to study, have all moved on into ownership of VERY successful bars.  That's where the real money is.
   
  • How are the job prospects?
Great.  People love drinking but Chicago is a tough place to start since there is so much talent.
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If you want more details, I will be happy to give you more specific information on resources and the like.

mozar

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Re: Bartending -- getting started?
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2016, 11:27:07 AM »
I would go to a bar on a slow night and ask the bartender directly. I was a barista for awhile and the boss wanted me to start serving alcohol. I remember I was really bad at remembering alcohol ratios.

BeanCounter

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Re: Bartending -- getting started?
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2016, 11:36:03 AM »
I have tended bar. And taken a bartending class. I really think the best way is to start out serving or being a bar back. Honestly most of what we learned in bartending was just memorizing drinks. You can get a book and do that.
Wine is much more involved. You can learn much of that through reading and tasting. Same with beer.
Another great way to start out is through a catering company.

asiljoy

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Re: Bartending -- getting started?
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2016, 12:06:02 PM »
I haven't worked in fine dining or events, but for the couple Apple Bee-esc restaurants I've worked in, bar tending promotions were given as promotions to servers/bar backs. Generally, getting a job as a server isn't terribly difficult, but you'll need to pay your dues. The best tables and the best shifts are going to go to those with the best sales followed by those with the most seniority.

Axecleaver

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Re: Bartending -- getting started?
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2016, 01:22:31 PM »
Gimeslot advice seems consistent with what my bartender friends have told me. There may be some volunteer gigs you could do through fraternal orgs in your city, like Elks club. Ours has a waiting list of volunteers who would like to work bartender nights. They volunteer and take home tips. Some donate their tips back to the club.

triteacher

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Re: Bartending -- getting started?
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2016, 06:04:51 PM »
Are you a regular at any small bars? When I started, I was a semi-regular at a brewery. I saw a job posting, asked for an application, and they hired me on the spot because they knew me.

I would suggest you start slow. Bar tending full-time is incredibly exhausting. The hours are terrible, you're on your feet for your entire shift, and you end up eating more junk than you plan on. On the other hand, the money I make for part-time bar tending is ridiculous.

I would also think carefully about the type of bar you want to be working in. That's going to directly affect the money, as well as the quality of your shifts. For example, I work at a very successful brewery. I get to interact with people who are passionate about our product, and who travel to us to get it. I don't have to deal with people who are out to get drunk, or hook up, or pick fights.