The world of bartending is incredibly diverse and as I’m sure you’re aware, not all bartenders are created equal. Some are social butterflies that possess charm and charisma while others are simply there for a paycheck and a cheap drink.
But what sets apart the truly exceptional bartenders from the rest? It’s the skills they hone and develop over time that allow them to thrive behind the bar.
Whether you’re a seasoned mixologist or a complete beginner, this post unveils the secret ingredients to becoming an extraordinary bartender.
From mastering the art of mixology to honing impeccable customer service, these 14 essential bartender skills will empower you to become the bartender you’ve always wanted to be.
So sit back, take notes, and let’s get into it…
The Role Of A Bartender
Before we begin, I want to quickly touch on the ACTUAL role of a bartender so you have a better understanding of the type of skills required to truly crush it in the industry.
At its core, the role of a bartender is to create a welcoming and engaging environment for patrons.
Bartenders are responsible for crafting and serving a wide array of beverages, from classic cocktails to bespoke concoctions tailored to individual tastes and everything in between.
A skilled bartender possesses an intimate knowledge of spirits, mixers, and techniques, enabling them to create just about anything you ask of them.
But it’s MUCH more than that. The bartender’s role extends far beyond mixology with a smile.
Bartenders are masters at reading their customers, anticipating their desires, and offering personalized recommendations.
A bartender is a storyteller, sharing the histories and traditions behind the drinks they serve, elevating the drinking experience to one of both indulgence and education.
They are skilled communicators and exceptional listeners, lending a sympathetic ear to patrons when they need it most.
Bartenders are masters of multitasking, effortlessly juggling orders, maintaining cleanliness, and ensuring the smooth operation of the bar.
Drinks are just one small part of the bartender’s role. Whilst it’s vitally important for bartenders to be able to craft delicious drinks, there’s a whole other side of the role that doesn’t get much attention, and this is where you have a chance to shine.
Develop the skillset needed to excel at this often-overlooked side of bartending and there’s an opportunity to become far more than the average bartender and take your career to new heights.
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Bartending can be demanding both physically and mentally, especially during busy shifts or when dealing with difficult customers.
Resilience is key to remaining calm and professional under pressure and not allowing any circumstance to get under your skin.
In this industry, it’s a key skill that can be the difference between good bartenders and great ones.
Patience is a virtue when it comes to bartending. You’ll be tested in more ways than one and encounter customers from all walks of life with varying attitudes, needs, and perspectives.
Being patient allows you to navigate situations without losing your cool and helps to provide exceptional customer service to all customers.
>> Read more: 15 helpful tips for new bartenders
3. Customer service
Customer service is at the heart of bartending. You’ll need to be able to listen to customers’ orders, understand their preferences, and serve them swiftly and accurately.
If you come into the bartending world with a lack of customer service skills and a bad attitude, trust me you won’t last very long.
Learn to build rapport with your customer base and practice and develop your customer service skills, this will not only help you earn more tips but also establish regular customers that visit just for you.
Effective communication is essential for any bartender, no matter the establishment. You’ll need to be a master communicator that can speak to anyone about anything at any time.
Extroverted people often crush it behind the bar but don’t worry if you’re not quite there yet. This is a skill that can be developed rapidly behind the bar and with some practice.
Speak clearly and concisely to ensure the bar runs smoothly and patrons have a great experience within the establishment.
As a bartender, you’ll often find yourself juggling multiple tasks simultaneously. This may look like serving customers and making drinks handling cash and keeping a watchful eye on stock levels.
Learning to be an efficient multitasker will set you apart from the average bartender as you’ll be more efficient at keeping the bar running smoothly.
But remember to take it slow and work your way up to multitasking to reduce errors.
6. Time management
Managing your time as a bartender is essential, especially in fast-paced bar environments where there can be a lot going on at once.
Prioritizing tasks, organizing workflow, and being mindful of closing times and happy hour will help keep your customers happy and reduce wait times.
>> Read more: Bartender working hours: The graveyard shift
7. Memory and recall
Truly great bartenders have EXCEPTIONAL memory and recall. They’re able to learn cocktail recipes and remember customers’ drink preferences.
Being able to recall drinks and recipes quickly can impress customers and help provide a great level of customer service.
But don’t worry if you feel like you haven’t got the sharpest memory just yet. With practice and patience, your memory can be developed, so honing in your memory and flexing those muscles when you can will set you apart from the average.
Not all shifts will run smoothly, and as a bartender, you’ll need to become a skilled problem-solver that can think on your feet and act quickly to turn challenging situations into resolutions.
Unhappy customers and stock issues are all too common in bartending, so learning to navigate these situations with confidence is essential for your success.
Once you’ve nailed the basics, become creative with your ideas to craft signature drinks that will wow and impress your guests.
Experiment with different ingredients, garnishes, and even add a bit of flair to your everyday bartending routine.
Allowing your imagination to run wild may seem bold, but that’s what bartending is all about and is a key factor in separating yourself from the average bartender.
Bartending is a team effort, so remember that there is no “I” in “team”. You’ll need to work seamlessly with your colleagues to ensure the shift runs smoothly, supporting one another and communicating effectively to keep the ship afloat.
I’ve worked with many difficult colleagues over the years that make the shift difficult, but it’s all about how you overcome those challenges and learn to work as a unit to create an efficient work environment.
Learn to become friends with your colleagues as this makes it easier to work and communicate when the bar gets busy.
The bartending industry is changing at a rapid rate and for good reason. More and more people are coming into the industry with fresh ideas and creative minds.
New recipes, tools, and techniques are popping up all of the time, so learn to stay up to date with bartending trends and always be open to change.
This will help you thrive and adapt to modern times, so avoid being rigid and stuck in your ways.
12. Situational awareness
As a bartender, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. This includes monitoring customer behavior, spotting potential issues before they escalate, and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for all.
Keep your head on a swivel to help defuse situations before they occur and always be mindful of the different types of patrons within the bar.
Being able to spot a troublemaker quickly will help in keeping the bar a safe place for staff and guests, so it’s an important skill for you to have.
>> Read more: How to handle drunk customers as a bartender
13. Cash handling
Managing cash transactions accurately and securely is a fundamental skill for any bartender. Handling payments, providing correct change, and keeping track of tabs requires attention to detail and trustworthiness.
Accidentally short-changing a customer can be the difference between them having a fun and enjoyable experience to leaving a negative review on social media.
Always be mindful and careful when handling cash and double-check change for accuracy.
Last but certainly not least, confidence plays a significant role in bartending. When you exude confidence, customers feel at ease and trust your recommendations.
It also helps you handle challenging situations with composure and professionalism.
Even if you’re not an amazing bartender just yet, if you’re confident in what you’re doing this will give the illusion that you’re more experienced than you really are. Always be confident and never stop learning.
Remember, these skills develop over time, so don’t worry if you’re not a master of all 14 right away. With practice, experience, and a genuine passion for the craft, you’ll get there.
Why These Skills Are Essential For Bartenders
These 14 skills are essential for all bartenders because they collectively contribute to their overall effectiveness and success in the role.
Being a well-rounded bartender takes much more than simply being able to craft drinks.
Yes, this is a major part of the role, but if you don’t have any of the above skills you won’t last very long in the industry.
Bartending is all about effective communication and being able to speak and build rapport with customers. It’s relationship building to leave a lasting effect on the bar’s customers to keep them coming back for more.
Customers can go to any establishment for a drink, but what makes them come back to the establishment is the experience they have, which is where the bartender comes in.
Have you ever noticed that some restaurants have a greeter standing at the entrance to welcome you into the place and ensure you’re seated promptly?
Sadly, this is not out of the goodness of their heart. That greeter is paid for that job and is there to immediately provide you with an experience that is rare to provide you with a memorable experience.
As a bartender, you are the greeter. You’re front of staff and therefore should be able to provide a similar experience for every patron that walks into the bar.
So how do you do that? By developing the skills listed above and becoming a well-rounded bartender that oozes confidence.
Combine these skills with the practical ability to craft delicious cocktails and you’ll be a valuable asset to any bar or establishment.
Keep In Mind
These skills are typically learned and honed over time through practical experience and exposure to the bartending profession.
While bartending courses and training programs can provide a foundation, the true mastery of these skills often comes through hands-on practice and real-world scenarios.
Don’t worry if you’re not a master bartender just yet and feel like you don’t possess many of the skills listed above. It takes time and doesn’t happen overnight.
The fact that you’re here and learning about the industry shows a level of commitment that not many bartenders have.
Over time, bartenders acquire and refine these essential skills, becoming adept at navigating various situations and delivering outstanding service to their customers.
With an awareness of these skills and how they will help you in your bartending career, you’ll be able to practice and hone them to transform yourself into a well-rounded bartender who shines bright among the crowd.
So stick with it, be patient, and continue learning and I have no doubt you’ll become the bartender you’ve always wanted to be.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and learn more about the role, I’ll catch you in the next one.
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