Is Bartending Hard? (Truthful Guide)

is bartending hard
Joe | Last Updated: November 27, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

Bartending is a profession that an increasing number of people are getting into because of the lifestyle and flexibility the role offers.

It’s an exciting career path that offers fun, flexibility, and music among other elements of work that are simply not found anywhere else.

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at what the role of bartending entails and answer a question that those looking to get into the industry are eager to learn the answer to. “Is bartending hard?”

Yes. Whilst bartending may look like a breeze from the outside, it’s a very demanding role that requires hard work, commitment, and a can-do attitude to succeed. Long hours, late nights, and changing barrels are all part of a bartender’s role and it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Let’s take a closer look…

Is Bartending A Hard Skill?

Not everyone is cut out to be a bartender, and that’s OK. Often people believe that the role is perfect for them but after a couple of weeks find that it’s much more difficult than they first thought.

Bartending is a skill that is developed over time, and while it may look simple enough, it’s actually a lot more difficult than you might think.

Whilst bartending can be rigorous and take some getting used to, it can also be one of the most fulfilling and exciting careers out there.

is bartending hard
Image by Social Butterfly

Yes, it will no doubt be tough at the start, but as time goes on and you learn the ins and outs of bartending the role becomes MUCH easier and more enjoyable.

Like any role, bartending requires time to learn and high-level social skills that people often underestimate before taking on a bartending job.

Navigating difficult customers, problem-solving, de-escalating situations, and dealing with drunk punters are all part of what makes an excellent bartender, and this part is where a lot of people struggle.

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What Is The Hardest Part Of Being A Bartender?

In my experience, the hardest part of being when you first take on the role is remembering cocktail recipes. Depending on the bar you work in, there may be 50+ cocktails that need to be learned and memorized to make the job easier.

Bartenders do have a cocktail sheet that they can rely on when serving cocktails they have not yet memorized, but at first, this can be overwhelming and really slow down the drink-making process.

That said, once you’ve learned the most popular cocktails in the bar the job becomes a WHOLE lot easier.

But don’t panic, the good news is in most bars customers usually order the same most popular cocktails, so these are best to learn first and there are only around 5 – 10 or so.

Another difficult part of bartending which I’ve found a lot of people have issues with is the social side. Good bartenders need to be quite social and be able to interact with customers effectively.

They build connections with punters over time and convert them into regulars as they enjoy the company of the bartender so much so that they return.

Social butterflies make the best bartenders, but those who are introverted and don’t enjoy striking up conversations may find the role challenging.

No matter how experienced a bartender is, if they can’t communicate with customers well they will likely not enjoy the role.

Is Bartending Harder Than Serving?

I’ve tried both bartending and serving and personally, I find that bartending is quite a lot harder than a serving position for multiple reasons.

The first is that bartending requires a lot more hands-on work, including cleaning duties, changing barrels, keeping the bar tidy, washing glasses, collecting glasses, and more.

Serving jobs are more focused on taking customers’ orders, offering great customer service, delivering food, and ensuring everybody is having a good time.

Bartending is a lot more demanding physically and bartenders often find that they’re regularly dealing with drunk customers which can be mentally exhausting at times.

Whether or not you find bartending or serving more difficult is going to depend on your personality and physicality but in most cases, bartending will be harder.

What Does It Take To Be A Bartender?

Bartending doesn’t require an A-grade education, degree, or any fancy qualifications, it simply requires that you be a hard-working individual who has a great attitude toward service.

Most bars will expect some form of education such as a diploma or GED and you’ll need to be over the age of 18 to serve alcohol in the UK and over 21 in the United States.

Attending a bartending school will give you the upper hand when competing with other candidates as you’ll already know the basics of mixing drinks and serving alcoholic beverages, but this isn’t mandatory.

To be a great bartender you don’t need much but a personality and the ability to communicate well with customers. It’s best to be physically capable too as changing barrels, cleaning and other duties may require some strength at times.

Below are some other desirables that bar managers will look for when hiring bartending staff:

  • Knowledge about drinks
  • Great customer service skills
  • Experience
  • Great time management
  • Strong memory
  • Polite
  • Situational awareness
  • Thick-skinned
  • Positive can-do attitude

Is Bar Work Hard To Learn?

If you’ve been accepted for a bartending role recently, congratulations! I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to panic as bar work is not difficult to learn.

Most establishments will give new staff on-the-job training that typically lasts around 1 – 3 weeks and by the end of the training, you’ll be fully capable of serving customers a range of drinks on your own.

is bartending hard
Image by delo

Whilst at this stage you won’t know everything and will still be using cocktail sheets as a guide, you’ll be learning fast and getting to grips with the role.

Bartending can be quite a shock for newcomers with little experience. Suddenly they find themselves thrust into an environment where they need to memorize cocktails, be chatty with customers, and collect glasses all at the same time!

That said, after a month or so this quickly becomes second nature and the role becomes MUCH easier. Like any new job, it takes time to adjust and learn what’s required, but as time goes on you’ll become a great bartender.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what being a bartender takes and a clear answer to your question “is bartending hard?”

Bartending is difficult at first, but as time goes on the role quickly becomes second nature, and those that are fit for the role succeed and grow into superb bartenders.

This career path is certainly hard work at times and can give noobies quite the shock. The lifestyle and fast-paced environment can be challenging at first but once bartenders get to grips with the role it can be very rewarding.

Thanks for taking the time to learn more about bartending today and if you’re considering a role in the industry I urge you to give it a go.

See you in the next one!

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