Introduction To Bartending

Before we progress, we first look at exactly who a bartender is and what he does.

A bartender is someone who serves drinks behind a bar in a bar, pub, tavern or similar establishment. This usually includes alcoholic beverages of some kind, such as beer (both draught and bottled), wine and/or cocktails, as well as soft drinks or other non-alcoholic beverages.

In addition to their core beverage-serving responsibility, bartenders also:

  • take payment from customers (and sometimes the waiters or waitresses);
  • maintain the liquor, garnishes, glassware, and other supplies or inventory for the bar;
  • serve food to customers sitting at the bar.

In establishments where cocktails are served, bartenders are expected to be able to mix hundreds to thousands of different drinks.

Bartenders also usually serve as the public image of the bar they tend, contributing to as well as reflecting the atmosphere of the bar. In establishments focused more on food, this can mean the bartender is all but invisible. On the other extreme, some establishments make the bartender part of the entertainment, expecting him perhaps to engage in flair bartending or other forms of entertainment such as those exemplified in films such as Cocktail or Coyote Ugly. Some bars might be known for bartenders which serve the drinks and otherwise let a patron alone, while others want their bartenders to be good listeners and offer counselling (or a “shoulder to cry on”) as required. Good bartenders help provide a steady clientèle by remembering the favoured drinks of regulars, having recommendations on hand for local night life beyond the bar, or other unofficial duties. They are sometimes called upon for answers to a wide variety of questions on topics such as sports trivia, directions or the marital status of other patrons.

In regions where tipping is the norm, bartenders depend on tips for most of their income. In those establishments where minors are allowed within the bar area, bartenders are also usually responsible for confirming that customers are of the legal drinking age before serving them alcohol.

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