Are you looking to add some excitement and extra cash to your life? Imagine being the life of the party while making some extra dough on the side! In this article, we’ll show you how to become a bartender on the side, sharing simple steps to unlock your inner mixologist, impress your friends, and earn money while having a blast.


How Much Do Bartenders Make


Bartending isn’t just about mixing drinks and serving customers; it’s also an opportunity to boost your income while doing something you enjoy. So, how much do bartenders make? The average hourly pay of bartenders is $15.99 per hour. Sounds too small? Well, you shouldn’t take that as a discouragement. The world of bartending offers other income opportunities beyond just the hourly wage.

Factors Influencing Bartender Salaries

Let’s explore the factors that influence bartender salaries and delve into the potential for tips and additional earnings.

Location

The geographic location of the bar or restaurant plays a significant role in determining a bartender’s income. Bartenders in major cities tend to earn more than those in smaller towns due to the difference in cost of living and customer spending capacity.

Experience

As with many professions, experience matters. Seasoned bartenders with a repertoire of drink-making skills and excellent customer service are likely to command higher wages than beginners.

Type of Establishment

The type of bar or restaurant you work at can greatly affect your income. Bartenders at exclusive cocktail lounges or upscale hotels typically earn more than those at neighborhood pubs or casual eateries.

Shifts and Hours

Your work hours and shifts can impact your earnings. Evening and weekend shifts, when bars are busiest, often yield higher tips and bonuses, contributing to a more substantial income.

How to Make More Money as a Bartender

Beyond the base wages, you can explore other avenues to make more money bartending.

Tips

Bartenders have the chance to significantly boost their earnings through tips, which can often surpass their base pay. In fact, a skilled and personable bartender can easily make hundreds of dollars in tips during a single shift, making it a lucrative option for those seeking a rewarding side hustle. According to Indeed, bartenders can make as much as $150 in tips per day.

Private Events and Catering

Bartenders may have the opportunity to work at private events, weddings, corporate parties, and catering gigs. These events often pay higher hourly rates or offer gratuities on top of regular wages, making them a lucrative source of additional income.

Specialty Cocktails and Upselling

Bartenders who excel at creating specialty cocktails or upselling premium spirits can earn more through increased sales and higher tips. Encouraging customers to try unique or premium drinks can boost both the bartender’s and the establishment’s revenue.

Teaching Bartending

Teaching bartending classes is another avenue for bartenders to earn additional income. Bartenders with substantial experience and knowledge can leverage their expertise to teach aspiring bartenders the art of mixology and the nuances of bartending. This allows them to share their passion and skills with others and provides an opportunity to make extra money in the process. Bartending classes can take various forms, from one-on-one instruction to group workshops or online courses. Instructors can cover various topics, including cocktail recipes, bartending techniques, customer service, and responsible alcohol service.


How to Become a Bartender


To become a bartender, you don’t necessarily need formal education. However, you should attend bartending school or training programs if you can. While these programs aren’t mandatory, they can be highly beneficial for aspiring bartenders.

Attend a Bartending School

Bartending schools provide you with a structured environment to learn the essential techniques, cocktail recipes, and customer service skills needed for the job. Additionally, they often offer hands-on experience, which can be valuable in building your confidence and expertise. So, while formal education isn’t a strict requirement, it can give you a competitive edge and help kickstart your bartending career.

Memorize Common Recipes

You will learn several drink recipes during your bartending training. Thus, you need to memorize the most common ones. A bartender should not be caught in two minds when mixing cocktails or serving drinks to customers. Thus, memorizing common recipes is a fundamental step in becoming a competent bartender.

When customers order popular cocktails like the Martini, Margarita, or Mojito, they expect a certain standard and taste consistency. Knowing these recipes by heart ensures that you can quickly and accurately prepare these drinks, maintaining both the quality and the efficiency of your service.

Practice

Constant practice begets perfection. This is why you need to practice your bartending skills constantly. To do this effectively, you may need your personal bartending kits, including shakers, jiggers, and various glassware. Practicing your craft is an essential step in becoming a skilled bartender.

Practicing your bartending skills helps you refine your cocktail-making techniques and enhances your speed and efficiency behind the bar. As you repetitively mix drinks and experiment with different recipes, you become more confident in your abilities, allowing you to serve customers with precision and professionalism.

Moreover, practice allows you to develop muscle memory, making it easier to pour accurate measurements and create consistent cocktails. This consistency is crucial in maintaining the quality and taste of the drinks you serve, which, in turn, leads to satisfied customers and potentially higher tips.

Gain Hands-on Experience

With its structured lessons and theoretical knowledge, bartending school can be a promising start on your journey to becoming a bartender. However, it’s essential to recognize that it’s not a one-stop solution to securing a bartending job. In the real world of bartending, you’ll often find yourself in scenarios that no classroom can fully prepare you for.

One of the most significant disparities lies in handling real-world situations. While bartending school can teach you how to mix drinks and master mixology, it can’t simulate the experience of handling a tough crowd of thirsty customers. The unpredictability of customer behavior, their demands, and the occasional challenging situations that arise require a different set of skills. You should consider working as a server or barback to gain experience. You may find a bartender willing to take you under their wing during this period.

Bartending Licensing and Certification

Bartenders do not need a certification to work in most states. However, some states do require bartenders to have a license, which typically requires passing a written exam on alcohol laws and bartending practices. For example, bartenders in Texas only need the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission certification to bartend in the state. The requirement may vary significantly from state to state, so research and ensure you comply with the specific regulations in your location.

How to Start Bartending

After attending bartending school and gaining experience as a barback, the next step in landing your first bartending job is to strategically apply and interview for bartender positions.

  • Target the Right Establishments: Focus your job search on bars, restaurants, or venues where you’d like to work. Look for places that align with your experience and the type of bartending you want to do as a side hustle.
  • Submit a Tailored Resume and Cover Letter: Create a professional resume highlighting your bartending school attendance, barback experience, and relevant skills. Craft a compelling cover letter expressing your enthusiasm for bartending and your readiness to transition into a bartending role.
  • Leverage Your Network: Reach out to connections you’ve made during bartending school, as well as any experienced bartenders or industry professionals you’ve met. They might be aware of job openings or able to provide valuable recommendations.
  • Prepare for Interviews: Study common bartender interview questions and practice your responses. Be ready to discuss your mixology skills, customer service abilities, and your previous experience as a barback.
  • Demonstrate Your Skills: During interviews or working interviews, showcase your bartending knowledge, confidence, and professionalism. Be prepared to mix drinks, interact with potential employers, and handle tasks related to bartending.

Types of Bartending Gigs

Throughout the early stages of learning the ropes of bartending, you will notice subtle differences in the types of bartending gigs available, each offering unique experiences and opportunities. These distinctions go beyond just the variety of drinks you’ll be mixing. Here, we delve into the various bartending roles you might encounter and how they can shape your bartending journey:

Pub or Local Bar

At a pub or local bar, you’ll find a sense of community and familiarity. Regular patrons often become like family, and you’ll have the chance to build strong relationships. Bartending here typically involves serving a range of classic drinks and beers. The casual and relaxed atmosphere makes it a great place to hone your interpersonal skills. Pubs and local bars often have a steady stream of regulars, ensuring a stable income source.

Nightclub

Working in a nightclub is all about the fast-paced nightlife experience. Expect late nights, energetic crowds, and high-energy music. The income potential in nightclubs can be substantial, thanks to generous tips and large crowds, especially on weekends. However, the work can be physically and emotionally demanding due to the late hours and dealing with intoxicated patrons.

Restaurant

In a restaurant, bartenders often work more predictable hours, with shifts typically aligning with meal times. You’ll have the opportunity to create a variety of cocktails and may also serve food. The pace is generally slower, allowing for more extensive customer interactions. While tip rates may be consistent, they might be lower compared to bars or nightclubs.

Catering and Events

Bartending for catering or events can be an adventurous experience. You’ll work in diverse locations, from weddings to corporate gatherings. While schedules can vary based on event bookings, private events like weddings often offer excellent pay, including gratuities. However, this role can be physically demanding, involving heavy lifting and setup.

Mobile or Private Bartending

Choosing to operate as a mobile or private bartender offers the ultimate flexibility. You can set your own hours and select your clients, providing an ideal work-life balance. Rates for private parties and special events tend to be higher, but this path requires entrepreneurial skills and self-promotion.

How to Be a Good Bartender

You don’t just want to be a bartender; you want to be a good one. To be a good bartender, it’s not enough to merely pour drinks. You must cultivate a unique blend of skills and qualities that elevate your craft. It’s about mastering mixology, providing exceptional customer service, remaining calm under pressure, and continuously refining your abilities.

A good bartender isn’t just a drink maker; they are a host, a problem solver, and a creator of memorable experiences for their patrons. Here are the most important qualities for success:

  • Exceptional Customer Service: Providing outstanding customer service is at the core of bartending. Successful bartenders are friendly, approachable, and attentive to customers’ needs. They make patrons feel welcome and valued, leading to repeat business and generous tips.
  • Mixology Mastery: A deep understanding of mixology, including the ability to craft a wide range of cocktails, is crucial. Successful bartenders create consistently delicious drinks, experiment with new recipes, and adapt to customers’ preferences.
  • Communication Skills: Effective communication is essential for taking drink orders, interacting with patrons, and collaborating with colleagues. Bartenders should be able to engage in friendly conversations, handle customer inquiries, and diffuse tense situations when necessary. Learn de-escalation techniques to defuse potentially volatile situations. This might involve using a soothing tone, offering alternatives, or suggesting a break from alcohol consumption.
  • Time Management: The fast-paced nature of bartending requires strong time management skills. Successful bartenders can juggle multiple tasks, such as preparing drinks, serving customers, and managing cash transactions, all while maintaining efficiency.
  • Knowledge of Alcohol Laws: Complying with local and state alcohol laws is essential. Successful bartenders are well-versed in responsible alcohol service, including checking IDs, refusing service to intoxicated patrons, and adhering to legal drinking age restrictions.
  • Attention to Detail: Attention to detail is crucial when preparing drinks to ensure accuracy, consistency, and presentation. Successful bartenders take pride in their work, ensuring that every cocktail is well-crafted and visually appealing.
  • Multitasking Skills: Bartenders often handle multiple orders simultaneously. Successful bartenders can multitask efficiently, ensuring that all customers are served promptly and accurately.

Tips to Increase Your Tips as a Bartender


It is a known fact that tips contribute significantly to a bartender’s income. These gratuities, often given voluntarily by patrons, can substantially augment a bartender’s earnings, making it a substantial portion of their overall income.

Therefore, bartenders must understand how to get more tips.

  • Provide Excellent Service: Offer friendly, attentive, and efficient customer service.
  • Smile and Engage: Greet patrons warmly and engage in friendly conversations.
  • Learn Names: If possible, remember and use customers’ names.
  • Recommend and Upsell: Suggest special cocktails or premium spirits to increase sales.
  • Anticipate Needs: Be proactive in refilling drinks and offering napkins or snacks.
  • Keep the Bar Clean: Maintain a clean and organized bar area.
  • Handle Complaints Gracefully: Address customer concerns calmly and professionally.
  • Manage Time Wisely: Serve customers promptly and efficiently, especially during busy periods.
  • Express Gratitude: Thank customers for their business and leave a positive impression.
  • Create a Pleasant Atmosphere: Play appropriate music, set the right lighting, and maintain a welcoming ambiance.
  • Teamwork: Collaborate with colleagues to provide seamless service.
  • Personalize Service: Tailor your approach to individual customer preferences.
  • Follow Local Custom: Understand tipping norms in your area and adjust your service accordingly.

Challenges of Working a Side Job as a Bartender


Balancing bartending with another job presents a set of unique challenges that require careful planning and effective time management.

Here are some of the key challenges bartenders face when juggling multiple jobs:

  • Irregular and Late Hours: Bartending often involves working late into the night, which can be physically and mentally taxing. Balancing these hours with a daytime job can lead to exhaustion and disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
  • Physical Demands: Bartending can be physically demanding, requiring hours of standing, lifting heavy items, and constant movement. Adding another job during the day can exacerbate physical fatigue.
  • Limited Free Time: Working two jobs may leave minimal time for personal life, family, and relaxation. This can lead to burnout and strained relationships.
  • Variable Income: Bartender income can fluctuate based on factors like tips and seasonal variations. Relying on this variable income while juggling another job can make budgeting and financial stability challenging.
  • Maintaining Consistency: Consistency is vital in bartending. If your energy and performance wane due to the demands of another job, it may affect customer satisfaction and tip earnings.

Tips for Time Management and Work-Life Balance

Effective time management and healthy work-life balance are crucial for bartenders, especially when juggling multiple jobs or working irregular hours. Let’s check some practical tips to help you manage your time and find balance.

Time Management

  • Create a Schedule: Develop a weekly or monthly schedule that outlines your work shifts, commitments, and personal time. Include everything from work hours to meal breaks and exercise.
  • Prioritize Tasks: Identify your most important tasks for the day and tackle them first. This helps you stay focused on critical responsibilities.
  • Use Technology: Utilize scheduling apps, calendars, or task management tools to stay organized and set reminders for important events or deadlines.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Avoid overloading your schedule with too many tasks. Set achievable goals to prevent feeling overwhelmed.
  • Limit Distractions: During work hours, minimize distractions such as social media and stay focused on your tasks to work more efficiently.
  • Delegate When Possible: If you have the opportunity, delegate tasks at work or at home to free up your time for more critical responsibilities.

Work-Life Balance

  • Establish Boundaries: Clearly define your work hours and personal time. Communicate these boundaries to your employers and colleagues to ensure respect for your off-hours.
  • Take Regular Breaks: Schedule short breaks to rest and recharge during your shifts. Use this time to stretch, hydrate, or briefly disconnect.
  • Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care routines, including exercise, meditation, or hobbies, to maintain physical and mental well-being.
  • Plan Quality Time: Schedule quality time with family and friends, and commit to being fully present during these moments. Disconnect from work-related concerns.
  • Learn to Say No: Don’t overcommit. Politely decline additional shifts or social invitations if they interfere with your well-being and work-life balance.
  • Regular Sleep: Prioritize a consistent sleep schedule to ensure you get adequate rest. Quality sleep is essential for your health and performance.

Conclusion


Bartending is an opportunity for you to augment your income by leveraging your mixology skills, friendly demeanor, and customer service prowess. With the potential for generous tips, bartending offers a pathway to significant earnings while allowing you to indulge in your passion for creating delightful drinks and engaging with patrons.

While it requires dedication and effective time management, the ability to strike a balance between your bartending gig and other commitments can result in a fulfilling and financially rewarding side hustle. Embrace the challenge, continuously refine your skills, and remember that with perseverance, bartending can be a lucrative and enjoyable addition to your income streams.

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Ibrahim Okunade

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