How To Become A Bartender

by tom c. Articles

One of the more interesting jobs an individual can ever have is that of a bartender, and a person desiring to become a bartender has a number of career paths that are available to gain employment in the field. In it's most basic of incarnations as a career, a bartender can simply be the person pouring draft beers and shots of liquor in a blue-collar tavern. At the the pinnacle of the occupation is the bartender that is truly a mixologist, serving drinks at a top-notch establishment to the most discriminating clientele. While the first example requires little training to become a bartender, the second requires extensive training and knowledge of drink recipes in order to gain employment.

To become a bartender skills must be learned through some sort of comprehensive training designed to teach the finer aspects of the food and beverage industry. While a bartender serves and mixes drinks for a living, it is not their only duty as bartenders usually order liquor, handle cash at the point of sale and balance and account for receipts. Added to this, a successful bartender has to present a certain demeanor that is aimed specifically toward good customer service, have a thick-skin, and be able to handle the occasional intoxicated patron in a compassionate but firm manner. All of these skills can be learned by attending a bartending course in the local community, and there are even some courses available online. While the duration of these bartending courses vary from a few days to a few months, they are critical to complete for an individual that hopes to become a bartender.

In addition to formal training to become a bartender, the career demands a certain amount of continuing education to achieve constant professional growth and improve employment opportunities. There are literally thousands of mixed drink recipes already created, with hundreds more new ones becoming popular every year and a bartender has to keep up to date on what customers may want.

Once a person feels that they possess the knowledge and skill to become a bartender they can test the job market by making the rounds submitting employment applications. In addition to bars and taverns, bartenders are in demand at hotels, clubs, party centers and golf courses so there should be no shortage of possible employers. While some of the employment opportunities are only part time, these jobs are still a great way for someone that wants to be a bartender to get their feet wet in the career.


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A woman bartender: Mixing the heady cocktail of her choice

Neha Dewan, ET Bureau

By her own admission, this is a ‘unique profession.’ But she wouldn’t have it any other way. For 27-year-old Dhanashree Punekar, bartending has been nothing short of a heady cocktail, quite literally!

Hailing from a Maharashtrian middle-class family, Punekar describes her four-year-old bartender stint as a ‘happy’ one. "I worked as a chef earlier but realised that it was not what I wanted to do. I did a six-months course from the Stir Academy of Bartending and never looked back. I have been freelancing at events and parties," she says, the enthusiasm evident in her voice.

Currently, Punekar also teaches students at the academy together with offering consultancy services for bars. She feels lucky to have a supportive family who never questioned her choice. "Neither my parents nor my husband or in-laws ever had any apprehensions. Things were clear from the beginning and they understood that it could mean late hours during events or parties. I feel lucky...not everyone would have been as supportive."

Punekar recounts some funny moments that she often goes through as a woman bartender. "Sometimes men are so surprised seeing a woman serving drinks that they shy away! As far as women are concerned, they are only too comfortable!"

But did she also face any challenges in this male-dominated profes-sion? "Fortunately, I have not faced any bad experience. The men bartending with me at events are almost like bodyguards! Serving behind the counter is safe enough...the wide space acts as a good safety shield," sums up Punekar.


Bartender Buddha

Pearls of wisdom from Nicole LaFrance
By Melissa Byron

How many beers do you have on tap?
We have 20 draft beers, the Southern Tier Choklat Stout is very up and coming. Southern Tier also has a mocha and a crème-brûlée-flavored beer. We carry 90 bottles. Our most unique being the Unibroue beers. They have fun bottles. They're approximately 750ML, which is the equivalent to a wine bottle. These beers are light and the flavors are delicious. This beer surpasses any other beer.

What's the biggest misconception about bartenders?
Honestly, I think people assume that if you are bartending you are either stupid or have no future. There are a lot of people that have an educated background and sort of fell into it and love it. Plus, you make a lot of money.

The move that works every time?
You gotta pull the baller status. Buy something impressive like a bottle of wine and offer some to those around you. I've seen that work.

Sexiest drink?
The Niagara Kiss, it's one of our signature drinks. Presentation-wise, it looks like there are diamonds floating in it. It sparkles. It has Grey Goose, Inniskillin Vidal Icewine, which is sweet in taste, served with a frozen grape.

Who's the best bartender you've ever seen?
"Mojo" Maureen McDonald. She is our mixologist here. I've worked with her in my previous establishment. She's taking classes in wine making and she works at Cassidy Hill Vineyard in Coventry. She's the most amazing bartender I've ever seen.


Behind Bars: Stay in school

– bartending school, that is


Ariel Heinspeter went to bartending school to study to become a bartender. After graduation, she went right to Porky’s Last Stand, where she has been working at her dream job since August.

“I love my job. The atmosphere here is really nice. Lots of nice people and happy faces,” says Heinspeter. Every night is different, according to Heinzpeter. Tuesday night is karaoke night, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights feature live entertainment and dancing, then there are ladies’ night, pool night, pizza parties, raffles and happy hours.

“We have a very good happy hour, for sure,” says Heinspeter. “There’s food available free, $1.50 drafts, you can stay and have a great time. On Sunday, happy hour is all day, and we open at 10 o’clock for breakfast,” she says.

Heinspeter thinks that’s one reason Porky’s is so popular. “Yesterday, we had 103 reservations, just for the bar,” she says. That was karaoke night. “There wasn’t even room to dance,” says Heinspeter. “People just wiggled in their chairs.”

Of all the things Heinspeter likes about working at Porky’s, her favorite is making specialty drinks for her customers. “Ever since bartending school, one of my favorites to make is a Long Island Iced Tea, says Heinspeter. “I don’t even know why, exactly, except that it uses almost everything in the well.”

In school, they would practice with empty bottles, so not to waste liquor. “Even on the last day,” she says. Heinspeter says bartending school was a great experience, and very worthwhile. “I graduated from high school and just decided to do it,” says Heinspeter.

To make a Long Island Iced Tea, according to Heinspeter, use vodka, gin, white rum, triple sec and whiskey. Fill it up, add a splash of Coke and lemon, and add ice. She says that if you add Blue Caracao, it will be a pretty shade of blue.

“I’ve been told I make really good Manhattans,” says Heinspeter. “I put my own little something in them. I use a few drops of cherry Grenadine. And, I make them extra-cold.”

Heinspeter was worried about passing the exams at bartending school, where they were given a written test and a speed test. Students had to make 12 drinks in five minutes. “It was just little old me and a bunch of grown adults,” says Heinspeter. “I was so nervous.”

Heinspeter says her sister, Andrea, took the class with her, which made things fun. Andrea works at Porky’s too, and sometimes, the two work as a team.

The restaurant and bar at Porky’s work together, too. The menu is the same, and you can order from the bar. “Come in, and get to know us,” says Heinspeter. “Before you know it, you’ll be family.”


Mix the perfect drink

Bartending tips help correct some common mistakes
By Margaret Sheridan, Special to the Tribune

Home entertaining requires juggling three roles: host, chef and bartender. Of the three, the bartender is most crucial. It sets the mood. Proffering that first flute of bubbly or a pilsner in a sleek chilled glass has immediate impact. It spells welcome and whets the appetite.

Whether you're tossing a Super Bowl chili bash or potluck for neighbors, playing bartender lets you customize entertaining. What you pour can enhance a theme and menu.

To sharpen skills for winter entertaining, we asked three experts for tips on correcting common mistakes in bartending. "Having a party isn't the time to serve new cocktails," says Tony Abou-Ganim, a Las Vegas-based hospitality consultant and author. Limit the scope of what you pour, offer drinks you're familiar with and buy quality ingredients. "Don't guess. Use tested recipes. They're engineered to balance taste and flavor, sweet and sour."

Hosts create stress by leaving details to the last minute, Toby Maloney says. Put the bar close to a sink, have plenty of trash containers at strategic locations and double the amount of garnishes, advises the head mixologist and partner of The Violet Hour in Wicker Park. "When the guests arrive is not the time to be squeezing lemons."

Being a solo host/chef/bartender requires a reality check. "Simplify everything," says Carlyn Berghoff, CEO of Berghoff Catering & Restaurant Group. "The larger the gathering, the less complicated the food and drinks should be."


Ice: It's the most overlooked ingredient. Ice, like a sponge, absorbs flavors. Stale ice can ruin the taste of a drink. Make a fresh batch of cubes or a block with bottled or filtered water to avoid off flavors.

Numbers game: Figure 1 quart of liquor for every 10 to 12 drinkers. One bottle of wine for two to three drinkers. Three bottles of beer for every beer drinker. Enlist or hire one helper for every 20 guests.

Pitcher perfect: If a full bar is out of the budget or beyond your skills, offer beer, wine and one signature drink. Opt for a pitcher of white sangria, mugs of mulled wine or a seasonal punch.

Cold on cold: Serve all mixers (soda, tonic, cola, ginger ale) cold. A mixer, poured over ice at room temperature, will hasten the demise of a gin and tonic by diluting it.

Sweet correction: Overly tart drinks such as a margarita or daiquiri can be saved by an additional slash of orange liqueur or homemade simple syrup.

Legal ease: Big party? Over 20 guests? Be sure the bartender is of legal age. Check your insurance policy. Whatever happens is your responsibility.

Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune


How to be a superstar bartender


If you want to learn how to mix drinks like a pro, you probably don't want to do what I did in 1973, when I was starting out behind the stick in the United States. I found a bar where the bartenders knew what they were doing, and I became a regular there, sitting at the end of the bar, listening to the wait staff ordering drinks and watching the bartenders make them, every night for about a month. My liver took an awful pounding.

Rather than suggesting that you go through that same arduous ordeal, I'll walk you through 10 steps that will put you on the path toward bartender superstardom. Well, something like that. Before we begin, know this: If you believe that you know what you're doing, and if you can pull it off without apology, you're 90 percent there.

1. Measuring ingredients

Measuring liquid ingredients precisely is a cinch if you use a jigger - the device you've seen bartenders use that looks like two tiny metal ice cream cones joined at the base. New jiggers - specifically the Oxo brand - look like miniature jugs with lines that let you know how much liquor you're pouring.

There's nothing wrong with using a jigger, and some of today's best bartenders do exactly that, though other equally accomplished mixologists use the free-pouring method. Here's how it's done: Fit a bottle full of water with any brand of pour spout - different styles pour at different speeds. Pour into the 1-ounce side of a jigger, counting in your head, until you have poured an ounce. Repeat. Repeat again. Soon you will know what number to count to in order to pour an ounce, and once you know your number you'll be able to accurately pour without a jigger for the rest of your life. Providing you use the same brand of pourer, that is.

2. Shaking

All drinks containing eggs, dairy products or fruit juices should be shaken, while drinks such as the dry gin martini and the Manhattan should be stirred. Although some bartenders like to shake martinis, nobody worth his or her Margarita salt would ever stir a drink that called for, say, lemon juice, milk or an egg white.

It's also good to know that as you chill the drink, you're also trying to incorporate enough water to make the cocktail palatable: One ounce of a 4-ounce drink that's been properly stirred or shaken will be water melted from ice.

Although metal cocktail shakers that include a built-in strainer look pretty spiffy, I far prefer to use a Boston shaker. The Boston shaker is made up of two flat-bottomed cones, one metal, one glass. There's something about this piece of equipment that makes me think that anyone who can use it properly means business. It's a serious tool. And it's a cinch to master.

Pour in the ingredients for the drink, fill the mixing-glass half of the shaker about two-thirds full of ice and place the metal half on top of the glass, giving it a sharp tap to ensure you have formed a watertight seal.

Now hold the shaker with both hands - one on the glass part, the other on the metal - and make sure that the glass points toward your shoulder as you shake. There have been occasions when the glass has flown from the shaker, and if that happens, you don't want it to fly into the room in front of you. Far better that it hits your shoulder, right?

Now I'll let you in on the secret of shaking drinks like a pro: You gotta shake that darned thing as if your life depended on it. Shake it as if you're trying to mix oil and water. Make a stupid face as you're shaking - everyone does this, you know. And shake it for at least 15 seconds if you want your drink to be cold enough.

Now you have to break that shaker apart. Hold the metal half in one hand so the glass is on top, and using the heel of your other hand, tap the metal sharply at the point where the two are joined.

The Mai Tai

Makes 1 serving

1 1/2 ounces 10 Cane rum
1/2 ounce Wray & Nephew overproof rum
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
3/4 ounce orgeat syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 mint sprig, for garnish

Instructions: Pub all ingredients except garnish into a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker two-thirds full of ice and shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into a old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Add the garnish.

3. Stirring

Take the mixing-glass half of a Boston shaker, pour in the ingredients, fill the glass about two-thirds full of ice and grab your trusty bar spoon. Note that your bar spoon has a twisted shaft. It's a functional part of the design.

Hold the twisted part of the shaft of the spoon between your thumb and first two fingers. Plunge the spoon into the mixing glass, and twirl the spoon back and forth by moving your fingers away from, then toward yourself. While you're doing this you should also be moving the spoon up and down in the glass. Stir the drink for between 20 and 30 seconds to achieve the desired temperature.

The Rob Roy

Makes 1 serving

2 ounces Chivas Regal 18-year-old or other scotch
1 ounce Noilly Prat sweet vermouth
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
1 maraschino cherry, for garnish

Instructions: Place all ingredients except the garnish in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnish.

4. Straining

One of my favorite bartenders used to strain drinks through her fingers, and that was a thing of great beauty, but I'm guessing that you'll want to be just a tad more conventional, so I'll guide to as to how to use both a spring-loaded Hawthorne strainer and a standard Julep strainer. The Hawthorne strainer should be used when pouring from the metal half of a Boston shaker; the Julep strainer is used to strain drinks from the mixing glass.

Sit the Hawthorne strainer firmly onto the mouth of the metal cone, or allow the Julep strainer to rest inside the mixing glass. Place your index finger over the top of the strainer to hold it firmly in place and strain the drink into the serving glass. When you get to the last drop, give the glass a sharp twist in any direction as you return it to an upright position, so any remaining drops of liquid don't fall on the bar. It's this twist that makes you look like a pro, so practice it a few times before you perform the maneuver in front of your friends.

5. Muddling

If you can muddle like you mean it, people are going to take you very seriously. Muddlers - basically, pestles for bartenders - come in all shapes, sizes and materials. I prefer wooden muddlers because they feel good, look good and by golly they muddle good, too.

You're going to need a sturdy glass in which to muddle because, depending on the ingredients in question, you might have to put some elbow grease into this. Put a sugar cube into a double old-fashioned glass, douse it liberally with bitters, grab your muddler by the tail, and crush all heck out of that sugar cube until it has completely dissolved into the bitters. If you think you did a good job, you might want to think about adding some ice and whiskey and having a nice Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail.

When muddling herbs, you need to be a little more gentle, lest you release the bitterness from their stems. You're just looking to gently squeeze the essential oils out of, say, some mint leaves, and flavor the simple syrup that's in the glass. The real secret behind muddling is to make sure you tell your guest what you're doing and why you're doing it: "I'm being gentle with this mint because ..." Now you're muddling and showing off at the same time. Just like a real bartender.

6. Making a citrus twist

Citrus twists - the strips of fruit zest that incorporate a little of the white inner pith for sturdiness - add aroma and flavor to a cocktail when the bartender releases their essential oils onto the top of a drink. Try to make twists at least 1/2 inch wide so you have enough citrus oils to make a difference. Some people use a zester, which can yield a pretty-looking garnish, but the idea of introducing essential oils to the drink gets lost.

Hold the twist over the cocktail with the colored side pointing toward the surface of the drink. Hold the twist between your thumb and forefinger. Turn one end clockwise and the other counterclockwise. The oils will be released and will fall onto the top of the drink. Now rub the colored side of the twist around the rim of the glass so that any remaining oils adhere to the rim of the glass, and drop the twist into the drink.

Wanna get flashy? You can set a flame to those oils and watch them sparkle as they fly from the twist. Cut a very wide twist, and place it on the bar next to the drink with the colored side resting on the bar. Now light a match or a toothpick, and hold it close to the top of the drink. Take the twist in your other hand and hold it, colored side out, by the sides, using your thumb on one side and your first two or three fingers on the other side. Hold the twist over the flame - for orange twists, it's good to give it a couple of seconds to coax the oils to the surface - and squeeze it to release its oils. Blow out the match, drop the twist into the drink and look at the admiration in the eyes of your guest.

Manhattan East

Makes 1 serving

Adapted from a recipe by Dale DeGroff

1 1/2 ounces Makers Mark or other bourbon
1/2 ounce dry sake
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
1 ounce Domain de Canton ginger liqueur
1 flamed orange twist, for garnish

Instructions: Place all ingredients except the garnish in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Light a match and hold it close to the top of the drink. Take the orange twist in your other hand and hold it by the sides. (The colored side of the twist should be pointing toward the drink.) Now hold the twist over the match and squeeze it to release its oils. Drop the twist into the drink.

7. Using herbs

It's important to match the scent of the herb with the appropriate cocktail. Rosemary and thyme, for instance, work really well with gin-based drinks; cilantro works in Bloody Marys and with tequila; and mint is commonly called for in the Mojito, and of course, the Mint Julep. You'll find that if you place, say, a sprig of mint in your palm, and slap it with your other hand, immediately before placing it on top of the drink, the aroma will be more intense.

You can also muddle herbs as described above, or you can simply put a sprig of this or that into your shaker or mixing glass with the rest of the ingredients in the drink-when you stir or shake the cocktail, the herb's flavors will be released, though they will be a little more delicate than they would have been had the herb been muddled.

The Mint Julep

Makes 1 serving

2 to 3 ounces bourbon
1 to 2 ounces simple syrup
8 to 12 stems of fresh mint, as an aromatic garnish

Instructions: Cut straws so that they are approximately 2 inches taller than the serving glass. (If you don't have a silver julep cup, a tall slender collins glass works very well.) Add crushed ice to the cup or glass until it is two-thirds full. Add the bourbon and the syrup, and stir for 10 to 20 seconds. Add more crushed ice and stir again until a thin layer of ice forms on the outside of the glass, then add more crushed ice so that it domes slightly over the rim of the glass. Garnish with the fresh mint stems, and insert the straws. Serve with a cocktail napkin to catch the condensation.

8. Rimming glasses

If you want to coat the rim of a cocktail glass with salt, sugar or perhaps a little finely grated orange zest, fill a shallow saucer with the coating material of your choice, and moisten the rim of the glass. To moisten the rim, you can slot a wedge of lemon or lime over the rim and squeeze it gently as you slide the wedge around the rim until the whole perimeter is moist. Alternatively you might dip the glass into a shallow saucer full of one of the drink's ingredients. Cointreau, for example, works well for both the Sidecar and the Margarita.

Now comes the part that many people get wrong. Don't just dip the glass into the saucer - if you do, the dry ingredient will stick to the interior of the glass, where it isn't wanted. Instead, take the base of the glass in one hand, and rest the bowl on the index finger of your free hand so that the rim faces downward at a 45-degree angle, allowing the rim to rest on the surface of the dry ingredient. Now simply rotate the glass until the whole rim is coated. Voila!

The Margarita

Makes 1 serving

3 ounces 100-percent agave white or reposado tequila
2 ounces Cointreau
1 ounce fresh lime juice

Instructions: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shakes. Add ice and shake for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled, salt-rimmed cocktail glass.

9. Chilling glasses

Just as good chefs serve their hot food on warm plates, cold drinks should be served in chilled glasses. If you have room in your refrigerator or freezer to store glasses, that's exactly what you should do. If not, you can keep upturned glasses on a mound of crushed ice in a large bowl - this works well at parties - or you can fill the glasses with ice and water and let them sit in the sink while you mix the drink. Before pouring the drink, you must empty the glass of the ice and water by holding it by the base or the stem, and shaking the glass vigorously over the sink. The cold water will spill over the outside of the glass, chilling it thoroughly. After emptying the glass, shake it vigorously to rid it of any last drops of water.

10. Rinsing glasses

"Rinsing" glasses is a fine way to incorporate a small amount of a liqueur or spirit to a drink by coating the interior of the glass. This is easily achieved by pouring about a half-ounce into the glass, tilting it so that the liquid reaches the rim, then rotating the glass until the entire interior has been coated. Then you simply discard the excess liqueur and strain your cocktail into the glass.

Every time I make a Sazerac I think about how much the absinthe-makers must love this drink, simply because the absinthe rinse requires more absinthe to be poured down the drain than remains in the glass. There is a way to avoid such waste, if you care to invest in a small atomizer. You can coat the interior of the glass by merely pointing and clicking.

The Sazerac

Makes 1 serving

1/2 ounce absinthe
3 ounces straight rye whiskey
1/3 ounce simple syrup
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
1 lemon twist, for garnish

Instructions: Pour the absinthe substitute into a chilled old-fashioned glass. Swirl the glass to coat the interior and discard the excess liquid. Place the whiskey, syrup and bitters into a mixing glass. Add ice, stir and strain into the glass. Add the garnish.

For how-to videos, go to

Gary Regan is the author of "The Joy of Mixology" and other books. E-mail him at


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