How to go From Barback to Bartender in 5.2 Seconds

Ok, maybe not 5.2 seconds, but fast stuff is so cool I just couldn’t help myself.

As you may or may not be aware, the entire purpose of my bartender online course, TheRealBarCourse, is to get you well-trained and then get you a bartending job as quickly as possible, but if you’re a barback or are looking to get hired as a barback, there are highly effective ways to accelerate your path to becoming a bartender quickly.

Because the truth is, if you are looking to become a bartender and you have no experience, getting hired as a barback is one path you can’t go wrong with, for a few reasons:

1) You get your foot in the door

2) You get free training on how to become a bartender (if you pay attention)

3) You still make decent money (the average barback walks with $100+ in tips on the weekends)

4) If you play your cards right, you can move up the ranks from barback to bartender rather quickly and make even more money

At TheRealBarCourse we teach people with absolutely no experience how to practice skills, memorize drinks and lay out a plan to become a bartender all within 21 days, but you could just as easily become a barback first because it puts you on a sure path to bartenderism (I know that’s not a word, but it’s fun to say and it’s my blog, so zip it).

OK, I’M A BARBACK. NOW WHAT?

First off, congratulations! I know that technically barbacks are considered below bartenders on the bar and nightclub food chain, but the real truth is, they are the heart and soul of many bars throughout the world.

Like under-appreciated school secretaries, barbacks are the oil that makes the machine run smoothly. We as bartenders can barely function without them at times. But, unlike secretaries who will never get their credential and become teachers, you as a barback can move up the ranks quickly and become a bartender, which means you become cooler and richer and gain higher status than when you were a barback.

Second, if becoming a bartender is truly important to you, taking your job as a barback seriously needs to go to the top of your priority list (right above “Buy giant burrito for lunch”).

Back in 2007, I had a barback working for me named Carlos who was the Tasmanian Devil of barbacks. He would whirl in and out of the bar so fast it made me dizzy. I couldn’t believe he never broke things or buzz-sawed through the bar like the real Tasmanian Devil on Bugs Bunny.

Carlos has ruined me for all other barbacks because I now measure and compare them to Carlos, which is bad for them because when I think of the perfect barback, I think of Carlos, and the only thing that would ever prevent me as a manager from promoting someone that awesome to bartender would be that I would lose a great barback, but in reality, bartenders who used to be barbacks are usually amazing because they know everything that needs to be done, both on the bartending side and the barback side. Super valuable.

What I’m trying to say is: Be like Carlos. Put your ego in your pocket, be a humble servant and be the type of employee and person that nobody can stop talking about.

How do you do that? It’s a simple formula that has worked for centuries among many industries and professions, so pay close attention.

4 STEPS TO RISE FROM BARBACK TO BARTENDERISM (Love that word)

1. Work Your Ass Off. 

Hmmm…hard work. What an interesting concept. I think my great-grandfather did something like that a few generations ago. You should try it too. Most of the young whipper-snappers of today’s generation have forgotten how to do that, which means not only will you be noticed, you will stand out like a star in an empty galaxy.

2. Anticipate

Probably my favorite characteristic that Carlos possessed was his ability to anticipate what I needed before I even asked for it. I would pour the last of a Jack Daniels bottle and as I was taking the pour spout off, Carlos would hand me a new opened bottle of JD so all I had to do was put the pour spout in. He filled our fruit trays, filled our juices, got us ice, took out bus tubs, cleared plates and even took orders from guests. He was EVERYWHERE. If you do this for your bartenders, they will LOVE you, and so will the manager who decides who becomes a bartender next.

3. Ask Questions

The big advantage of being a barback is that you are working in the classroom. This is waaaaaay better than any bartending school. It’s REAL. All you have to do is make sure you’re asking questions from the people who know what they’re doing. Ask the bartenders, ask the manager. Ask how they make certain drinks, how they pour them, should you shake or stir. Ask to be their Jedi-in-training. Just make sure to ask competent bartenders or you are going to end up with a lot of sloppy bad habits.

4. Let it be Known You Want to Bartend

All this learning and working hard will do you no good if you don’t be completely up front about your desire to be the next bartender. Don’t be cocky or demanding or give an ultimatum (at least not yet). Simply let it be known that your purpose for working there is to learn so you can become a bartender as quickly as possible. If you don’t share this knowledge, how would the manager ever know? If they don’t know, then you’ll continue to be a secretary for the rest of your life.

Best of luck on your path the bartenderism!

Cheers, until next time,

The RB

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