How to Become a Bartender [Everything You Need to Know]

If you’re looking to learn how to become a bartender, you’re in the right spot. No matter what information you’ve discovered so far in your research to become a bartender up to this point, throw it away. This is where you want to be. Everything you need to know is right here, because the career path to becoming a bartender is not what you think it is.

For starters, it’s definitely not about attending bartending school (which we’ll discuss in a minute). However, I understand that the allure and excitement of the bartending profession may have drawn you in and inspired you to look into bartending school.

After all, bartending is a lucrative, highly coveted, and thrilling blue-collar job that can be done in any city or country in the world. The average salary alone is enough to make your drool. It does not require years of education and can be highly profitable, simply for dolling out some mixed drinks. All for simply serving alcoholic beverages. We’ll talk about how much bartender’s make below.

In this article I’m going to tell you exactly how to become a professional bartender by laying out a proven 7-step plan that has helped hundreds of my students land their dream job in just a few weeks. Sometimes even days.

Who the Hell Am I?

Dave Allred
Dave Allred, TheRealBarman, from Martinez, CA

Oh yeah, in case you’re new here, I’m Dave Allred (a.k.a TheRealBarman). I have been in the bar/restaurant industry for more than three decades and I’ve worked just about every position i

In 2014 I created TheRealBarCourse, an affordable online bartending course to help aspiring bartenders with absolutely no experience become a bartender within 21 days of signing up for the course. I know that’s ambitious, but the success for those students has been overwhelming.

As you can see here, since the opening of the course, we have had more than 15,000 students go through the course (as of the writing of this article).

Dave Allred bartending course

I don’t show you this at all to brag, only to show you that I’m not a fake online guru trying to sell you a piece of crap online bartending class. I do not believe in bartending schools, and I have received hundreds of emails and comments on my YouTube channel from successful students who have had multiple job opportunities and have become rockstar bartenders, all within just a few weeks. It has been awesome to hear all of their stories. I can’t share them all, but here are a couple.

Emails From Successful Bartending Students

the real bar course reviews

YouTube Comments From Successful Bartending Students

In other words, of all the online bartending classes available, this is the one you’re going to want to take if you choose to commit and dive in head first to this amazing lifestyle.

TheRealBarCourse Registration

If you are interested in this career path and learning more about TheRealBarCourse and becoming a bartender, you are welcome to check it out by clicking here. You will have to see if registration is open, as I open and close it periodically based on how full it is. As you’ll see, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee so there is no risk to you.

You can also click here to check out my YouTube channel which has more videos on how to become a bartender.

But let’s move on. We have so much more to cover so you can learn if a bartending career is for you.

5 Reasons to Become a Bartender

online bartender course

The Money

Hell yeah! This is why we work, isn’t it? To make some big moo-lah. And there isn’t many better blue collar jobs when it comes to earning a good living than bartending. Bartenders make anywhere from $25 – $100 per hour depending on where they work. If you were to work full-time, the average salary would be $60,000 – $100,000 per year.

The People You Meet

The friends you make bartending is something you’ll never forget. Not only will you make lifetime friends with the people you work with, but while mixing drinks and creating new regulars, you will meet people who will give you gigantic tips, tickets to sporting events and concerts.

The Social Skills

If you’re shy, this is exactly what you should do. I was extremely shy when I first started and the skills I learned changed my life. You will learn how to speak and communicate better than you ever have before. The social skills you take away simply from selling alcohol is worth its weight in gold.

The Rockstar Lifestyle

I hate to make this a reason, but it’s true. Mixing drinks and serving alcoholic beverages to your “fans” is more fun than you’ll ever know (assuming you work in a fun place). In addition, simply working behind a bar instantly makes you 50% more attractive. Sounds silly, but it’s true. That’s the rockstar way.

You Can Bartend Anywhere

It’s true. There are bars all over the world and they all need a good bartender. I have a lot of good friends who are bartenders who travel around the world working at different places as a bartender. You can do the same staying in your own country.

You Don’t Need Any Major Education or Training

Think about some of the 9 to 5 jobs out there that require you to go to four years of college (or more). And then think about how much those jobs make at an entry level ($40,000 – $50,000/year).

To become a bartender, all you need is some basic knowledge from an online bartending course and the gumption to go after it. Most of my students land a bartending job within 21 days, which means they are making money within the month. A lot of money.

Sounds better than four years of training, doesn’t it?

The 7 Steps to Becoming a Bartender
[Even if You Have No Experience]

how to become a bartender

Step 1: Get Bartender Educated

Contrary to popular belief, bartending is not that hard. Seriously. It’s not like doing a tracheotomy under fire, or rebuilding a carburetor. The essential skills needed to bartend can be learned as easily as learning how to ride a bike.

Also contrary to popular belief: bartending school is not necessary to become a bartender. In fact, not only are they not necessary, I highly discourage it. 90% of what bartending schools teach can be learned online through comprehensive online bartending courses (like TheRealBarCourse) which is much cheaper and more convenient.

You can also learn how to bartend by watching videos and reading articles or books on bartending techniques, alcoholic beverages, as well as experimenting and mixing cocktails at home.

Practice, Practice, Practice

While you are increasing your bartending and product knowledge, you must start practicing. Practice making mixed drinks for friends and family or attend an event where you can showcase your bartending skills. One of the main techniques you need to learn is how to free pour liquor

In the end, if you can get yourself some bartending knowledge and practice, you’ll have a good base which is all you really need to start. Once you get hired as a bartender (which is the goal here), you can learn as you go and get real hands-on-experience.

Step 2: Memorize Some Cocktail Recipes

memorize cocktail recipes

Memorizing cocktail recipes is an area of great fear for aspiring bartenders, but it’s actually not that hard. At the end of the day, all you need to know is a few basic cocktails to get started with. In fact, if you were to memorize just 30 – 40 of the most popular cocktails, you would have a great foundation heading into a bartending job.

Inside TheRealBarCourse we not only have the 101 most popular cocktails and 21 shots you must know in order to become a bartender, but we have the Triple Imprint Method for memorizing cocktails. The method was created by yours truly, and it is a subconscious and visualizing technique to get those cocktail recipes implanted in your brain.

The point is, you don’t need to memorize 500 cocktail recipes. In your bartending career you will probably only make 30 – 40 of the same ones over and over again, and then another 30 – 40 that you’ll make periodically.

Most bartending classes make it seem like memorizing cocktail recipes is the #1 priority to becoming a bartender. It’s not.

Step 3: Set Goals

bartender job placement

I can hear you right through the screen: “Set goals? WTF? I didn’t know I was at a motivational seminar.”

I get it, but here’s the truth: setting goals gets you exactly what you want. It’s nothing more than determining where you want to go, and then creating a map on how to get there. This is going to put you way ahead of your competition.

How powerful is goal-setting? Check this out: awhile back, a major university did a study on goal-setting. They interviewed approximately one-thousand students to determine how many of them took goal setting seriously.

Of those interviewed, they found out that only 3% of the students practiced serious goal setting, meaning they actually wrote their goals down. 20 years later most of those people were tracked down, and it was determined that the 3% who set goals were making more money than the 97% combined!

I know, WTF? That’s the power of goal setting.

Bartending Schools Don’t Teach Goal-Setting

This is the major travesty of signing up for a bartending school like National Bartending or ABC Bartending School: they don’t provide any real substance to help you land the job. 

They focus their time on teaching you the skills and actions of bartending, and that’s great, but none of that does you any good unless you actually get a bartending job.

When you set goals and have a clear picture in you mind of the plan you’ve made and the actions you’ll take, that vision materializes into reality. So don’t take goal-setting lightly or I’ll show up on your doorstep with a crowbar and a gunny sack.

While certification is not mandatory, it is highly recommended, especially if you want to work in upscale bars or restaurants. Certification shows that you are serious about your job and have taken the time to learn the basics of bartending. The most recognized certification is the ServSafe Alcohol certification, which covers responsible serving, handling, and selling of alcohol.

Step 4: Create a Fantastic Bartender Resume and Cover Letter

This is where you separate yourself from the herd. You wouldn’t believe some of the crap that was handed into me when I used to be a bar manager. Usually it’s a form application that they printed offline with no creativity, or anything really to set themselves apart.

Job applications are for people who want to work at Walmart and Taco Bell. If that offends anybody, I don’t really give a shit. It’s the truth. Nobody hands in a resume and cover letter to work at Taco Bell.

A bartender’s resume and cover letter should be tailored to showcase your skills and experience. If you don’t have any bartending experience, that’s fine. Highlight your education, certifications, and any relevant skills, such as:

  • Customer service
  • Communication
  • Multitasking

Inside TheRealBarCourse, as a free bonus, we have multiple bartender resume and cover letter templates for you to choose from to help you create your own.

bartender resume

Step 5: Hit the Streets

Once you have completed your bartender cover letter and resume, it’s time to pound the pavement. During your goal-setting, you should be listing as many bars and restaurants in your area that you can.

Remember, the goal is to get your foot in the door first. Not to scoff and be picky about which bar to work in on your first go around. Once you get your foot in the door and start slinging liquor, you can gain experience and then level up to a nicer place. That’s the goal: level up until you’re working at the exact place you want.

That starts with you showing up to bar after bar and showing your face to the hiring manager. You need to look them in the eye, shake their hand firmly with a smile and hand them your cover letter and resume.

You want them to remember you, so don’t take the easy way out and hand your cover letter and resume into the host. If the bar manager isn’t around, come back when they are. When it comes time to hire a new bartender, you will be the first one they call because they met you, liked you, and you turned in a memorable cover letter and resume.

Inside TheRealBarCourse, I show you not only what to say to the hiring manager, but how to say it so that you are the one guaranteed to get the job.

Step 6: Following Up (The Magic Step)

All seven steps for becoming a bartender are essential, but most don’t realize the significance of following up. Check out how powerful following up is: in the sales world, it takes a sales person multiple efforts to get a sale from a prospective client. The fact is, only 10% of customers purchase after the fourth contact, yet 90% of salespeople quit after the second. In other words, 10% of salespeople make 90% of the money. How crazy is that?

What do you think happens in the world of aspiring bartenders trying to get hired? From my experience, after submitting a resume or a covering letter (or an application, as is usually the case), I rarely ever see them again.

They will make an initial introduction to hand in their resume/application, and then they might attempt to contact the hiring manager once. A second or third attempt is extremely rare, and beyond that, it’s unheard of.

It Only Takes One

Remember this: you are not signing up to be a salesperson for your career. You don’t need to make sale after sale after sale to put food on the table. You don’t have to follow up with dozens of clients each week to get those sales.

However, you can use their success tactics to your advantage. You only need to make ONE sale. You only need to convince ONE manager to hire you. ONE time. That’s it and you’re done.

Trust me, follow up four or five times with the hiring manager of different bars and you WILL get the job. It’s guaranteed!

Step 7: Nail the Interview

bartender interview

I don’t want you to just nail the interview. I want you to CRUSH it, which in turn will crush your competitors who are trying to get hired. The plan is to have you so prepared that 2 minutes into the interview, the manager already knows that you’re the one he/she will be hiring.

Does that sound outrageous to you? It does to other aspiring bartenders trying to get hired too, which is why they fail.

Preparation is the key. Inside TheRealBarCourse we have another bonus section called Interview Secrets, 47 of the most common bartender interview questions that a hiring manager will ask.

In addition, I tell you exactly how to answer those questions. I also provide you with the 10 Do’s and Don’ts of interviewing. It’s like having the answers to the test before the test.

If you want to get a taste of some of those bartender interview questions, you can check out my video here on the 7 Most Asked Bartender Interview Questions.

Frequently Asked Questions About
Becoming a Bartender

Bartender FAQ

Can I really get hired as a bartender if I have no experience?

Absolutely and without a doubt! As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had hundreds of students email me and tell me their success stories. Some get hired after a few weeks, some get hired in two days. It varies, but all of them get hired who follow the plan and don’t quit.

In addition, since COVID-19 hit, there were swarms of bartenders who left to find other work because many of the bars and restaurants closed down. Not to mention the labor shortage. I have found that now more than ever, bar managers are hiring bartenders more easily than ever before.

Your main focus should be your personality and customer service skills. As long as you persevere and don’t give up, job placement is a certainty.

Should I go to Bartending School?

I have a strong opinion on this but before I answer that question, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of going to bartending school.

Bartender School Pros

  • You will be in a social environment with other students also learning
  • You can learn to serve alcohol to guests
  • You can ask questions from the instructor right then and there
  • You will be able to practice memorizing cocktail recipes and mixing drinks
  • Since you paid a lot of money to go, you’ll probably show up every day
  • You may or may not receive some helpful tips on building a bartender resume and preparing for the interview

Bartender School Cons

  • It’s expensive (see how expensive in FAQ below)
  • There are some really bad bartending schools out there
  • They don’t use real alcohol in their drinks
  • They use foam garnishes (which means you can’t practice cutting fruit)
  • Some of the training you receive will be useless or flat out wrong (sorry, but it’s true)
  • They make you believe that the bartending certificate they give you at the end has value
  • They claim to know all about job opportunities, but they don’t (not even close)
  • You are tied to their schedule (in other words, not self-paced)
  • You can’t learn how the drinks should actually taste (because they don’t use real alcohol)
  • Their knowledge of job placement and how to execute a plan to actually get you hired is extremely amateur

I’m sure you noticed that there are a lot more cons than pros. Here’s something you need to consider: as much as the bartending instructors would be happy for you if you landed a bartender job after you take one of their bartending classes, when it comes down to it, their only job is to train you. That’s all they get paid for. It’s not their job to actually help you land the job, so whether you become a bartender or not, they get their money because you already paid.

This is why my focus in training aspiring bartenders goes far beyond memorizing cocktail recipes and using the bartending tools. My goal is to actually get you hired. To get your foot in the door. Once you’re hired, your path and opportunities to work at other bars opens up considerably.

This is my long-winded way of saying, “NO! You should not go to bartending school.” It’s expensive, and no matter what they claim, they do not have “ins” with bars in the area to get you hired.

Do I need a bartending license or bartending certificate?

The answer to this is no. And yes. Allow me to explain.

Bartending License for Getting Hired

Here’s the truth: You do not need a bartender’s license to bartend like you might need a real estate license or a license to practice law. This is not a thing, and anyone telling you different is full of crap.

When I see a bartending school promising the amazing bartending license you’ll receive upon completion of the course, I want to slap them with a wet banana peel across the cheek. Their bartender certification consists of a Word document they created on their computer with a fancy seal of completion on it.

This is the same type of certificate you receive for participating in 3rd grade youth soccer, and it has about as much impact and influence on whoever you show it to.

Bartending License For Alcohol Awareness

Though you do not need a bartender’s license to work as a bartender, some states require bartenders to complete an alcohol awareness course to serve alcohol. I actually support this bartender certification because it educates bartenders on to serve responsibly and how to handle guests who are over-intoxicated.

The process for a beverage server training course couldn’t be simpler. Just Google online for Alcohol Awareness Training or Alcohol Beverage License. You’ll find a plethora of online courses like TIPS certification or others similar to that.

The course will take you an hour or so. You’ll take a test online and you’ll be certified. Being able to put on your resume that you have an alcohol server certification shows not only that you care, but that you are responsible and go above and beyond to get what you want. Managers will like that.

With that said, not every state requires an alcohol server certification course. I would still recommend completing one just so you can put it on your resume, but it’s not required in some states. Here is a list of which states require alcohol awareness certification:

Bartender License Certification Chart (By U.S. State)

How much do bartenders make?

How much do bartenders make?

A professional bartender’s income is based largely on the establishment they work and where they are located geographically. Some bartenders might only make $20 – $25 per hour, while other high-end bartenders can make over $100 per hour or more if they work in a busy club or high-volume bar.

What if I’m shy? Can I still become a bartender?

Yes! In fact if you are shy and you’re interested in bartending, I would say your top priority should be to become a bartender. I have always been shy and bartending saved me. I can now speak with anyone, simply because of all the years I bartended. It was like a course in breaking away from your shyness.

In addition, it’s not a situation in which you have to approach anyone and start-up a conversation. People are coming to you and starting the conversation by asking for a drink. From there it becomes very organic.

The Final Word

Becoming a bartender is an achievable dream for anyone, regardless of age, height, or looks. I know that might seem far-fetched to those of you who think of yourself as unattractive, but that’s simply not true.

There are so many different types of bars, restaurants, clubs, lounges, hotels, etc. out there, that anyone and everyone can find one that fits who they are.

I have found that they key to becoming a bartender quickly is to be relentless. Yes, you need some basic knowledge and you need to learn how to make the most popular drinks, but it’s those who set goals, make a plan, and then execute that plan who actually land the job and start earning the big bucks.