On the rocks, shaken, stirred. These terms are heard commonly to the average bartender. What does one think of when they envision an image of the common bartender? One might envision just an ordinary person, but with the almighty power to assist you in achieving your desired state of drunkenness. Others might think back to the traditional old time bartenders, giving advice to the drunken male who is lovesick. Even others might think of the more recent bartender, the flair bartender, flipping the glasses high above his head like Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail. When we, ourselves, are the clientele, the provider of the service we seek, in this case the bartender providing drinks, our short encounters with them may lead us to believe all that is required of this person’s occupation is providing drinks.
But in actuality, beyond the stereotypes, there is much more to the occupation of the everyday, run of the mill bartender than one would usually think of. My purpose of this paper is to explore the fine art of bartending and to prove that the duties and responsibilities held to the bartender’s occupation are far more complex then just serving drinks. Some aspects that I looked to determine are all of the duties and responsibilities expected of a bartender, the different roles the bartender must play, and the downsides of being employed in this occupation. I have been a waitress for as long as the law has let me serve. If you are just looking for fast cash within a restaurant business, through my experience it is obvious that bartending is where the real money is within a restaurant. I would be interested in being a bartender myself someday because I find both the fast pace of the restaurant service business and the immediate cash in your pocket appealing aspects to a job.
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Also, by myself being a bar regular in the town of Blacksburg, especially since my I. D.’s date says I am legal of drinking age now, (not like it ever stopped me before) I have been quite curious about the God-like position of the ever-serving bartender. I am by no means an alcoholic, but consider myself a bar-regular, and have come to know very well many of this fine town’s premium bartenders through my frequent visitation to the bars. Consequently, I looked to gain from their knowledge and expertise. Therefore, from this paper I hoped to achieve a more knowledgeable outlook at the occupation of the bartender and hopefully learn some tips and tricks along the way.
The official definition of a bartender found in a dictionary is stated as “an employee who mixes and serves alcoholic drinks at a bar.” From my recent finding and interviews, I discovered that a bartender does much more than just mixes and serves drinks. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the foodservice job description of the bartender is “to fill the drink orders that waiters and waitresses take from customers seated in the restaurant or lounge, as well as orders from customers seated at the bar. Their job may also include preparing standard mixed drinks and occasionally are asked to mix drinks to suit a customer’s taste. Besides mixing and serving drinks, bartenders collect payment, operate the cash register, clean up after customers’ leave, and, on occasion, serve food items to customers seated at the bar.” Talking with manager of local bar, Top of the Stairs, Eric Webb, his description of a bartender’s duties include everything from serving drinks, making sure everyone drinking is of the legal drinking age, watching how much alcohol intake each customer has, to regulating the bar so that everyone is safe while on the drug alcohol. All of the Blacksburg bartenders I interviewed reported that regulating the bar included not letting in people that were obviously drunk, kicking out people who showed high levels of intoxication or were being out of control and bothering other people in the bar, and people who were so drunk they were sleeping inside the bar.
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Overall, there are many differently perceived perceptions concerning the duties and accountability involved with the occupation of the bartender. As well as many of the similar duties a bartender performs, all bartenders also generally constitute mostly similar types of personality. A bartender is thought to be as an outgoing peron who is friendly and helpful. You rarely find an inverted bartender with poor people skills or the inability to communicate clearly. A bartender requires good communication skills to make sure a drink order is clear. They also need good listening skills in both understanding the customer accurately as well as determining the customers needs, wants, and concerns.
There are many roles that are performed by the bartender while serving drinks. Listening to customers without getting personally involved is essential in order to do the job effectively and accurately. It should not be perceived that the bartenders are just there to chat and listen to your problems. Mike Hager, bartender at Top of the Stairs quoted that, “It’s annoying when people come there when I’m working to have a conversation with me, and expect me to listen to them and conver sate back. A “hello” and “what’s up” is fine but when it’s busy, the more I work the more tips I make. I don’t mean to be rude to anymore but when I’m at work, I’m there to work, it’s not social time for me like how it is for the people drinking at my bar.” Some bartenders have little contact with customers, merely making drinks that are served only by waiters and waitresses.
But the majority of bartenders interact directly with their patrons, especially those seated at the bar. As a result, they have to greet the customers, and possibly serve their food and snack orders. The bartender, therefore has total control on who drinks when and how much you will be able to drink for the time spent at their place of work because they are the only person at the bar you interact with. Some other skills and experience that are beneficial to those who desire to be bartenders are good customer service skills in dealing with clientele, cash handling experience, time management skills, knowledge of relevant laws and regulations, and knowledge of the products, the facility, and of the food and service industry. All of these aspects are somewhat crucial in how well a bartender will succeed in their occupation.
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Also, in mastering some of these skills, the job of the bartender will be made easier when performing the duties of this occupation. When dealing with a long list of diverse clientele and coworkers, bartenders must enjoy working with people. The occupation of bartending usually allows you to work as a team within an establishment, and helping to work together will achieve that more business is being conducted, and will therefore ensure everyone with a greater sum of money at the end of the night. There is little competition in the workplace because everyone makes the same amount of money at the end of the night.
As a team you get help in handling all situations and problems that occur within a bar as well. Everything from fights, stolen tip jars, to not permitting under age drinking are tasks that are not easy to handle by yourself and require everyone in the bar to work together as a team. Some other requirements for bartending are adequate math skills, motor co-ordination and a good memory for details. In dealing with appearance, bartenders have to be well groomed because they deal with the cleanliness of the food and drink service.
They also have to be in good health because of the heavy lifting and long periods of standing. Even though it is a bar, the clientele drunk may not realize or see it, but it is a place of business and a professional appearance and attitude is strived to be achieved by bartenders. A bartender must be of legal drinking age to serve. They also have the right to dictate whom to serve.
Bartenders require knowledge of government liquor laws, and rules on drinking. Bartenders have the responsibility of checking identification of customers seated at the bar, to ensure they meet the minimum age requirement for the purchase of alcohol and tobacco products. Tactfulness and good judgment are necessary skills since you have to make sure the customer is of age and you have to know when a customer has had too much to drink. Some other essential knowledge to the bartender are the characteristics of wine, beer, and liquor. This knowledge is helpful when performing the duties of mixing and serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to the clients. They prepare beverages using the proper bartending techniques that they have learned.
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These include practicing responsible alcohol service, keeping everyone in the bar in check. Also They clean and maintain the bar area and wash glassware and utensils after each use for the most recent of drinkers. They maintain and keep control of the inventory of bar stock and supplies. They often form attractive displays out of bottles and glassware to make the bar more attractive and inviting to the clientele.
Most to all of the bartenders duties are done out in the open, there is no backstage. Customers can watch and some even try to dictate everything like how much alcohol is put into their cocktail. Usually this will frustrate the bartender, and perhaps delay the quickness of service of your next drink. Woody’s Baja Bar and Grill manager Spencer Monroe comments on the problems on sometimes having no backstage to fulfill your work, “I hate it when customers question my actions while I’m doing my job.
One time, this girl asked why didn’t I wash my hands after each drink I made, while touching fruit and dirty glasses with my bare hands. I just looked at her and walked away without finishing making her drink. To this day, whenever that girl comes up to the bar, I ignore her. Some people can be so rude,” explained Monroe.
Other duties include taking beverage orders from customers or the serving staff and then preparing the orders. This involves mixing ingredients such as liquor, juice, soft drinks, cream, coffee, water and sugar in the right amounts to make cocktails, specialty coffees and other drinks. Sometimes they put garnishes (fruit and fancy umbrellas) in the drinks to make them more appealing. They also serve prepared beverages such as beer, wine and soda. In this college town of Blacksburg, according to Woody’s manager, Spencer Monroe, beer is the drink of choice for the majority of college students. “Most of the people we serve are college students, they are poor and have no money, and as a result to get drunk they drink mostly beer, especially since we serve $1.
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50 drafts all night,” quoted Monroe. Bartenders collect payment for drink orders and may have to balance the cash receipts at the end of the day. In many establishments this may involve the use of computerized registers. This is one indication of the art of bartending becoming more modernized. At some fancy establishments, especially large ones, they use automatic equipment to mix drinks of varying complexity, at the push of a button. However, bartenders still must be efficient and knowledgeable, in case the device malfunctions or a customer requests a drink not handled by the equipment.
But even with these new inventions to make the bartender’s job easier and more accurate, most customers frequently go to drinking establishments for the friendly atmosphere and would rather have their drinks prepared by a bartender than a lifeless machine. Most bartenders know dozens of drink recipes and are able to mix drinks accurately, quickly, and without waste, even during the busiest periods. To prevent waste Woody’s bar uses tactics like shot glasses for measuring shots and filling each draft beer up to the top without any spillage. But by being careful and accurate, this may take up more time and more money is made the more people you serve. Knowledge of usual and unusual drink requests helps in getting the customer served quickly and accurately. A bartender must be able to mix standard drinks and drinks to suit a customers taste.
Some bartenders even invent their own drinks, and sometimes, as a result, their new concoction will draw crowds to their place of work for their unique, famous drink. Some other things that may draw more customers to your bar resulting in more tips, include aspects of “flair bartending.” Flair bartending is defined as entertaining the customers with flair, control, and style without spilling alcohol. The concept of flair bartending or extreme bartending is mainly thought of when viewing Tom Cruise’s character in the movie Cocktail. Flipping glasses and bottles over your head and behind your back, new ways of stacking glasses, and even the way you pour the alcohol will attract new patrons to your bar once word gets out of your bartending tricks.
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There are also many bar tricks and games that a bartender, when not busy, can display and show the customers. Some include the ashtray flick, the levitated olive, and the floating coin, using such regular objects that are found in a bar like ashtrays, bottle caps, shot glasses, toothpicks, straws, and olives, for example. But these tricks are usually found in bartenders with much experience at ritzy bars in big cities with these flashy bartenders that bart end as a career. Or, on the other hand, bartenders at a slow bar with too much time on their hands may exhibit some flair bartending. “Besides flipping some plastic cups around, I don’t encourage or condone flair bartending. Our bar is way too crowded and there are too many kids to serve to be fooling around on the job like that,” said Woody’s assistant manager Taylor Blair.
New York bartender Patti Farnham also has the same outlook of flair bartending. “I guess most people never considered that learning how to mix drinks is different than learning how to make large tips. I found a few “magic” courses that teach you to do tricks like Tom Cruise in Cocktail. In most of the busier places I’ve worked, this would get you fired. These “tricks” are a great way to impress your friends, but the owner doesn’t like you dropping a 40 oz. bottle of rum,” states Farnham.
Flair bartending isn’t always logical because it takes up a lot of time. A bartender’s salary is usually supplemented by gratuities, and they may also receive meals or discounts on meals when at work. But solely, bartenders work for tips and split up their tip jar at the end of the night. Woody’s bartenders receive $2.
00 an hour plus their tip share, which everyone who is working splits. Bartending as a career provides little money. An average bartending salary is $16, 812 with highs of $28, 950 and lows of $6, 990 full time. So a person who chooses bartending as their profession makes the most out of their time at work to achieve more tips. New York bartender Billy Snyder quotes, “After 6+ years being a bartender, either you aren’t eating, or you learn not to drop things in order to make the most money in your time working.” Some other drawbacks to being a full-time bartender is because you work mostly off tips, the more you work the more money you make. Therefore bartenders may work irregular hours, split shifts, and late nights.
They also may work weekends and holidays giving them little time off and hectic schedules. Even as a source of fast cash, sometimes the demanding hours and nature of the position makes bartending a less than ideal job. Bartending can be done in a wide variety of establishments. Lounges, restaurants, catering services, just plain bars, and other licensed establishments are some of the places a bartender can find work. There are plenty of jobs open on the market for bartenders nowadays so finding a job is not that hard with an open personality and the willingness to work long hours in a demanding job. To become a bartender, little training is required; you may train on the job or take a related training course.
All over the world there are many bartending schools offered for additional training. Some high school education is required and if you wish to advance on the job, and a high school diploma is recommended for a career. Courses in responsible alcohol service, safe food handling, first aid and service excellence are encouraged and welcomed, and if you strive to be a professional bartender in a high ranked restaurant or bar, a National Occupational Certification as a Bartender is an asset. Serious bartenders don’t take their job lightly as one might think. There are many bartenders associations and even a U.
S. bartender’s guild, in which their purpose is to enhance the prestige and status of the professional bartender. Also the guild tries to encourage creativity through national bartending competitions, develop improved customer relations, improve the image of the alcoholic beverage industry though public relations activities, and to support the wine and spirits industry and related trades. Overall, bartending is a fast-paced, exciting job that keeps you active and interacts you with all types of people.
Clearly, as described within this paper, there is much more going on behind the occupation of the bartender as one may have originally thought. The stereotypes of flair bartenders and the knowledgeable advice givers that the bartenders are perceived by are mistaken due to present knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of the bartender. So the next time you order a drink at the bar, remember that the person serving you that drink is concerned and responsible with much more currently going on in the bar, then in serving you that drink. So drink up, thank the man who served you that drink and contributed to your alcohol intake, and most importantly always remember to tip well.