Bartenders prepare and serve alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at establishments that have bars. They work in a wide variety of environments and need an assortment of skills to do their jobs well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupational outlook for bartenders and others in the food service industry is good for the near future.
All bartenders prepare drinks by mixing ingredients, selecting the appropriate tools and garnishing the finished drink in the right type of glass. Some bartenders also serve customers, collect payment and make change. A bartender may also manage the stock of the bar, transporting ingredients from a stock room to the bar and placing orders for ingredients that are running low.
Bartenders work in a wide variety of locations. Besides all types of bars and restaurants, bartenders also work in hotels, resorts and event facilities. Bartenders also work for caterers and prepare drinks at events in public or private spaces such as homes, parks, art galleries, offices and museums. Some bartenders work aboard cruise ships and trains, serving customers on-board.
A bartenders must know the recipes and procedures for mixing the most popular drinks, and be able to follow a manual or menu for making more obscure or specialty drinks. Bartenders who don't work with a waitstaff serve their own drinks, which means they must have strong interpersonal skills for dealing with the public and presenting a friendly image to customers. Bartenders need basic math skills for accepting payments and keeping track of a bar's stock. The StateUniversity website notes that 20 percent of bartenders own their own bar, which means they also need to possess business skills and a knowledge of accounting and marketing for the hospitality industry.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 508,700 bartenders in the United States in 2008, plus thousands of bartender helpers performing assistant duties. The median salary for a bartender was $7.42 per hour plus tips. Total compensation can vary widely from bartenders who work at small, neighborhood bars to those who make drinks at luxury hotels or serve at exclusive events where base salaries and tips can be much higher.
Bartenders work varied hours, and often work until late at night based on a city's laws governing the hours that bars and restaurants may remain open and serve alcohol. Bartenders work both part-time and full-time schedules. Most have little formal training, though some prospective bartenders attend a vocational training course that lasts for several days or weeks. Some states set an age limit of 18, 19 or 21 for bartenders, while others require them to hold health certificates that ensure they know about local alcohol laws. Licensing may delay a bartender's ability to be hired and begin work.