Plenty of people work as a bartender at some point—the excitement, the hours and the money all factor into the job’s appeal. But while most who tend bar do so for the short term before moving onto other career paths, the job is increasingly being considered a respectable long-term option. We asked a handful of seasoned pros for tips on what they’ve learned from years behind the bar, and how they’d advise those just getting started.
Erick Castro, Polite Provisions, San Diego, and Boilermaker, New York City
“As a new bartender, you’re partying every night and living the life of Riley, but there’s a time when you need to understand that this is the only body you have. You don’t need to go to every party—you need to make time for yourself to sit home and read books and learn about things like personal finances and management. Work on your mind, and make time for your body to recover.”
Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Clyde Common, Portland, Oregon (pictured)
“Find some appropriate footwear. Bartenders typically work very long hours on their feet, and the wrong choice of footwear can result in plantar fasciitis, lower back problems, and slipping on wet or oily floors.”
Tony Abou-Ganim, The Modern Mixologist, Las Vegas
“You’re the host of the party, not a guest! It’s your responsibility to make sure your guests have a great experience, and are attended to responsibly. Reserve your revelry and partying for your days off, and you will set yourself up for a long and respected career.”
Franky Marshall, The Dead Rabbit, New York City
“Many of us get cash tips every night, and it’s easy to spend it all on drinks after work or eating out at 2 a.m. I know many bartenders who live paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes even shift to shift, because they have no savings. One night a week, skip that last shot, drink domestic instead of imported—just save some cash. You never know when you’ll need to fall back on it.
Also, keep an open mind and be receptive to learning new things. It will keep you from getting bored, and the more well-rounded and versatile you are, the better.”
Jackson Cannon, Eastern Standard and The Hawthorne, Boston
“Stop thinking about yourself all the time. Take “I,” “me,” “mine” and “my career” out of your conversations. Dale DeGroff has a career—you have a job in a bar, and that job is to take care of other people. Now go do your job!”
Marvin Allen, Carousel Bar, Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans
“You are only as good as the last cocktail you served. If you have a job in an establishment that you would patronize, you will enjoy working there, as it will attract guests who want that same level of quality and service that you do. Also, be aware of your appearance—and wear comfortable shoes.”