After spending most of my teenage/student life working part time in retail, I decided to wave goodbye to the shitty lifestyle I endured at Primark (no offence to the company, but I literally hated every minute).
So, I decided to apply for a bartending job because I thought “why not”, but to be honest, I didn’t think I’d get one because most bars nowadays want experience, which sucks.
BUT GUESS WHO GOT THE JOB? THIS IDIOT RIGHT HERE! Literally, I’m still shocked how my (now) manager thought I was worthy because frankly I’m so daft and anyways, I’m technically not a bartender yet and I’m still a bar back, nevertheless, I now know how to pour a pint and can make at least one cocktail… kind of.
Bar staff, bartender, bar back, camarero… whatever you want to call it, this shit is hard. So, I thought I’d clear up some misconceptions about the life of a bartender.
1) We have to start from the bottom.
Before we can even get to the glorious spot behind the bar, we have to bar back. Being a bar back myself, I can honestly tell you that it’s a ball ache. We’re the people who restock the bottles and purees, in charge of collecting glasses, washing them and making sure they’re back in their rightful places for the bartenders to use them.
2) When it comes to cocktail making, we have to learn all the specs.
If you think cocktail making is easy as piss, then you’re wrong. Most bars won’t just serve beer, they will probably have a variety of cocktails, meaning that as bartenders we need to learn them all and what goes in them. In other words, we need to have a good memory.
3) We basically have no social life on weekends.
Everyone knows Fridays and Saturdays are the key party days… which is why we’re most likely required to work them. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still the weekday, but juggling nights out during the week whilst at university can be a pain.
4) Please try to know what you’re ordering.
Nothing is more annoying than a customer that orders something they know nothing about. If you’re one of those adventurous people who likes to try new things, then go ahead and order whatever you want… just don’t kick off saying you “don’t like it”.
5) We have our favourite and worst drinks to make.
If you’re ordering a cocktail that your bartender loves to make, then you’re guaranteed that it’ll be made extra specially. There’s nothing better for a bartender (except tips) than being able to make their ‘special’ drink. On the other hand, order something like a Long Island Iced Tea – or worse… an Old Fashioned, then you’re probably going to get the opposite.
6) Tips are literally what keep us going.
Every little helps. I honestly remember getting my first tip… £1 and that was because the customer felt bad for me whilst I used him for my first-time cocktail training. We don’t expect tips all of the time but sometimes it’s nice to get that little tip as an appreciation for what we do.
7) We’re the ones who have to clean your mess.
Smash a glass? We clean it. Spill a drink? We clean it. Flood/block the toilets? We clean it. Sick all over the place? We clean it.
8) We’re most likely going to injure ourselves.
Believe it or not, bartending is extremely physical. 10-12 hour shifts, constantly on our feet with the luck of having only one break can hurt. According to studies, bartenders are likely to end up with injuries such as tendinitis and carpal tunnel due to the work we do. Other things like broken glass shards etc. and lifting heavy boxes are also a pain in the ass.
9) The nicest customers, make our day.
It literally won’t kill you to be nice or smile at us. You may run into the odd “anti-social” bartender who doesn’t like social interaction but a handful of us are enthusiastic people who just want to make your day.
10) We’re pretty much like family – it’s true.