Maybe you’re curious about starting a career in bartending. Maybe you’ve just been hired for a gig as a bartender or a bar back for a restaurant or an upcoming event.

Well, we’re here to help.

Bartending for the very first time can be intimidating, to say the least. There are a large number of drink recipes to be memorized, as well as specific recipes original to the restaurant you’ll be working for.

Certain events even feature new cocktails and specialty drinks based around a theme.

Then there are the customers themselves, who can range from kind to snippy to half in the bag.

That’s why we’ve put together several first time bartending tips to help make your first night on the job go a little more smoothly.

first time bartending tips

Study Up

First and foremost, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with some basic bartending skills and cocktail recipes that you can make use of no matter where you’re working.

There are many videos just like this one that break down some very basic bartending skills.

There are also some comprehensive lists of simple cocktail recipes that you should become familiar with fairly quickly.

After all, your customers may ask for a cocktail that’s nowhere on the menu, or even one that you may not have heard of before.

Online Tutorials

YouTube channels that feature talented bartenders giving tutorials are a great way to study up on some necessary components of the job.

Channels like the Tipsy Bartender integrate some very creative means of putting drinks together, all with a flare for entertainment.

Watch the Pros in Action

This may seem like a bit of a silly suggestion at first, but before getting started with your own bartending career, you should take a few field trips and watch professional bartenders in action.

bartending tips

Visit a few different popular bars in town (not the bar you’ll be working for in the near future) and sit right at the bar, preferably near one of the bar’s workstation.

You should probably only have one alcoholic drink per visit, so that you can stay sharp and take note of how the bartender(s) perform.

Watch how they interact with customers, how they collect multiple glasses at once, each one specific to different cocktails.

This can also be a master class in how to pour the perfect glass of beer, with just the right amount of head.

Even if the bartenders you watch make mistakes, those mistakes can also serve as an important lesson. Watch how they recover and, if necessary, apologize to the patrons.

Dress Professionally

Your bar or catering company likely already has a dress code in place to assure that all employees maintain a professional appearance throughout their shifts.

But if your place of employment doesn’t provide such strict guidelines, you’ll have a little bit more flexibility when it comes to deciding what to wear to work.

Even with this flexibility, it’s a good idea to stick to a very professional outfit every time you show up for work.

first time bartending tips

It’s best to stick to pants rather than a dress or skirt. This will allow for greater ease of mobility.

In terms of shirts and tops, you should try to wear a button-down shirt, ideally solid white or solid black.

In fact, an all-black outfit would be a safe idea for your first shift and future shifts in general.

Arrive on Time

As with any job, it’s important to make it clear that you have a definite interest in your work.

And one of the easiest ways to do that when first starting out with a new bartending job is to make sure that you show up to your shifts on time, or even early.

If you need some help making your commute a little easier, check out this article that offers a few tips for making sure that you get to work on time.  

And just because you’re working with a bar instead of a strict office doesn’t mean that expectations for employees should be taken any less seriously.

Be Friendly

We all know that there’s a longstanding cliche of the friendly bartender. Basically, it retains the idea that any stranger can walk into a bar they’ve never been to before and talk to the bartender about anything at all.

And while this may create an unrealistic expectation for many patrons amongst the general public, it also makes for a great opportunity to have friendly conversations with your customers.

first time bartending tips

Read the room and try to talk about everyday topics that everyone has an opinion on. If you notice on a customer’s ID that they’re from your home state, mention that you’re from there.

This can lead to some pleasant conversations with the customer over several interactions.

Having these tiny points of connection may help earn you a better tip at the end of the night.

Take Criticism with Grace

When you’re a bartender, you’re going to get criticism from many different sources, for better or worse.

These criticisms may come from your manager, from your fellow employees, or even from customers.

In every case, you should try to take this criticism with a grain of salt. On the one hand, your manager and coworkers may be much more experienced than you are and have some powerful insights to offer.

Some customers may even be experienced bartenders themselves.

If you make yourself open to criticism, you’ll have the chance to learn a lot and keep your customers happy at the same time.

Be Ready to Learn  

And that leads seamlessly into our final tip: keep your mind open and prepare to learn a lot.

first time bartending tips

You’ll be stunned by how much you’ll have learned by the end of your very first bartending shift. Things happen fast in a bar, and you’ll have to work hard to keep up with that breakneck speed.

Over time, you’ll come to learn about many new cocktails and have many different interesting conversations with people from all over the world.

But to get to that point, you will need to stay open to new experiences and come to terms with the fact that at least at first, you won’t be an expert.