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Real Life Facts About Being a Bartender

5 Things You Don't Know About Bartending

Last night, Susannah and I rolled up our sleeves and kicked off our heels to guest-bartend at San Francisco's Jardiniere restaurant. While we were only mixing one drink, the YumSugar Special (a riff on the classic Whiskey Sour — recipe to come!), I learned a lot from the experience. It's not easy being behind a bar with thirsty customers waiting for a drink, and after doing it, I have a newfound respect for the precise, fast, and friendly bartenders in my life. To see what the world looks like from the inside of a bar, keep reading.

  1. Cocktails take a long time to make. If you've ever complained about a bartender taking forever to make a drink, consider the method. We had to measure multiple ingredients and juice lemons. The drink involved egg whites, so it had to be shaken not once, but twice. It took me six to 10 minutes to make one cocktail, and even as the night wore on, I didn't get any faster.
  2. There's a lot to remember. When was the last time you saw a bartender look at a recipe? Never, right? Good bartenders have hundreds of recipes memorized, and this involves correct proportions and measurements. They also have to remember which drink goes where, the cost of cocktails, and who's closing out their card versus who's opening a tab. Each time I made a drink, I thought about the recipe, and more than once, I forgot the garnish!
  3. There are a lot of distractions. Bar-goers asking for beer menus, wondering where the bathroom is, and just wanting to say hi all distract you from the main job of making cocktails. On top of that, a bartender must pay attention to his fellow tenders and servers and not get in their way as they make drinks. To be a great bartender, you must remain focused.
  4. Egg whites are difficult to work with. When measuring egg whites, I accidentally poured too much and ended up spilling egg whites all over the place! It was messy and wasteful.
  5. It's a really tough job! Bartending is hard. You get alcohol spilled on your clothes. Your arms hurt from squeezing citrus and shaking cocktail tins. Your hands hurt from banging open cocktail tins. Your legs and back hurt from being on your feet all night. Thus, the next time you're in a crowded hot spot angry at the bartender for not noticing you, remember this story and cut him or her some slack!

Have you tended bar? Share your stories with us below!

Image Source: Thinkstock
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Join The Conversation
redchick152 redchick152 5 years
I bartended at a restaurant in college. it was great $$ and worked with my schedule at the time. i definitely wouldn't be able to keep up in a busy bar though!!
onlysourcherry onlysourcherry 5 years
Frank, maybe your pay is less then minimum wage but the tips more than make up for that. Whenever the topic of the food/drink service industry comes up people in that industry always get on and complain, complain, complain. How about the fact that a good cocktail waitress for bottle service takes home about a grand a weekend without tax? For the record, I always tip well, and tip really, really well when my drinks or bottle service is free or whatever. I just get so tired of people who get into a notoriously difficult industry and then complain about how it's difficult.
jackieoblack jackieoblack 5 years
I tend bar for private parties and while fun at times it is hard work! Please tip your bartenders- they definitely work hard for the money.
AmberHoney AmberHoney 5 years
I married one!
amber512 amber512 5 years
I have never tended bar. I have always thought that it looks really hard and like Anon I'd rather do the drinking!
Susannah-Chen Susannah-Chen 5 years
My arms are still throbbing. It was so much fun, though! But it's true: I have infinitely more respect for a barkeep now.
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