The Newbie Bartender

I've happened to spend an inordinate of time working at a bar that mixes seasoned professionals side-by-side with 20 year old fresh-faced completely untrained inexperienced barkeeps.  Ugh!!! I'll try not to spend too much time complaining and digressing about how asinine and downright wrong this situation really is.  


In any case, I was once that fresh-faced idiotic bartender.  My first gig was at 23, straight out of bartending school, right after a brief but very lucrative career as a penny stockbroker.  Bartending was supposed to be temporary while I searched for a new "real" job.  Regardless, I think it was my second or third interview.  I landed my first gig at a brand new 2 bar, 2 floor upscale spot on 7th ave and 131st Street.  It was supposed to be the resurgence of the area and I assure you it was! It was glamorous, luxurious, well decorated and well promoted.  The place was initially packed.  What is was not was well run unfortunately.  


Being a kid with zero Practical Experience bartending but with memorization of probably 500 drinks and fresh out of class, I was nervous.  Sure enough, I was clueless around an actual bar, actual customers and worst of all – customers knew it.  I had walk-outs galore, made crap money sometimes, got crappy shifts quite often, wasted a lot of liquor, and essentially got the shit kicked out of me on a professional level.  However, what I did receive was something worth millions of dollars – experience.  Like most jobs, nothing you can learn in books or in school can substitute for real world experience and it shows instantly.  Would you feel better ordering a perfect Bookers Manhattan from a 65 year old, silver haired, portly dude, in a black tie at a 125 year old mahogany  bar or a 23 year old super hottie in Daisy Dukes at the newest packed club's rooftop?  Why?


As I got my chops at bar after bar over the years, things got easier and easier. Confidence grew and all the issues of bartending in my inexperienced youth quickly disappeared.  I've got balls enough at this point that I can walk into just about any bar and demand (and get) a job.  It doesn't happen overnight.  


The main reason I was lucky enough to get my first gig is because the hiring manager thought I was hot – period.  I was indeed extremely lucky.  It's nearly impossible to get a gig a busy City bar without experience and fitting the mold that the hiring manager/owner is looking for combined with timing.  Those last 2 bits are critical to getting a good gig.  Often, it's about timing and luck.  If you happen upon an interview at the right time, like someone who has been there 10 years is leaving and there is no one to fill their spot, it's not inconceivable to land the gig whereas last week, you would have had zero chance.  Unfortunately, those vacancies and the corresponding timings are not advertised.  Otherwise, like in other professions, you can often get a good gig based on who you know as opposed to your skill set and pounding the streets.

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2 thoughts on “The Newbie Bartender

  1. I have to laugh. I think some people are fated to break into this business – yes, truly – while some simply are not. It is utterly impossible to find a job as an inexperienced bartender fresh out of school. The tedious task of going to interviews, filling out forms, emailing, etc. becomes so oppressive, it’s not even worth it. Yes my dear, you did get lucky. Most of us, like myself, will be forever shut out of this business. We won’t even get your awkward first experiences. This economy has no room for the inexperienced. We are screwed. My advice to anyone fortunate enough to read this: DON’T BECOME A BARTENDER. DON’T WASTE MONEY ON SCHOOL. THINK ABOUT A BETTER LINE OF WORK.

    • assholes like you can any anything and we shouldn’t be paying any kind of attention to your words..thank you and just make a roll of your advise of not becoming a bartender and shove it in your ass really deep

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