Fun with your clothes on:
This type of job is the epitome of cool. Just look at Hollywood: Tom Cruise’s character went from college kid to barman of your dreams in Cocktail, and, in Coyote Ugly, everyone just took off their clothes and danced tantalisingly on the bar. Happy days!
OK, those films might be a little dated, but according to Ben Reed, the BBC’s ‘Shaker Maker’ and author of The Bartender’s Guide, the fun never disappeared. “Great camaraderie, banter, and, of course, drinking alcohol, are all a part of the job,” he says. “You tend to embrace the culture, but learn how to be sensible, too – God knows how many pot plants I’ve killed, throwing shots over my shoulder.”
Swot up on the news:
Oddly, Reed, who is also a spokesman for Funkin’, cites a broad knowledge of current affairs as the top skill requirement, as people often want to talk to a bartender.
“You also want to be able to appraise your customer like a good salesman,” he says. “You need to understand how they want you to behave – that could mean all singing and all dancing.”
On the practical side, apparently spatial awareness is a must. “You are working in confined areas with dangerous elements – glass, water, electricity and ice,” Reed says.
Moving up the bar path:
There’s no fixed route to becoming a mixologist, though potential employers will expect you to have experience of working behind a bar.
“Most guys I know started in the back bar, emptying bins and filling ice wells,” Reed says. “It’s usually not long before a mentor will take you under their wing and train you up, before you move on to classier establishments. You could also jump into the deep-end and start at an average cocktail bar, but you will learn bad techniques.”
Another avenue is learning the trade at a bar-tending school. Shaker UK runs classes in bartending, cocktail-making and flair, and is recognised by global establishments.
Spokesman David Baker says: “Hotel bars and high-end cocktail bars are prepared to pay people more if they’ve mastered cocktail-making officially. These people will serve quicker, and make better quality drinks every time, versus someone who has just winged it.”
A tip to remember:
Cocktail-making is a skill you can take abroad. For example, working as a mixologist serving first-class passengers on international airlines.
The pay will vary, but you can expect to start on the minimum wage which will increase with the reputation of the establishment – and don’t forget about the service charge.
Baker says: “A decade ago, a barman would really have struggled financially, but the tipping culture now has made bartending a viable career move.”
Raise the bar:
Another way to get your foot in the door is knowing the industry.
“Get your name out there. Blogging, tweeting and writing for magazines or papers – this will absolutely get you on the ladder,” says Reed, who for two years wrote the Barfly column for the Saturday Times magazine.
“Write about what’s happening in your area, or the drinks you tried on your holiday.”
Mingling with other bartenders and going to openings are also worthwhile.
This article has been taken from the TNT archives.
Image credit: Thinkstock