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10 Commandments of Being a Bartender

by Melissa Allen Mar 22, 2018

Bartending may seem like a glamorous job for party animals, but it’s much more than that. It takes specific social skills, some unique abilities, and the respect of unspoken rules to make a great bartender. Here are 10 commandments every good bartender in the world knows to follow.

1. Thou shalt never get so drunk that you can’t count the money.

Bartenders are often encouraged to drink a little during their shift, whether because a regular wants to buy them a shot or the staff needs a morale booster. But you have to know your limits. Because at the end of the night, it’s your job on the line if you make a mistake while closing out the register.

2. Thou shalt never build a cocktail with liquor first.

When assembling a drink, the classic rule of thumb is to start with your juices and syrups, then add in the liquor component of the recipe. Mainly because if you make a mistake while making the drink, it’s far cheaper to dump out an ounce of lemon juice than two ounces of tequila and some triple sec.

3. Thou shalt not forget to upsell on liquor.

You never know how much money a guest has to spend. You don’t have to be pushy, but offering Ketel One for that Vodka Soda or suggesting Plymouth when someone orders a Martini can really bring up those check averages.

4. Thou shalt always hold a wine glass by the stem.

No one wants your dirty bartender hands near the lip of their glass.

5. Thou shalt never forget to burn the ice.

At the end of the night, every bartender must make sure their ice bins are empty, clean, and dry. Mostly for sanitation reasons, but also as a deterrent to the greatest of bar scourges — the fruit fly. Any standing water, even a coin-sized amount, can become a breeding ground for those bastards.

6. Thou shalt never forget to check expiration dates.

Yes, this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how a bottle of OJ or a pint of milk can lurk in the back of your bar fridge. The worst culprits are cans of soda. If you work at a bar without a soda gun, you must FIFO that shit. If not, I guarantee you that that can of soda in the back is at least three years old.

7. Thou shalt always restock the bar.

It’s bartender karma. There’s nothing worse than walking into your opening shift to twice as much work as usual.

8. Thou shalt never hold a glass anywhere near the ice bin.

Because it will shatter into a million pieces right over your ice which is one of the most annoying things that can happen during service.

9. Thou shalt never sleep with your regulars.

If you are single, it’s bound to happen eventually, but it is best to avoid it, unless you are both super chill. You can lose a great customer or worse, have to serve your hookup on their future dates. Save your flirtations for the cutie that’s just in town for the weekend.

10. Thou shalt never make excuses.

At a bar or restaurant, if something needs to be done, it’s everyone’s job. Someone has to shovel the sidewalk? It’s your turn! A drunk customer knocks over a tray of drinks? Whoever is closest has to clean it up. The phone rings? Okay, in this case, totally pawn this off on someone else.

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