Photo: Maksim Fesenko/Shutterstock

8 Rites of Passage All Bartenders Go Through

by Melissa Allen Feb 19, 2019

Like braces and bar mitzvahs, there are certain rites of passage that take you from baby bartender to grown-ass bartender. From breaking a glass in the ice bin to being passed your first phone number from a stranger, here are eight of our favorite coming-of-age moments behind the bar.

1. Getting your ass kicked.

If you ever want to become a solid bartender, you have to take a trip to the weeds. It’s those moments when you are completely swamped behind the bar that teach you how to be a better bartender. You can memorize all the cocktail recipes you want, but it means nothing if you can’t prioritize. Your first crazy-busy shift will be daunting, but you will gain a lot of confidence from surviving it.

2. Getting a face full of beer foam.

You need to learn to handle mishaps under pressure. At some point, you will get beer foam in your face when changing kegs, and you will break a glass in the ice bin at the worst possible moment. But you will take a breath and move through it and no doubt do it again.

3. Cutting people off and kicking them out.

This is a moment that usually catches you unaware. Everything is going well, you are making drinks, having chats, and when look over, a bar guest has gone from tipsy to wasted and you are now responsible for navigating this situation. Do the best you can to be polite, direct, and also ensure everyone’s safety. It’ll teach you to watch out for red flags in the future.

4. Faking it till you making it.

During your first year or so as a bartender, there will be many times where you feel like an imposter. Like when you realize you made a drink incorrectly, as someone is sipping it. Or you have no idea how to answer a question about a certain liquor or wine. If the guest seems like they know their stuff, you can fess up and admit that you are new to bartending and still learning the ropes. If the guest seems like the vodka cranberry type, play it off.

5. That first moment of flow.

The first night that everything comes together and you feel completely in sync is very powerful. It’s like riding a bike for the first time. You have that moment of “Hey, I can do this.” It’s also the first time you actually feel like a bartender.

6. Getting your first phone number.

When you first start bartending, you are focusing really hard on your job. As you get more experienced, you realize you can focus on more than one thing at a time. Like flirting. Even if you are not interested in the person, there is no ego boost like seeing a bar guest leave you a number with their credit card slip.

7. Bartending tipsy.

Not that we endorse or recommend said action, but the first time that you realize that you can still do your job while drinking is a moment. It’s a slippery slope, of course, but depending on the bar, it can be a useful skill.

8. Blaming it on the Fernet.

They call Fernet-Branca “the bartender’s handshake” for a reason. You can always trace a crazy night back to the Fernet shot that started it all. You know you are a real bartender when you start cursing the Fernet bottle behind you.

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