5 Traits Of A Good Bartender

I’m going to say something that might piss off a lot of bartenders, but it needs to be said: Bartending isn’t difficult in and of itself. Alright, if you’ll put your pitch-forks and torches down for a second I can explain!

No, I’m not siding with the guys that like to say, “Oh, I could bartend, how hard could it be?” They couldn’t do it. No, what I’m saying is, I could take that guy and teach him how to pour drinks, how to count to four, how to balance a drawer, etc. There are things that separate bartenders from everyone else, though, and those are things that you can’t teach. They are intrinsic to who a bartender is. These are the things that I look for in a good bartender:

Personality

Yeah, it’s kind of obvious, but you have to dig down and understand what I mean when I say, “personality.” Bartenders have naturally strong personalities. They exude confidence, their lives are full of ridiculous stories, they have a flare for the dramatic, and they aren’t afraid of new experiences.

When you are interviewing, you are going to want to find the person that isn’t too nervous about the interview. They are concerned about impressing you (good sign) but they are comfortable enough to tell you stories about their previous experiences, particularly about management. This is the kind of person that you are going to want to look at more closely, they might be able to handle a crowd gracefully.

Intelligence

Bartenders need to have a certain level of intelligence, at least in my opinion. There are establishments that don’t care about the brains of the person behind the bar, they just want a pretty face. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying these people are dumb, what I am saying, is that a really good bartender is quick on the draw.

They are self-aware enough to tell you if they need more help with something and they can tell you specifically what they want help with. They can pick up on the underlying process of what you are asking of them, and they can make decisions on their own that are going to be in line with what you want.

They have management experience

This probably isn’t something you’re going to see a lot of, but I’ve found that some of the best bartenders have been managers before. Managers need to handle a lot of things at once, like a bartender. Managers also need to prioritize tasks and connect with people. That last part, connecting with people, is woefully rare in management, but essential among bartenders.

When you combine task prioritization, a mind to optimize sales, knowledge of conflict resolution, a great personality, a love of people, and a manager’s discernment, you have a killer bartender. I will argue that until the day that I die. Managers that quit managing and start slinging drinks make for amazing bartenders 4 out of 5 times.

Their interests are wide and varied

There was a time where every bartender I had was a competition shooter at one point in her life. I’ve hired aspiring pilots, doctors and lawyers. Women who worked probation, former military, project managers… These are people that you want to talk to.

Yes, guys say they want to look at pretty women, but I’ll always argue that if your bartender can’t carry a conversation, that customer is going to leave pretty quickly. Not only that, bartending is a profession that exposes you to all kinds of people and jobs. It seems a waste to give it to someone who can’t appreciate (or at least seem interested in) the things that your customers are interested in.

They love the industry

Everything about it. Even if they have a love/hate relationship with it they love it. They love the stories, the drinks, the people, the new trends, and learning more about anything and everything service related. They’re addicted to it.

If you don’t love what you do, especially a mentally and emotionally draining job like bartending, you shouldn’t be doing it. In fact, if you see a bartender that doesn’t love what they do, you’re probably the only one there. You probably also feel like you’re imposing on something.

Finally, you know you have a good bartender when it’s slow and they are still having fun. They are leveraging everything that I’ve listed to their advantage, keeping customers happy, engaged, and watching out for the person coming in behind them.

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