T Nation

Getting a New Side Hustle

Hey everyone. I have a question for those of you experienced in and familiar with bars, clubs, nightlife in general (aka everyone here, at least relative to me, I’m not 21 and have never been in a bar). First some background info:

I’m majoring in electrical engineering and just finished my third semester with a 4.00. I also tutor the weed-out classes like freshman physics and calculus. My intention with mentioning this is to show that I can learn and apply; I’m not just a punk kid looking for a job with a free alcohol hookup. My proclivity to drink is very little anyways; it’s just not something that tempts me.

Getting to the question
That being said, I’m out one night before winter break and I see a guy outside one of the bars near campus, and I start chatting with him. It turns out he owns the place and is looking for new workers. I’m like tell me about it and he brings up the topic of bartending, make bank in tips, party while you work, I take it with a grain of salt but I’m still intrigued. Exchange names, chat a little more, and out.

Here it is
What should I know before I give the manager of that bar a call or show up and apply? Do I need to be an alcohol encyclopedia? How should I arrange my hours, for anyone who has experience being busy night and day? What should I expect if I do get the job? Or should I even expect to get the job, maybe I have to start as broom guy or something?

I have no customer service, retail, or food service experience. Never worked in high school, the only “customer service experience” I get is explaining to confused freshman where Riemann sums come from.

As it is now I can average about an easy $130/week from tutoring if I leave that as my only side hustle, and still have time for lifting gains (4-5x/wk) and brain gains (full schedule). My motivation to be a bartender is getting real service experience: working with coworkers under a boss that I see often enough to be able to get a reference from. They’re open at night which is cool because, well, I’m in class during the day, they’re a five minute walk away from my dorm room, and I know for sure I can make time to drop my Friday night all semester long if it means I get to be Heisenberg of booze for six hours.

TLDR: 19 YO kid has it together in school and wants to bartend, has no conventionally defined customer service experience, wants to know what he has to know/do/look out for.

Thanks very much for any input!


Other notes (will add as I think them up):
I’m pretty good socially, I can get a friend here or a makeout there just going out alone (night or day). If I don’t want to have a conversation that goes “hey, how are you, weather’s nice, see ya”, then most times I can come up with something cute.

If I do get this job I would definitely reduce the time I spend tutoring, from the 14hrs/wk I did this semester to maybe 6-8.

This semester I did in fact have to pull a few (3) all nighters however I also have a few spots where I’m not being as efficient as I could be during the day. Besides, being busy for sure beats the crap out of living with Netflix on one window and Reddit on the other.

Yes, in my state I am above legal bartending age.

Consuming alcohol to get drunk doesn’t really appeal to me. Being able to create art out of a drink sounds cool.

I don’t think you can bar tend at 19yo

Edit: now I see your comment on legal bartending age. Are you sure about that? It just doesn’t seem right to me. What state?

[quote]on edge wrote:
I don’t think you can bar tend at 19yo

Edit: now I see your comment on legal bartending age. Are you sure about that? It just doesn’t seem right to me. What state?[/quote]

Iowa. I have it on multiple online sources and the owner said I’m old enough.

[quote]marrot wrote:

[quote]on edge wrote:
I don’t think you can bar tend at 19yo

Edit: now I see your comment on legal bartending age. Are you sure about that? It just doesn’t seem right to me. What state?[/quote]

Iowa. I have it on multiple online sources and the owner said I’m old enough.[/quote]

Looks like I learned something new today:

http://www.usabartendingschool.com/bartending_age.php

watch cocktail with tom cruise

You may need to get a bartenders license to do that. If not it might not be a bad gig to start out in. Pretty easy work (barring the hours) and an ok schedule to work around. As long as you don’t mind the busy night life you’ll be ok. I would strongly advise knowing exactly what your getting into before diving into it and have a plan for your “gains” that is realistic as well as reasonable.

I like this situation for two reasons, 1. You can network with a lot if people bartending (which will help later in life) 2. Pretty flexible hours.
Good Luck!

as a bartender you will want to have good conversational skills…and you say you are an electrical engineering student?? sounds like a conflict of interests…

[quote]carbiduis wrote:
as a bartender you will want to have good conversational skills…and you say you are an electrical engineering student?? sounds like a conflict of interests…[/quote]
lol’d

Bartending in a college town is easy in terms of what drinks you have to know. Not many people are ordering anything sophisticated. 50% of it will be beer, 30% of it will be shots, and 20% of it will be mixed drinks. Beer is easy, just make sure you manage your kegs and bleed off the head BEFORE it gets busy. Mixed drinks in a college town will most likely be things like “jack and coke”, “vodka and tonic”, “red bull and vodka”, “xyz spirit and abc mixer”.

Those who want to get fucked up will order Long Island iced tea (or one of it’s five cousins), Blue Hawaiian, Irish car bombs (if you have Guinness on tap) and the occasional Zombie. Which brings us to shots. You should know how to make yummy shots. Fast. Lemon Drop, Mudslide, Red Headed Slut, Purple Hooter, Kamikaze (more on this later), B-52, Blowjob, Slippery Nipple, Buttery Nipple, Sex on the Beach, etc… Know how to make those.

Now, that brings us to two things you have to have to be a good bartender: Speed and customer management (being able to serve them when they don’t know what the fuck they want, AND being able to say no politely). At least several times a night, you are going to get a girl or group of girls come up and say, “oh my god, I like, don’t know what I want… What should I get? I want something GOOOD! can you make me something good?” At this point, instead of asking them questions, just take charge. A Sex on the Beach variation OR a Kamikaze variation ALWAYS works.

Let’s talk speed. The more drinks you can make in a minute, the more more you can serve, the more tips you make, the BETTER tips you make (for being fast) and the more time you have between orders to hit on chicks (or build rapport with your customer).

Set up your rail and work area to work efficiently.

In front of (or next to) your ice bin (with TWO scoops in case you drop one), you should have a well with enough room for the following (in this order from left to right) Vodka, Rum, Gin, Tequila, Whiskey, Tripple Sec, Lime Juice. In addition to that I usually have a bottle of citron, scotch and some peach schnapps. NOW, this is your RAIL liquor - it is not your top shelf shit. If your customer orders top shelf, or calls a brand, use that. Otherwise, assume the rail.

Your soda gun should have Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, sour mix, tonic and soda. You should have Cranberry, Orange juice, Pineapple juice and cream within arms reach. In your back right pocket you should carry your bar key, in your back left pocket you should have your waiter’s corkscrew (the little knife on the top of it will be invaluable for various shit). You should have a sharp paring knife and cutting board stashed near by along with a cocktail strainer, a wooden muddler and several lighters. Get a case of the small ones for cheap and carry at least three with you. Also, start the night with at least ten pens.

Have at least two large bar tins (you will be mixing drinks with a bar tin and pint glass) and learn how to hold the tin and the glass with one hand with a small gap to “strain” the drink. Do NOT let ice chunks get into a shot - your customer will choke. A small bar tin, a jig and a strainer are all good things to have on had as well. A small flashlight with a momentary button is handy as well (for cutting through the crowd if you have to, just blink the light in front of you and people will get out of your way easier).

To measure or to count? That is the question. It all depends on how your manager sets up the bar. Each drink should contain an ounce and a half of alcohol (generally an ounce of strong spirit and a half ounce of sweet liqueur). That is what the customer is paying for. With speed pourers, each count is quarter ounce. For a jack and coke, that is a six count jack. For a Cosmo, that’s 4 count of vodka, a 2 count of tripple sec and lime juice and top off with cran. If you are measureing, use the appropriate jig. Some bars have “automatic cut off pourers”. Those things suck. They always don’t put enough alcohol in the drink and as a result, your drinks are weak (which means your tips are weak) Don’t work in a place that has those.

You should cut your garnishes before your shift. Lime, Lemon, Orange, cherries, Lemon peel, Orange peel, Olives (although in a college bar you probably wont use very many olives, be sure to empty them out and get new ones at least once a week). Fresh mint leaves for making Mojitos in the beer fridge.

Let’s talk about the Kamikaze for a minute. It’s a shit simple drink made with vodka, tripple sec and sour (or lime). That variation is a pretty common theme. For example, a margarita is Tequila, tripple sec and lime. A cosmo is basically a Kamikaze with a splash of cran. If you are experimenting, or in a hurry and need to make something tasty in a pinch, XYZ CLEAR spirit (vodka, rum, gin, tequila), triple sec, lime and ABC juice (OJ, Cran, OJ AND cran, pineapple) will come out tasting pretty fucking good most of the time. It’s simple combo that usually works.

-Take multiple orders at the same time. Set up your glasware and ice and make your drinks at once. Let’s say you get a Vodka tonic, two Kamikaze shots, a Long Island Ice tea and a Cosmo. Set up a short glass a tall glass with ice a short glass with ice and a tin with ice all lined up on your pour mat. All of those drinks take vodka, two of them take tripple sec and lime. Start with Vodka in your left hand and tripple sec and lime in your right hand (learn to grab and pour tripple sec and lime at the same time - they are right next to each other on your rail and they will be the same count most of the time) and start from the outside and work your way in.

Four counts of vodka in the first glass (left hand), four counts of tripple sec and lime in your tin (right hand - you are making two shots in the same tin), bring both hands together, two counts vodka in the tall glass for the LIT, two counts tripple sec and lime in the short glass for the cosmo, put the two bottles in your right hand back on your rail, as you continue to go across the line up with the vodka. Grab the rest of the bottles to finish off the spirits in the long island, put them down, grap the cran and splash it in the cosmo, grab your gun and blast some sour and coke in the LIT, some tonic in the first glass and BAM you are done. Slap a pint glass on top of your tin, shake the shit out of it and pour two shots.

You just made five drinks in less that thirty seconds. The longest part (and most important part) is collecting loot and giving change. Best to start a tab and always collect a DL and credit card. Develop a system to track it well. Hopefully your POS (point of sale) system is decent and easy to navigate. If it isn’t that will be the biggest thing that slows you down.

-Have fun
-the bar is YOUR house, and they are guests, if they get out of line, kick them out
-YOU are in charge, don’t let a customer bully you
-If someone is an asshole and you are busy, ignore him for at least ten minutes before you serve him - he will stiff you anyway
-don’t steal from your boss (don’t give away free drinks). If you want to buy a customer a shot, BUY them a shot.
-ask your boss for some “breakage” so that you CAN give away a few drinks a night. I used to be able to give away ten free drinks on a busy night.
-reward high tippers with prompt service
-the concept of “the customer is always right” is tricky. If they don’t like a drink, offer to remake it. ONCE. '
-don’t drink behind the bar unless authorized to do so.
-don’t eat behind the bar - it’s gross
-wash your hands visibly and often - as in soap up and scrub as you walk up and down so everyone sees you washing your hands - it makes a good impression.
-on a busy night, call for ice early or you will run out
-keep your tip jar out of reach of customers
-if you are going to fuck your customers, don’t fuck the same one too many times - she will tend to sit at the bar taking up space and giving other girls you are flirting with dirty looks. It’s a downer.
-tip out your bar backs well - they will save your ass when you are in the weeds and out of everything.
-have fun

Wow. Ton of info from the chicken there.

From what I’ve seen, you will typically start out barbacking before they let you tend bar. Hauling ice, refilling bottled beer in the coolers, etc. Standard labor arrangement. This is also how you will learn to work the bar. Bartending school teaches some of that, but everywhere I applied after going through that wanted me to bar back or wait tables before tending bar. Guy might be offering to put you straight into bartending, but that is rare.

In a college town bar, I could be wrong. Since it will be mostly beer and straight shots, they might be willing to let you jump right in. Doesn’t take much skill to open bottles and pour shots.

[quote]boatguy wrote:
Wow. Ton of info from the chicken there.[/quote]

Good stuff, would read again

Thanks chicken, 10/10 read it three times in one sitting.

Also thanks Kevin, that’s right it looks like there’s a really short $10 online course to buy for “safe handlers license” to serve alcohol in restaurants and bars. I will do that.

[quote]angry chicken wrote:
Bartending in a college town is easy in terms of what drinks you have to know. Not many people are ordering anything sophisticated. 50% of it will be beer, 30% of it will be shots, and 20% of it will be mixed drinks. Beer is easy, just make sure you manage your kegs and bleed off the head BEFORE it gets busy. Mixed drinks in a college town will most likely be things like “jack and coke”, “vodka and tonic”, “red bull and vodka”, “xyz spirit and abc mixer”.

Those who want to get fucked up will order Long Island iced tea (or one of it’s five cousins), Blue Hawaiian, Irish car bombs (if you have Guinness on tap) and the occasional Zombie. Which brings us to shots. You should know how to make yummy shots. Fast. Lemon Drop, Mudslide, Red Headed Slut, Purple Hooter, Kamikaze (more on this later), B-52, Blowjob, Slippery Nipple, Buttery Nipple, Sex on the Beach, etc… Know how to make those.

Now, that brings us to two things you have to have to be a good bartender: Speed and customer management (being able to serve them when they don’t know what the fuck they want, AND being able to say no politely). At least several times a night, you are going to get a girl or group of girls come up and say, “oh my god, I like, don’t know what I want… What should I get? I want something GOOOD! can you make me something good?” At this point, instead of asking them questions, just take charge. A Sex on the Beach variation OR a Kamikaze variation ALWAYS works.

Let’s talk speed. The more drinks you can make in a minute, the more more you can serve, the more tips you make, the BETTER tips you make (for being fast) and the more time you have between orders to hit on chicks (or build rapport with your customer).

Set up your rail and work area to work efficiently.

In front of (or next to) your ice bin (with TWO scoops in case you drop one), you should have a well with enough room for the following (in this order from left to right) Vodka, Rum, Gin, Tequila, Whiskey, Tripple Sec, Lime Juice. In addition to that I usually have a bottle of citron, scotch and some peach schnapps. NOW, this is your RAIL liquor - it is not your top shelf shit. If your customer orders top shelf, or calls a brand, use that. Otherwise, assume the rail.

Your soda gun should have Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, sour mix, tonic and soda. You should have Cranberry, Orange juice, Pineapple juice and cream within arms reach. In your back right pocket you should carry your bar key, in your back left pocket you should have your waiter’s corkscrew (the little knife on the top of it will be invaluable for various shit). You should have a sharp paring knife and cutting board stashed near by along with a cocktail strainer, a wooden muddler and several lighters. Get a case of the small ones for cheap and carry at least three with you. Also, start the night with at least ten pens.

Have at least two large bar tins (you will be mixing drinks with a bar tin and pint glass) and learn how to hold the tin and the glass with one hand with a small gap to “strain” the drink. Do NOT let ice chunks get into a shot - your customer will choke. A small bar tin, a jig and a strainer are all good things to have on had as well. A small flashlight with a momentary button is handy as well (for cutting through the crowd if you have to, just blink the light in front of you and people will get out of your way easier).

To measure or to count? That is the question. It all depends on how your manager sets up the bar. Each drink should contain an ounce and a half of alcohol (generally an ounce of strong spirit and a half ounce of sweet liqueur). That is what the customer is paying for. With speed pourers, each count is quarter ounce. For a jack and coke, that is a six count jack. For a Cosmo, that’s 4 count of vodka, a 2 count of tripple sec and lime juice and top off with cran. If you are measureing, use the appropriate jig. Some bars have “automatic cut off pourers”. Those things suck. They always don’t put enough alcohol in the drink and as a result, your drinks are weak (which means your tips are weak) Don’t work in a place that has those.

You should cut your garnishes before your shift. Lime, Lemon, Orange, cherries, Lemon peel, Orange peel, Olives (although in a college bar you probably wont use very many olives, be sure to empty them out and get new ones at least once a week). Fresh mint leaves for making Mojitos in the beer fridge.

Let’s talk about the Kamikaze for a minute. It’s a shit simple drink made with vodka, tripple sec and sour (or lime). That variation is a pretty common theme. For example, a margarita is Tequila, tripple sec and lime. A cosmo is basically a Kamikaze with a splash of cran. If you are experimenting, or in a hurry and need to make something tasty in a pinch, XYZ CLEAR spirit (vodka, rum, gin, tequila), triple sec, lime and ABC juice (OJ, Cran, OJ AND cran, pineapple) will come out tasting pretty fucking good most of the time. It’s simple combo that usually works.

-Take multiple orders at the same time. Set up your glasware and ice and make your drinks at once. Let’s say you get a Vodka tonic, two Kamikaze shots, a Long Island Ice tea and a Cosmo. Set up a short glass a tall glass with ice a short glass with ice and a tin with ice all lined up on your pour mat. All of those drinks take vodka, two of them take tripple sec and lime. Start with Vodka in your left hand and tripple sec and lime in your right hand (learn to grab and pour tripple sec and lime at the same time - they are right next to each other on your rail and they will be the same count most of the time) and start from the outside and work your way in.

Four counts of vodka in the first glass (left hand), four counts of tripple sec and lime in your tin (right hand - you are making two shots in the same tin), bring both hands together, two counts vodka in the tall glass for the LIT, two counts tripple sec and lime in the short glass for the cosmo, put the two bottles in your right hand back on your rail, as you continue to go across the line up with the vodka. Grab the rest of the bottles to finish off the spirits in the long island, put them down, grap the cran and splash it in the cosmo, grab your gun and blast some sour and coke in the LIT, some tonic in the first glass and BAM you are done. Slap a pint glass on top of your tin, shake the shit out of it and pour two shots.

You just made five drinks in less that thirty seconds. The longest part (and most important part) is collecting loot and giving change. Best to start a tab and always collect a DL and credit card. Develop a system to track it well. Hopefully your POS (point of sale) system is decent and easy to navigate. If it isn’t that will be the biggest thing that slows you down.

-Have fun
-the bar is YOUR house, and they are guests, if they get out of line, kick them out
-YOU are in charge, don’t let a customer bully you
-If someone is an asshole and you are busy, ignore him for at least ten minutes before you serve him - he will stiff you anyway
-don’t steal from your boss (don’t give away free drinks). If you want to buy a customer a shot, BUY them a shot.
-ask your boss for some “breakage” so that you CAN give away a few drinks a night. I used to be able to give away ten free drinks on a busy night.
-reward high tippers with prompt service
-the concept of “the customer is always right” is tricky. If they don’t like a drink, offer to remake it. ONCE. '
-don’t drink behind the bar unless authorized to do so.
-don’t eat behind the bar - it’s gross
-wash your hands visibly and often - as in soap up and scrub as you walk up and down so everyone sees you washing your hands - it makes a good impression.
-on a busy night, call for ice early or you will run out
-keep your tip jar out of reach of customers
-if you are going to fuck your customers, don’t fuck the same one too many times - she will tend to sit at the bar taking up space and giving other girls you are flirting with dirty looks. It’s a downer.
-tip out your bar backs well - they will save your ass when you are in the weeds and out of everything.
-have fun[/quote]

Wow. Helluva post. Could easily see this as a published article in something like maxim.

[quote]angry chicken wrote:
-don’t steal from your boss (don’t give away free drinks). If you want to buy a customer a shot, BUY them a shot.
-ask your boss for some “breakage” so that you CAN give away a few drinks a night. I used to be able to give away ten free drinks on a busy night.
[/quote]

This is worth repeating. Also, pouring heavy to get tips is the same as handing out free drinks. It is stealing unless you get permission to pour heavy for good customers. Treat your boss fairly and protect his business if you want to keep the bar running and keep your job. Employee theft of one of the big reason bars fail so be a pro and look out for the owner who is giving you a good job.

Something to add in that I don’t think is mentioned. You will find yourself falling into the bar/service life. That means your alcohol consumption will definitely go up. You also should get laid more frequently. I’ve worked in multiple service positions and in every one the amount of drinking and the amount of laying pipe go up. I banged most of the chicks at a Cheesecake Factory when I was working there but I also was drinking quite often and quite heavy.

Just something to be mindful of- you can get stuck in it and find yourself doing this for longer than you anticipated (b/c the money is stupidly excessive sometimes). I would recommend you have some sort of exit strategy in place down the line.

Hey everyone, back with an update so it doesn’t look like I just made this thread and ran away like some kinda internet nerd.

Over winter break I learned a bunch about over 30 cocktails/shots, plus the basics of liquors and beer. Enough so I know what to mix and how much to count for some basic drinks and enough allowance for if I get some funky order.

Anyways I went to four different bars in my area this week, walked in just during a time when business is slower and at every bar I was told they’re all fully staffed. In general I sensed a layer of politeness over a lake of “you don’t know what you’re gettin into kid”, some more polite than others but the same general feeling. Anyways I just came back from the bar whose manager I talked to before break (they weren’t open until yesterday/today) and the manager was on an errand and they were out of applications. (guess I’m not the only one who wants to spend Friday nights getting paid to mix drinks). Left contact info there.

Two things:

My experience is more in the restaurant industry as opposed to shitty college bars, but it is basically unheard of around here for someone to walk into a bartending position without previous experience. You start as a busboy/barback/host, if someone likes you you’ll eventually move up to a server position, then if you really kick ass at your job give it another year or so and you might start to consider vying for that bartender position that just opened up. A lot of skill, a little bit of luck, and definitely perfect timing is needed, but experience is absolutely a prereq.

Secondly, January is the slowest month in the restaurant industry as a whole and absolutely the worst time to be looking for a job. Again, college bars might be different, but every establishment I’ve ever worked in really starts to ramp up their hiring in march/april/may in preparation for the summer season.

[quote]marrot wrote:
Anyways I just came back from the bar whose manager I talked to before break (they weren’t open until yesterday/today) and the manager was on an errand and they were out of applications. (guess I’m not the only one who wants to spend Friday nights getting paid to mix drinks). Left contact info there.[/quote]

Make sure you find a way to get in front of him again so he sees your face to remind him of the conversation you had. It might jog his memory and move you up the list since there is a lot of competition.

And AC’s post was awesome. Agreed it should be in a magazine. In fact, I don’t know why AC isn’t writing for Maxim as it is: loads of life experience and a no-BS way of telling it. Sounds like a natural fit.

College town bars can be a lot of fun. I worked in couple bars while in college, door, floor and management. Angry chicken’s post is gold learn about what he described.

It has already been said that you probably do not start pouring drinks. When I was in Ames we had very few male bartenders. The guys worked the door and the floor and it was tough to get any job because everybody wanted to work in the bars. If you fuck up there was a line waiting to get your job. It is the same way in resort towns, which was my next bar job.

Money was okay but the schedule can be rough. Working until 0300 after clean up and then be in class at 0800 or 0900 for those engineering classes will get old. Or get off work and study the rest of the night to take an exam the next morning. I do not know if Iowa still allows smoking in bars but that will get old if you are in a smoke filled bar 3-4 nights a week.

If you can handle the schedule it can be like being paid to have a social life.

I saw plenty of people destroy their GPA because they could not do both.

Got hired.

The place is a barcade (bar + arcade), went in last night and the manager was right there. He was impressed by how I’d done my homework with getting certified and learning 30+ shots (like AC mentioned: kamikaze, sex on the beach, etc) and now I’m the bar’s first “intern”. I’ll be working door next week, and we plan on having me bartending by about March.

Being able to connect on the basis of old video games helped too, it’s probably why I got along better with him than with any of the other bars and clubs.

Thanks TN!