A Day in the Life of a Bartender

From the outside looking in, it might seem that the life of a bartender is ideal. Who wouldn’t want to spend their whole shift talking to bar patrons, mixing drinks, and getting tips from drunk people? While all of those aspects are certainly a part of the job, there are many things that you may not realize about the day-to-day life of a bartender.

Bartending Schools in New York

If you’re considering getting your bartending license in NYC, it might be a good idea to learn a little bit about what the job is like and the lifestyle that will meld well with it.

Before the Shift

Bartenders aren’t only called for night shifts. In many cases, restaurant franchises will have an on-staff bartender at all times of operation, meaning that your shift might be scheduled to begin at 10:45 in the morning. If so, it’ll be your responsibility to clean everything that the night bartender forgot to clean, and then organize everything to prepare for your shift.

This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Refilling the ice bin
  • Replenishing garnishes
  • Ensuring that the equipment is working properly
  • Running an inventory on your liquor stock

Once the first customers arrive (and, for some bars, this can be as late as 5 p.m. or 10 p.m.), preparation time is over. The show has begun.

During the Shift

Many bartenders describe the job as “a show.” Since tips are a big part of the equation, a bartender is meant to be friendly, efficient, and knowledgeable. If you look too uncomfortable or hesitate too many times while serving your patrons, they might lose trust that you know what you’re doing. For this reason, many choose to attend bartending school before they try to look for a job, especially if they’re trying to tend a bar in a place as competitive as NYC.

Bar Patrons

Aside from the various drinks and recipes that a bartender will need to know in order to do the job right, there are certain scenarios that you might not know how to handle unless you have the right experience. For instance, if a guest wants a specific type of beer not available on tap and refuses to accept that their preferred drink isn’t available, it will be important for a bartender to know how to diffuse the situation.

Ending the Shift

Once the last patron is out the door, your job becomes making things as easy as possible for the night shift. This can include, but by no means is limited to:

  • Mopping the floor
  • Wiping down the bar
  • Cleaning up and organizing the fridge and liquor
  • Ensuring that the glasses are washed and put away
  • Emptying and cleaning out the taps for the night

Most of the time, a bartender won’t get off work until 3 or 4 in the morning. For this reason, the typical bartender sleeping schedule can be erratic, and many find themselves sleeping in until noon in order to catch up on lost sleep. For some, however, this lifestyle is ideal. If this sounds attractive, consider taking bartending classes in NYC so that you can find out for yourself if you have what it takes.


  1. http://www.oanow.com/the_corner_news/news/features/behind-the-bar-an-inside-look-at-the-life-of/article_d052ee58-7b9a-11e2-ba56-0019bb30f31a.html
  2. http://www.shmoop.com/careers/bartender/typical-day.html