What is a REAL Bartender?
I am currently working as a bartender on a cruise ship and I can safely say that it is a different kind of experience. Nature of the job is basically the same as being a bartender on land. At first I thought that I will find it hard to adapt because of the tall tales I have heard before I got this job.
But bearing in mind that I have been bartending for quite sometime as well as teaching the profession, needless to say, everything else became like second nature.
This post is a very good way to start 2010 because this is the essence why this site was made. I remember we had one training for us bartenders and our head bartender asked us, “What is a bartender?”
Our head bartender said a bartender is the one who mixes drinks…does this…does that…etc. etc. … and I thought, oh, how slow can you get?
I just kept silent for the duration of this seminar because I felt like I didn’t have the same wave length as the rest did although I know the others didn’t simply care. If you would read the previous lines again, it is not “what is” but “who is,” yet technically before you ask the person you should try to find out the noun where the person was derived from.
I hope I am making sense here…
Bartending According to the Books
Our profession, bartending, comes from the word “bartend” which is made up of two words “bar” which means any horizontal object which can act as a barrier between the bartender and his/her beverages from the guest and ”tend” which means to serve or dispense.
A bartender is the person who is in charge of the bar…in some countries this person is known as the barkeeper. So first and foremost a bartender should know everything that he has in his bar and what his bar is all about.
The profession as defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary :
A calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.
A profession is a vocation founded upon specialised educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, professions involve the application of specialised knowledge of a subject, field, or science to fee-paying clientele. It is axiomatic that “professional activity involves systematic knowledge and proficiency.” Professions are distinguished from other occupations represented by trade groups due to their level of legal recognition.
Based on my research, during the olden days, almost anybody can be a bartender. You can be a college student who wants to earn some extra money or you can be a somewhat older person who wants to keep busy for the remainder of your life.
An example of this is the young student who is working his/her way through college and often too young to even legally buy liquor in a bar themselves; but can earn an extra income serving drinks in that same bar as a bartender.
On the other side of the coin, an elderly person can turn their hands to bartending to supplement their pensions. Between these two extreme age groups there are all kinds of people who fill the position of a bartender.
In fact, barmen have been likened to the man in the streets (or should we say man in the pubs) psychologist or priest. Those two additional professions, inevitably, come with the job.
Bartending is really one of those really ancient occupations that have been around since man first started picking up ‘ladies of the night’ from the very earliest forms of taverns.
However, although prostitutes are often termed as being part of a profession (or indeed part of the oldest profession), very few people ever think of bartending as a profession at all! It is just a “fill-in job” in most people’s eyes.
Here in the Philippines, during the 70’s until early 90’s people who tended the bar were just “accidental” bartenders, they were either underemployed or were just trying to make both ends meet. But during the mid 90’s bartending has become a course/subject under the BS Hotel and Restaurant Management course/discipline.
How I Became Interested in Bartending
Personally, I took the course at first because I wanted to eat…but as I encountered this course in my 2nd year which is called Bar Management Laboratory and Lecture, interest grew since I must admit during those days drinking after class was a routine. But I stumbled into this movie by Tom Cruise entitled Cocktails and if you watched this movie, who wouldn’t want to be a bartender with the perks that come with it?
And so the interest for flair grew when I tried having a short training in TGIF.
After graduation, I had to be a bum for some months since during my time, if you wanted to apply for a bartender job, all the ads would say “with 3 years experience.”
WOW, a fresh grad having experience…hmmm…Sucks, right?!?!
I always tell myself how can you have experience if you can’t be given the opportunity to have one? But then again it’s all about timing. I finally landed my bartending job simply because nobody else would take the job because of the pay. It was kinda low at that time…but I didn’t go for the pay since I was just starting out…I wanted to gain “experience.”
So let’s get back to the topic at hand…bartending is indeed and should be a profession. If anybody can be a bartender before, not anybody can qualify as a professional bartender. It’s not enough that you know how to mix drinks. The knowledge in bartending never ceases, from the different brands of liquors available in the market, to the bar trends, to the latest cocktails that people drink, and every other information about bartending that you should at least have an idea about since the growth of the profession now is tremendous!!!
Possible Career Paths of a Professional Bartender
In fact, if you really love the bartending profession, let me show you how diverse and interesting one’s career can be if he is really a “professional.” If you decide to work whether for a free-standing bar, a hotel or a cruise ship, this is how your path would be:
If you decide to be your own boss and be an entrepreneur:
That’s why I miss being in circulation when it comes to the business. I am surprised that since I have been gone during a contract, some people here in my country claim they are the best or that they were the first. My friends, you as well as I know that talk is cheap. Walk your talk. Be a professional bartender and do your job. That’s all that matters.
If anybody would ask me if I am a bartender, I would say I am a professional bartender.
PS: The first picture on this article is Professor Jerry Thomas, the father of American Mixology.
The second picture is Harry Schraemli, a swiss author who wrote books on cocktails.