Bartending as has its ups and downs - to deny this would be ignorance. There are some days when you have incredible shifts, there are other days when you can’t wait to get home, yet, most of the time it’s an enjoyable and rewarding job. This is how a lot, if not all, jobs work.
However, a job in the bartending industry seems to be haunted by any/all of the following statements that a lot of other professions don’t have to deal with:- What’s your real job?
- What are you studying?
- So, what do you really want to do?
- Are you between jobs?
- Yeah, but this isn’t a career is it?
If you put aside the angry feelings and the annoyance that you might feel towards the people that ask these questions; you can see that not everyone means it as an insult and they’re just making conversation - albeit we’d prefer to chat about the weather.
Nevertheless, it’s a little harder to explain to people who genuinely mean it as an insult (and let’s not sugar coat it: often it's a deliberate insult) that what you’re doing, whilst it might not be your long term career plan or what you want to be doing when you’re 50, is your proper job.
Some people might not understand your choice to work in a thriving industry that is full of brilliant opportunities whilst others might even be confused as to how it’s possible. In the end, 90% of people just nod and get back to the amazing cocktail you’ve just made for them.
More than just drinks
Bartending can pay really well, it demands skill, it requires a lot - both physically and mentally. As a bartender you’re the customer service, the cashier, the salesman, the public relations, stock manager, quality control, production and the face of the company all rolled into one.
Working as a bartender means that you have to deal with an ever-changing landscape of clientele. You’ll strike up friendships with new people every single night. If you’re a cocktail bartender then you have to memorise a lot of drinks, usually the venue’s menu plus all of the “classics”, sometimes it's more than 100 cocktails.
Let’s not forget the creativity, knowledge, and decisiveness you’ll need to show as a lot of people are unsure about what they want to drink and will ask you to make “something nice” or "that drink they had last year with Rum".
We are firm believers that anyone who doubts the validity of bartending as a “real job” should jump behind a bar for a week and see what the fuss is all about.
Why do people say bartending isn’t a real job?
There are numerous factors that come into play here. Typically, bartending is seen as a “leisure” job. It’s one that is promoted to students for when they’re studying for what will become their “real” job. It should be said that a lot of people end up choosing a career in bartending despite what they studied.
The bartending lifestyle that is advertised via media outlets is never truly representative of how bartenders live. It doesn’t highlight the customer service aspect of bartending or the countless hours and effort that goes into creating new cocktail menus. Stereotypical content like “how to get served at a bar” and “if bartenders were honest” videos do not help either. These videos, while being somewhat funny, don’t represent the profession in a good light.
The hours that bartenders work definitely has something to do with the notion that it’s not a proper job. If all shifts for all bartenders were 9-5 Mon-Fri (ironically known as “sociable working hours”) we might see a drop off in “not a real job” speeches.
Here’s the kicker, bartenders are friends with bartenders who happen to work the same hours. There’s nothing unsociable about the hours we work.
If you’ve ever worked as a bartender, you’ll know that socialising on a Sunday night whilst having the Monday off is what can only be described as being incomprehensibly better than going out on a Friday or Saturday night.
“Do you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?”
Does anyone see themselves being in the same job for the rest of their lives? Do people start out in large corporations at the bottom and think “I’m here. I’ve made it. This is me for the rest of my life”?
Well... some bartenders will aspire to become bar managers or owners. Others will aim to become globe-trotting brand ambassadors for a huge spirit company. Everyone has different goals and reasons as to why they are bartending. Let’s not be the judge of wrong and right.
There are also bartenders who will want to bartend for as long as it’s physically possible. These are all “real jobs”, and it saddens us that the hospitality industry has to continually justify itself to a public that benefits directly from our presence in a mutually exclusive relationship.
Is bartending a real job?
The short answer is “yes”. The long answer is “yes, it is”.
Steven Poland is a professional bartender with a flair for content writing. He is our go-to man for an insight on the hospitality industry. You will find him shaking behind the best bars in Manchester.
Updated by Sofia - February 2018