The Basics of Bartending: A Beginner’s Guide

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If you are looking to either start a business like in this guide, or if you are just starting out as a bartender, there are several guidelines that are going to help you be successful.  

This might be your first time even thinking about bartending.  If that is the case, then it is time to take a look at this beginners guide on bartending.  Let’s go!

It’s All About the Five P’s

Adam Freeth comments that there are five P’s to bartending related customer service: “pride, passion, preparation, professionalism and presentation”. Each of these elements are paramount to the identity of a bartender and something to be used as an example in your daily practice.  

As it is with any job, there has to be some piece of pride in what you are doing.  Taking pride in your work can also mean something different for each person.  Putting out solid cocktails, making sure you are timely, these are are characteristics that demonstrate pride.

When it comes to passion, how much are you devoting to the job? If you are just doing the job halfway, believe me it will show.  From shoddy drinks to not caring about how you stir up a crowd, the lack of passion will show.

Didn’t think there was professionalism in bartending? There you’d be wrong!  Professionalism is at the core of bartending and there are different types of bartending professionalism for different types of bars.  

You wouldn’t have the same level of professionalism at a honky tonk as you would at a high end bar.  Why not? The attitude doesn’t fit!

Finally, there is an element of acting and flair that comes with presentation.  Watch some of the experienced bartenders with their juggling capabilities and you’ll see a perfect example of showy presentation.

However, presentation can also mean making sure that you are putting out drinks that look as clean and crisp as their own flavor.  That can be difficult when just starting out, but remember that passion and pride will help you push through.

Getting to Know the Customer

So the five P’s take up a lot of what you have to do as a bartender and that is 100% factual.  The other part that can take up a lot of time outside of the basics of understanding drinks, flavors, and the complexities of the many combinations, is getting to know people.

You can get to know customers individually and you should especially with the regulars.  They are going to be your constant stream of income (which they are well aware of) but also are going to be the people that have your back when something potentially goes awry.  

Outside of the regulars, you can have a multitude of people that are all around you at all times.  This is where having a handle on social cues, situations, common bartender signals and more are going to come into play for you.  

As a bartender, it is your job to be aware of these signs, how to communicate with people and helping people out.  Remember, as the bartender you have the authority to tell someone enough is enough and you have to pay attention to those social cues.

Basic Bartending Needs Skill

You can have all of the human skills in the world and follow the five P’s to the ‘t’ without much to worry about.  But at the end of the day, you also have to consider the skills that you need to bartend.  You can’t just sit around and do nothing either.

Bartending requires people skills, understanding what is called a POS or point of sale, basic money management, and the ability to do what is needed without prompting.

For that last one, it is important to remember that there is always something that you can be doing behind the bar.  It’s important that you have the counters clean, that all ingredients are prepared, and that bottles are ready for each shift.  

See what I mean? There’s a lot of skill that comes into play for more than memorizing drinks.  You have to have the skills of paying attention, understanding your environment, and a self starter attitude combined with loads of initiative.  


Being a bartender isn’t exactly the easiest job in the world.  Not only do you have to memorize endless lists of drinks, but, if you want to do exceptionally well, you have to study a bit of gastroenterology as well.  The ability to pair flavors and play with scents is one of the marks of a good bartender. 

All of this comes along with remembering to have pride, passion, preparedness, professionalism and presentation skills. However, it’s absolutely crucial to prioritize and diligently build your emergency fund from your earnings. Without this financial safety net. If you don’t have that core, then it is going to lead to problems in your bartending experience.

Psychology and knowing the customer are two other big skills that you need as a bartender.  Honestly, there are so many skills that are useful as a bartender that can really help you soar such as taking control of the area behind the bar to make sure it is set up right.

Utilize these skills and you’ll find yourself in a prime position whether you are starting out or have been at this for some time.