Ask Your Bartender: Advice for a High School Senior

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Hey Bartender,

I’m a senior in high school here in Eugene, and I read about you in the Register Guard today. I’ve been thinking about becoming a bartender for a while, and the article, along with your blog, pretty much sealed the deal. I was wondering if you would tell me how you got into it, what I should expect (the good and the bad of the job), and anything else you think is important. I really appreciate any advice you could give me, thanks for your time.


Hey K

Get yourself some really comfortable shoes.

Just kidding. Sort of. I think that if you go back and check out some of my older posts you’ll get a pretty good idea of what I think are the positive and the negative aspects of being a career bartender, so check out the archives. But enough about me, let’s talk about you.

No matter what any high school guidance counselor tells you, most people rarely have any clue what they’ll be doing in ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Just look at me: I went to school to be an architect and now here I am answering bartending questions on the internet. So remember, keep your options open, because you never know where life will take you.

Now, I’m guessing (hoping, actually) that you’ve never set foot in a bar and won’t for several more years, so although I wonder why you want to become a bartender in the first place, I’m going to give you some advice.

1. Get a restaurant job. If you’re don’t already have plans for the summer after graduation, then type up a resume and hit the streets. Most large restaurants (your parents can tell you which ones) need bussers and hosts, so pound the pavement until you get hired bussing or hosting somewhere. You’ll get a good overview of the industry that you won’t be able to get any other way.

2. Go to college. This business we’re in can be real short on intelligent people, so take some classes and get an education. And if you really want to choose a major that will help prepare you to be a modern-age bartender, take this next piece of advice seriously:

3. Learn to cook. The next big phase for bartending is coming out of the kitchen. Bartenders all over the world are starting to explore the culinary side of cocktails, and the next step is going to be universal acceptance. As mixology becomes more widely-regarded as a craft and less associated with alcoholism and binge-drinking (just as winemaking and brewing have done over the past thirty years) bartenders with culinary backgrounds are going to be at the forefront of the industry.

So what I’m saying is that having a head start in the kitchen is going to help you set yourself aside as a leader in the field, rather than just another schlub throwing around rum-and-Cokes all night.

There are cooking schools everywhere these days, Lane Community College in Eugene even has a great culinary arts program. Look into it.

And if you have any doubts about my predictions for the future of bartending, check out any of the links on the right for further reading – my friends can shed a whole lot more light on all of this for you.

Good luck, K, and keep us up-to-date in the comments section below!

12 Replies to “Ask Your Bartender: Advice for a High School Senior”

  • C says:

    Funny you should mention cooking and cocktails, I was just perusing the El Bulli menu (one can dream…) and came across these beauties:

    I think the latest ones are particularly interesting, wouldn’t mind tasting a couple…

  • Hey, I have to throw in and echo your praise of the LCC Culinary Arts program — I’m a student there myself. I also agree with your advice that sych experience is good for a bartender — just as experience waiting, bussing, doing dishes, etc. is good for a cook. The dining experience is about more than the food, and even this early in my training, I’m seeing how important it is that every aspect of the guest’s experience be handled with the same care and dedication, and how dependent on each other everyone in this industry is. If the food sucks, great service isn’t going to matter, and conversely, very few cooks are good enough that people will wade through shitty service to eat their food. One of the things that has grated on me, but I’ve come to appreciate, is that they put us through front-of-the-house training in the LCC program.

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