Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Bartender

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. (See this post for more information on this connection.) It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

writing occupations, character career, characterizationOccupation: Bartender

Overview: A person responsible for providing alcoholic drinks to customers in a social environment. Bartenders are found in clubs, sports bars, pubs, restaurants, and at special events like weddings, private parties, or entertainment venues.  A bartender must be of legal age to distribute alcohol and there may be other conditions depending on the venue and security considerations.

Necessary Training: Some bartenders may attend bartending school, but others are self-taught. Having a wide knowledge of popular drinks (and how to mix them), understanding the many varieties of beer (lagers, ales, IPA, etc.) and being able to offer up recommendations is key. Some locations may require special knowledge of a particular beverage (say if one worked in a wine bar).  Depending on the location of your story and the type of venue, a bartender may have to obtain different certificates (such as a license to serve alcohol), or take alcohol awareness classes. They may also need a food handling permit if they are also serving food, or pass a security check if the bar-tending position is in a location where one is serving high profile clientele.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: charm, empathy, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, hospitality, making people laugh, reading people, self-defense, strategic thinking, enhances taste buds, throwing one’s voice

Helpful Character Traits: adaptable, calm, charming, creative, diplomatic, discreet, efficient, friendly, organized, perceptive, hospitable, persuasive, flirty, spontaneous, talented, witty

Sources of Friction: drunk patrons, domestic abuse situations that play out in the bar, jealous boyfriends or girlfriends who view the bartender’s friendliness as flirting, patrons unable to pay their bills, patrons who have taken drugs or prescriptions that lead to accelerated intoxication, people who refuse to get a cab, disputes over bills, tip theft among staff members, arguments and fights when tempers flare among partygoers, dealing with threats and de-escalating potentially violent situations when patrons are cut off due to drunken behavior, witnessing someone attempting to dose a drink, underage patrons who have fake IDs, a robbery

People They Might Interact With: Servers, management, patrons (drunk, sober, high, amorous, etc.), delivery people, wait staff, cooks, police officers, bouncers, alcohol reps

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Safety and Security: bar fights, rowdy patrons, and possible illegal activities happening during one’s shift may create safety issues.
  • Love and Belonging: Relationships can be difficult to maintain in this career because one is always working during traditional “social time” like weekends and holidays, and the hours are often quite late, meaning one is catching up on sleep when others are awake. Partners of bartenders may also become jealous as flirtatiousness for tips often are at play.
  • Esteem and Recognition: This industry may cater to hiring women bartenders over men, as many establishments feel that beautiful women bartenders lead to more product being sold. If there is not a gender bias, there is still usually an appearance bias. This type of prejudice may cause people who do not fit the “ideal” feel held back if they are limited in hours or opportunities as a result.

Common Work-Related Settings: Restaurant, Bar, Pub, Black Tie Event, Casino, Cruise Ship, Nightclub, House Party, Wedding Reception

Twisting the Stereotype: Give a bartender (male or female) a specific personality trait, a flare for the dramatic, or a creative spirit when it comes to inventing new drinks that makes them exceptional, rather than the usual “good looks.” Maybe they know exactly how to handle difficult patrons, can read the minds of their customers, or they are known for sleight-of-hand magic tricks while they sling drinks. Think outside the box with this occupation and deliver something unique to readers.

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About ANGELA ACKERMAN

Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.

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9 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Bartender

  1. :Donna says:

    This is another good entry! I actually WAS a bartender a zillion years ago, for a few years and for me, that was more than enough. At the time I hadn’t realized there was the “attractive female” draw (I was so naive) ’cause if I had, I don’t think I would’ve done it. I entered it because it was a fast training course and I “thought” an easy way to make decent money. I worked in “rock” clubs in the 80s and those places weren’t “big money” and the places that were rarely needed help ’cause the people already working there weren’t about to quit lol But depending on the place, it’s the same “sex sells” mentality. I did experience that at the end, with an owner, and lasted there two weeks. Not for me! As far as the hours—so true! They’re backwards. I used to eat “dinner” at 3am lol Great entry, ladies 🙂

    • :Donna says:

      And I forgot to mention—I never flirted for tips. Honestly, it never entered my mind. One thing that I was convinced to do by a fellow male bartender (and man, it took a LOT to persuade me) was to go braless underneath my vest one night. He insisted we’d get all kinds of tips. I didn’t understand why. He wouldn’t let up so I gave in, and how it made me feel was awful (the least of it just being flat out uncomfortable physically), like a “piece of meat” and that just wasn’t me.

      To this day, I avoid showing cleavage and truly hate that that’s all you see nowadays. I want people looking at my face, my eyes, when I speak, not my cleavage. I find it rude and voyeuristic AND just distracting anyway. I’m a woman, have no gay tendencies, and when there’s too much cleavage in front of me, my eyes are still drawn to the spectacle. I get that I’m probably in the minority, but it’s how I feel. I figure if anyone reads my comment, it can add to fleshing out of a possible character! And as Kitty mentioned, you DO get hit on a lot, even without the flirtation, because it seems there’s a common assumption that if you’re a bartender or cocktail waitress, that it’s OK, and even allowed to be “touched.” I was so sick of being in a bar within a few years, with everything I witnessed, I’ve barely been in one since!

  2. Bartenders make great characters – both main and secondary. So far, I have three bartenders among my characters: two in the romantic comedy and one – in the romantic suspense setting. I have a feeling, there will be a couple more bartenders among my future characters 😉

  3. Hmm. My bartenders tend to be grumpy old men. I need to rethink my assumptions.

    (Shows how often I go to a bar. Thank goodness I write fantasy, not contemporary novels.)

  4. KittyB78 says:

    Interesting, seeing how I bartended two years may I offer some insight?
    One of the most important aspects to the job is a no nonsense attitude while being friendly. Certain customers will try to push boundaries, so a timid person (or shy like I was) has to learn to enforce the rules and overcome the timid and shyness.
    You also deal with being hit on constantly, joking with customers, (in my case calling in liquor and beer orders as well.)
    Its a lot of fun, but also a lot more responsibility.
    Not all bars have bouncers either. So at times the bartender may need to serve as bouncer too.

    • KittyB78 says:

      Also, if one of your customers gets behind the wheel drunk and gets in an accident and kills someone, the bartender is the one charged not the drunk driver. Because the bartender allowed the driver to leave intoxicated and didn’t take the keys away.

    • Yes, good points, all. Bartenders have to have a strong presence as they need to deal with patrons who get out of hand and be able to deescalate situations–thanks for chiming in!

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