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.

Below is a sample list of ideas to help you see how an occupation can reveal your character’s beliefs, history, goals, and more.

To view the full entry, visit One Stop for Writers where it resides within the largest fiction-based descriptive database ever created. (Free Trial available.)

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

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

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: charm, empathy, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, hospitality

Helpful Character Traits: adaptable, calm, charming, creative, diplomatic, discreet, efficient, friendly, organized, perceptive…

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

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

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…
  • 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…

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

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.

How will your character’s occupation help reveal their innermost layers?

Much of your character’s life will revolve around their work, and whether they love it or hate it, their job is a great way to show, not tell, their personality traits, skills, work ethic, worldview and beliefs, and more, so we should choose it with care.

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Find out why this descriptive series is a fan favorite with writers all over the world. 

“It’s like I fed my imagination Red Bull…” ~ Tracy Perkins

The Occupation Thesaurus is yet another priceless author resource released in this series…” ~ Brandi MacCurdy

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Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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3 years ago

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 🙂

3 years ago
Reply to  :Donna

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!

Angela (AO Peart)
3 years ago

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 😉

Deb Salisbury
3 years ago

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.)

3 years ago

yes, it does!

3 years ago

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.

3 years ago
Reply to  KittyB78

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.