A bartender, barman, or barmaid, is a person who serves usually alcoholic drinks behind a counter in a bar, pub, tavern, or similar establishment. A bartender, in short, “tends the bar”. The term barkeeper may suggest that the person is the bar’s owner. Bartenders also usually maintain the supplies and inventory for the bar (though some establishments have barbacks who help with these duties). Where cocktails are served, bartenders are expected to be able to mix hundreds to thousands of different drinks. A mixologist is someone who is skilled in mixing cocktails, however the term has been somewhat misused in recent years. A mixologist is more like a skilled chef with liquids. Just because a bartender can make a couple of cocktails, does not necessarily make him or her a mixologist.
Bartenders represent the bar they tend, contributing to and reflecting the atmosphere of the bar. Where food is the main focus, the bartender is all but invisible. Alternatively, the bartender may be part of the entertainment, expected to engage in flair bartending or other forms of entertainment, as portrayed in the films Cocktail and Coyote Ugly. Where tipping is a local custom, bartenders depend on tips for most of their income. Bartenders are also usually responsible for confirming that customers are old enough to drink before serving them alcohol. In some countries, bartenders are legally required to refuse more alcohol to drunk customers.
In the United Kingdom, bar work is not generally regarded as a long-term profession, but more often as a second occupation, or transitional work for students to gain customer experience or to save money for university fees. As such, it lacks traditional employment protections and therefore has a high turnover.
The high turnover of staff due to low wages and poor employee benefits results in a shortage of skilled bartenders. Whereas a career bartender would know drink recipes, serving techniques, alcohol contents, correct gas mixes, licensing law and would often have cordial relations with regular customers, short-term staff may lack these skills. Some pubs prefer experienced staff, although pub chains tend to accept inexperienced staff and provide training.