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Cocktail Server: Serving Up a Glass of Cool

by | CAREER TIPS

Cocktail bars are often some of the hippest places in any city on earth. Speakeasies, secret back room hideouts, high concept dives–every city worth its weight in cool has them. And, in these types of settings, the arbiters of cool are the mixologist and the cocktail server.

Being cool, looking cool, and sounding cool are all an important part of the job for cocktail waiters or waitresses. You are the face of the place and must communicate the values of your establishment by your personality and way of being alone. The customers should know exactly what type of setting they’re in as soon as they walk through the door. They shouldn’t even have to think about it, they should just feel it.

In order to prepare you for cocktail server jobs in more demanding hospitality environments, we’ve put together a quick guide to help get you started.

What is a cocktail waiter/waitress?

A cocktail waiter or waitress, also known as a cocktail server, is someone who serves food and drinks in a nightlife setting. It’s different from a traditional server role in a restaurant where serving food is the main activity. In hospitality settings where you’d find a cocktail server, the clientele is mainly there to drink and have a good time. 

You can find cocktail waiters and waitresses working in a number of hospitality settings. The types of environments where you’ll encounter this position include but aren’t limited to:

  • Nightclubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Concert venues
  • Jazz bars
  • Hotel lounge
  • Speakeasy
  • Fine dining establishments
  • Cruise ships
  • Trade conventions
  • Festivals
  • Weddings
  • Private parties 
  • Corporate events

As you can tell, learning how to become a cocktail server will open many doors for you. It’s an extra feather in your cap that’ll take you to interesting places and have you rolling in tips.

What does a cocktail server do?

A cocktail waitress or waiter is a specific kind of waiting job that has its own challenges and advantages. 

You don’t have to memorize an extensive food menu and remember which items have sold out, which makes taking orders much easier. Some items still might run out but it’s a far more rare occurrence. Alcohol and drinks store much longer than food so there’s less risk of waste. At any establishment focused on nightlife, the stockroom for beverages should always be full.

The main task of a cocktail server is to take the customers order and then serve them their food or drinks. However, cocktail servers are expected to be much more engaging and interactive than a typical waiting role. You should be knowledgeable enough about the cocktails you serve to make a recommendation but you don’t have to be an expert  

Cocktail bars and nightclubs are often focused on spectacle and putting on a show. The mixologists are behind the bar giving it their all so the cocktail servers should be on the floor doing the same. You must be friendly and outgoing to help promote whatever atmosphere your establishment is trying to create.

Other responsibilities you will encounter in a cocktail waitress job include: 

  • Processing customer payments
  • Attending to special requests or requirements 
  • Clearing and cleaning tables before the next group arrives
  • Taking inventory and restocking essential items
  • Preparing ingredients 
  • Complying with all local and national laws regarding serving alcoholic beverages
  • Carrying heavy trays of food and drinks to and from the bar

What is the career path of a cocktail waitress?

The career path of a cocktail waitress is relatively straightforward. However, it’s a specified job so it might help to get some experience in a smaller or slower paced setting before jumping into a busy nightclub. After you work in a calm setting for a year or so to learn the ropes, you’ll be ready to step up. 

Working a nightclub or cocktail bar can be incredibly demanding depending on the market and setting. You don’t want to be making rookie mistakes when the customers are paying top end prices. Clientele in these settings have high expectations and can be less understanding than at your local bar so learn somewhere more forgiving.

Once you’ve become a top notch cocktail server, you’ll have a couple career options directly ahead of you. 

If you’ve fallen in love with the delicious cocktails you’ve been serving, becoming a mixologist might be the right step for you. If you interact well with the public and have leadership skills, you could become the manager of a cocktail bar. Many bars and restaurants prefer to promote from within if possible. This means that if you show you’re dedicated to your work, you’ll have a good chance to advance.

What education do you need to be a cocktail server?

In terms of education, you don’t need formal higher education to become a cocktail server. However, many hospitality companies will require that you have at least a high school diploma and some previous work experience. 

If you want to become a bar manager then it might be a good idea to take a management or leadership course to show that you’re serious. If you eventually want to become a cocktail bartender then taking a course in mixology is a good idea. Anything that gives your CV the edge to stand out in your crowd will help make your journey on your career path much easier.

If you think you’re ready to start your career as a cocktail server, check out the open positions available on Hosco and find your dream job today!

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