Not all bartenders are billed to be bartenders forever. It’s a very upsetting time when one is faced with the demise of their bartending career. Some take it through choice, others simply have to leave. It doesn’t matter which way you come to the end of the road. Your life after the bar will always be a different experience than the one you left behind.
There are things that people just don’t warn you about, things that people don’t tell you to look out for. Like, for example, that feeling of heartbreak you get when you walk into your old place of work and there’s a bar team on that don’t even know who you are. The nights of loneliness because everyone you’d normally be hanging around with and drinking with, are in work until 3am and you’ve grown to hate weekend drinking. When you start to lose touch with which bartenders work in which establishments, so the industry discounts you’ve worked hard to build up, are slowly starting to fade away into the distance.
The alcohol reps are changing rapidly, so you can’t advise anyone on who the specific reps are: because you have no idea anymore. You constantly find yourself telling people that you used to work in a bar, just so they won’t question you whilst you’re sat at the bar on your own, drinking your sorrows and loneliness away. You’re no longer aware of the latest trends in the drinking world. You’ve forgotten how to make a Manhattan properly.
You find yourself watching bartenders as they work constantly. You secretly try and give barbacks a few bits of advice when the bartenders aren’t looking. You order a negroni everywhere you go just so people recognise that “you know how to drink” despite not being able to handle your alcohol as well as you used to. Everyone refers to you as “the person who’s not a bartender anymore.”
Whiskey is starting to burn your mouth, and tequila makes you wince. You’ll never touch rum again, and red wine is blurring back into one vinegary tasting sop. Rosé and lemonade is starting to taste good and gin and tonics are losing their flavour. IPA’s are becoming too heavy and stouts are the devil’s piss.
You start to fall behind on your bills because you’ve not been turning up to work because nothing fills the void in your life that bartending has left behind. You need to be pouring drinks and you need it back in your life. You’ve already forgotten more than you’ve learned though, and your career is lying in ruins because of your sordid love affair with “the real world.”
You get a dog so you can play fetch with it because you miss regularly shouting “50.” No-one in the supermarket appreciates you shouting “behind” at them as you pass by. Your community support group never reacts when you tell them “602.”
Other bartenders look upon you with pity now. They know what you’ve been reduced to and they know which street corners you do it on. You’re not shaking cocktails anymore, but this is a nice flashback to the familiar motion, and you’re getting paid for it as well. You find yourself mixing drinks in your kitchen, and never serving them to anyone, because there’s no-one to serve them to. You’ve got your sink constantly topped up with ice, and there’s bags of fresh mint and lime slices everywhere.
You lie in your bed at night, desperately hoping and praying that you never quit your bar job, because bartending is what gave you life. You close your eyes and hope you don’t dream about multi serving a group of 15 again, because you can’t take the constant reminder that you can’t do that anymore. Tomorrow’s a new day, but the struggles will be the same. You hope that if your story ever gets told, it will be used as a warning to those people that feel like they must get away from bartending. The plight of the ex-bartender needs to be highlighted. You close your eyes and prepare yourself for the rest of your life.
Bartending is for life, not just for students.
Follow us: @cheapestshot