A Brief History of Bartending

The perfection of the craft of bartending is the responsibility of the bartender. The bartender mixes and serves alcoholic drinks at a bar, tavern or lounge. The bartender may also be called as barman, barkeeper, tavern keeper, mixologist, barmaid or whiskey slinger. A bartender may actually own a bar or they may simply be an employee. The barkeeper owns the bar which may also be the bartender.

Bartending is a craft as old as history. It started as a trade two thousand years ago. Some historical accounts from the era of Julius Caesar indicate that there are many inns that are situated along major trade and transportation routes. The common customers of these inns are early tradesmen that ply the long roads that interconnect the Roman Empire. Traveling along these trade routes is not an easy feat as danger to property and to the tradesmen themselves is very much a reality on those times. To further protect themselves, the tradesmen prefer to travel only during the daylight. They then sleep on the numerous inns along the road to avoid robbers. The inns not only offer food and bed, but also alcoholic drinks which the tradesmen like very much as a means of relaxation after a long tiring trip. Aside from tradesmen, other people like travelers and soldiers are also welcome customers for these inns. Customers may be served with wine and other provisions that the travelers may require. Aside from trade route inns, there are also neighborhood taverns in Rome where the who’s who of the period come to drink and chat with the latest gossips about the empire.

The Ancient Greeks also have similar places of entertainment for the local population. In these places, sounds and wines are the common theme. These are the places where the important people of the neighborhood meet and dine to discuss current events and business as well. The place can be likened to the taverns of the Roman Empire, and it also served wine and food to its patrons. There are also similar inns set up along major roads within the Greek Empire that serve wine and refreshments to tired travelers and tradesmen.

In England, taverns are called public drinking houses or also called as “Pubs”. These pubs are the favorite place of the people in the neighborhoods all over England to socialize or mingle with fellow drinkers while talking about the latest news or gossip. These pubs are owned by ordinary people that also do the job of a bartender. There also some inns that serve similar drinks offered in pubs. Pub owners and innkeepers are known to brew and produce their own in-house liquor. These kinds of pubs and inns are also common in other parts of Western Europe like France and Germany. In places like these, the business of bartending has become a thriving enterprise. As such the bartenders and bar owners tend to be wealthy and are considered a part of the economic and social elite. The trade of bartending, taverns, inns, and others thrive well because of the endless supply of patrons that could not resist the lure of alcoholic drinks. Bartenders owned property and were considered one of the richest traders during those times. As the European powers spread to the New World, they brought along with them the lucrative business of bartending which also became a common thing to see in the colonies abroad in the Western Hemisphere.

In the present times, bartenders serve as public image of the bar that they tend, and bartending has become more of a craft than a job, with top bartenders bringing home over $100,000 per year. Excellence in the craft of bartending on the part of the bartenders contributes very well on the atmosphere that the bar is trying to present or reflect. In some bars, the bartenders are made as an indispensable part of the entertainment. The bartenders perform some tricks while tending the bars, also called as flair bartending.

Good bartenders help in providing a steady stream of clients by remembering the preferred drinks of regular patrons. Bartenders are also the chosen person to be approached by customers for inquiries about sports, directions, trivia topics, and even the marital status of a charming customer across the bar.

In 1817, the US started to enjoy a long period of increased spirits production. Then in 1832, the US Congress passed the law known as “Pioneer Inn and Tavern Law”. This law allowed the saloons and inns to serve alcoholic drinks to customers without having that customer rent a room for the night.

As the Industrial Age swept the whole world, the US started seeing the influx of many immigrants from Europe that brought with them their many skills in alcoholic drink distillation and brewing. They also brought with them their love for drinking establishments like pubs. Soon, neighborhood bars started to sprout in the poor urban locations of New York where most of the immigrants lived. Some of the political kingpins used tavern owners and barkeepers as power brokers, in exchange or in return for the licenses to operate bars and taverns.

The Prohibition in the US propelled the business of bartending into the underworld of organized crime. The bartenders are perceived with an aura of power and mystery for having connections with the leaders and members of organized crimes. Some gangsters owned social clubs and bartenders are well paid for securing the constant supply of alcoholic drinks. The bartenders during the Prohibition are commonly credited for creating very famous cocktail drinks such as the Highball, Long Island Ice Tea, and Gin and Tonic.

Bartending has been in existence as long as spirits and alcoholic drinks. It has its own share of curious history and past. There are many famous bartenders that appeared in history who were able to invent new drinks or innovated the process and service of bartending. Some notable bartenders are Jerry Thomas, Harry Craddock, Tom Bullock and many more. The craft of bartending has evolved very much through the ages. The bartender now do more than just serve drinks, they are also known as good listeners and perfect buddies to all the regular bar patrons that they serve.