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How to Become a Bartender in Wisconsin

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Becoming a bartender can be an excellent way to make some extra money or it can be a good first career option. PayScale notes that the average salary of a bartender was $35,933 as of November 2010. Bartenders serve both drinks and food in some establishments. The process of becoming a bartender can vary from state to state and community to community in states where licensing and regulation are left up to the local authorities. In Wisconsin, the Department of Revenue handles the licensing of professionals who serve alcohol.

Take a state-approved course to obtain your certification to serve alcohol to the public in Wisconsin. According to state law, any person who sells or serves alcohol to the public must complete one of these courses. Bartenders and liquor store clerks alike are required to take and pass this course. Courses can be taken through schools like Wisconsin Technical College, or they can be taken online. These courses are offered by independent vendors, which require a fee for the course. Online course providers include Serving Alcohol Inc., Training for Intervention Procedures, Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management and Server Sellers.

Attend a bartending school. Such schools can help you learn the ins and outs of being behind the bar. You'll also learn about the many different types of drinks to serve, including what types of glasses and garnishes to use for each. Bartending schools may cover how to manage a bar, selling premium liquor drinks and the ethical behavior that is expected of bartenders. In short, what you could learn through on the job training over the course of several months or even a year or two you can learn in as little as a week or two of intensive study at a bartending school. The Wisconsin Bartending School in both Madison and Milwaukee can provide the training you need to become a proficient bartender. The school provides a 32-hour course that includes the necessary training to obtain state certification.

Practice your bartending skills on your own until you are proficient in mixing drinks accurately and quickly. You can do this by buying some of the basic types of liquor, like vodka, gin and tequila, along with the required fruit juices needed to make mixed drinks. Once you have exhausted your initial liquor supply, refill the bottles with water and use different food coloring combinations to mimic the original liquor.

Apply for bartending jobs. Milwaukee should provide you with ample opportunities to work as a bartender, but you may also wish to consider college towns like Madison, Green Bay, LaCrosse, Oshkosh, Stout and Stevens Point. College towns tend to have a high turnover rate for bartenders, and many bars may be looking for someone responsible and stable.


Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.