Guest Shift Bartenders: Pay And Perks of Bartending Overseas

Guest Shift Bartenders: Pay And Perks of Bartending Overseas

Tired of the same old bar routine? Ditch the bar rut and become a globetrotting guest shift bartender.

Why slip into a routine of pouring the same drinks to the same old faces when you can travel the globe and mix cocktails in the world’s best bars as a guest shift bartender? 

While the conventional career for bartenders might be working full-time at an established venue, guest shift bartenders can pick up temporary shifts while traveling across the US or going abroad.

Though the job comes with challenges like learning the ropes in a new environment, lack of familiarity with the clientele, unpredictable income, and long hours, it provides unique perks like international travel, cultural immersion, and networking opportunities in the industry. 

So, how do you become a globetrotting mixologist? Let's dive into the essence of guest bartending abroad – pay, benefits, and how to land global guest bartending opportunities. We'll cover the following:

  1. How does guest bartending work?
  2. The pay structure for guest bartenders
  3. Guest shift bartending perks
  4. How do you get sponsored as a guest bartender?
  5. Tips for a successful guest bartending experience

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1. How does guest bartending work?

Guest bartending is a temporary bartending opportunity, often used for charity events, special promotions, or to promote each others’ bars or bar menus. During a guest bartending stint, you work guest shifts. And what is a guest shift exactly?

A guest shift is the specific work period a guest bartender takes on at a bar. It's essentially a temporary shift that lasts for a night, a weekend, or even a special event.

The process of starting guest bartending is straightforward. The bar or event organizer reaches out to potential guest bartenders to gauge their interest and availability for a shift. It also works the other way around, where bartenders reach out to bars in places they want to visit.

Guest bartenders typically work a shortened shift, though still fulfilling duties like preparing and serving drinks, carding customers, and adhering to the bar's policies. Compensation for guest bartenders can vary. They might receive a portion of the tips they earn, a flat fee, or a percentage of the sales from their drinks.

2. The pay structure for guest bartenders

Let's ditch the textbook stuff and talk real money. 

Traditionally, guest bartenders earned a flat hourly rate that would range from $9 to $24, depending on the location and venue. This pay offers a predictable income stream but limits the potential for high earners, especially during peak hours.

Bartender Wages 2024

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Forget the old way of just getting an hourly wage – that's so last season. As guest bartending has grown in popularity, the compensation structure has shifted towards a performance-based model. Like regular bartenders, some guest bartenders are increasingly compensated as a percentage of their sales. The more you sell, the more cash clinks in your pocket!

If you're a rockstar guest bartender crushing it on a busy Saturday night or slinging drinks at a huge event, you're looking at hundreds of dollars for a single shift! But here's the thing, it's a two-way street. Slower nights can result in earnings barely exceeding the hourly minimum, making income much less predictable compared to a flat rate.

But that’s not the case for every seasoned bar or bartender. The more common practice is a lump-sum payout  (which in many cases is paid for in whole by a participating sponsored alcohol brand). This way, even on those crickets-chirping evenings, you'll still walk out with some cash in your pocket. Bonus points if you're a seasoned guest bartender or have some fancy mixology skills under your belt – you’re more likely to get a higher guaranteed minimum payment for your time and expertise.

3. Guest shift bartending perks

Guest bartending isn't just about the cash (although that can be pretty sweet!). Guest shift bartending can also be a great way to shake up your routine and experience the bartending world beyond your usual digs. Here are some of the perks you can look forward to:

Cultural immersion

Guest shift bartending is a killer way to soak up new cultures, both behind and away from the bar. Shaking up drinks with bartenders from all over the world? 

Additionally, it’s an engaging way to experience different bar environments, clientele, and drink menus. Guest shift bartenders can learn new cocktail recipes, techniques, and ways of interacting with customers– guest bartending has got it all!

Guest bartending lets you crash with local bartenders, which means you'll get the real deal experience, not some sugar-coated version. These new besties will become your international family, showing you the coolest hidden neighborhood gems and what it's really like to live in their city. It's basically a cultural exchange that can turn into lifelong friendships – international style!

Networking prospects

Pouring on pop-up shifts is also a canny career move that opens doors to future prospects through global industry connections. Guest bartenders meet influential bar owners and directors who may remember their talents down the road. 

You never know, that awesome bar owner in Berlin might endorse you when a dream job opens up back home.

Guest bartending isn't just about mixing drinks – it's about leveling up your whole bartending game. Plus, you'll return from your trips with epic stories that'll have clients hanging on your every word. Think of it as social capital for when you manage your own bar someday. Maybe you'll even become a brand ambassador for a world-class spirit! Overall, A guest shift bartender can build a network of awesome people across continents and can last a lifetime. Cheers to that!

Lifestyle balance

Guest bartending is all about freedom, flexibility, and being your own boss behind the bar. You get to ditch the rigid schedule and design one that lets you live your life to the fullest. Want to spend mornings perfecting your latte art or evenings catching that improv comedy class? No problem, you make the call. Passionate about travel? Explore new cities and find some exciting guest gigs while you're there – turn your adventures into cash-grabbing experiences.

Guest bartending is like attending a bartending boot camp around the world. Every shift throws you into a new playground—fresh faces, different bars, and a whole new crew to work with. You'll never get burned out – there's always something new to learn. 

Of course, guest bartending is not without challenges. Shifts are typically long without benefits like healthcare, and pay varies dramatically each week. The transient lifestyle also requires adapting quickly to new environments. No putting down roots or having your own comfy couch. It's exciting at first, but constant travel can wear you down after a while.

Endress, Co-founder of the Two by Tour blog, stated, “Some bartenders will deliberately take time off between steady jobs to work a series of guest shifts. It gives them an opportunity to keep their skills sharp while learning new techniques.”

 For these reasons, it’s wise to limit these stints abroad to 1-2 weeks at a time. That is, if your current employer allows such travel abroad. 

The work promotes a fun party image, but truly flourishing as a head bartender requires balancing shifts overseas with domestic gigs that provide stability. Those old-timers you see who've been guest bartending for years? Rare unicorns. Moderation is your friend – it'll keep you sane and keep your love for bartending strong.

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4. How do you get sponsored as a guest bartender?

For newcomers seeking their first guest shift abroad, building some skills and experience back home is key to landing those sweet gigs. Brush up on your cocktail knowledge – the more you know about booze, the better, even consider reading a few of the best bartending books. Practice new recipes like crazy – speed is your friend behind the bar.

In the first place, consider volunteering at industry events to get your name out there, and snag shifts at hotshot local bars to show you're serious. Cocktail competitions? These are your chance to show off your fancy moves and unique drink creations. Don't forget to create a killer online portfolio on social media too.

Showcase yourself through social media: speed pour videos, cocktail recipes, and serving experience. Engage award-winning bar owners and industry leaders by commenting on their accounts and entering major competitions worldwide. Place highly to get noticed by potential hosts.

Beyond skills, highlighting unique cultural backgrounds, languages spoken, and passions for travel make profiles more appealing. Bars love a bit of diversity, and that could be your ticket in. Contact the bar manager directly via DM with an introduction, CV highlights, and requested dates of availability. Be polite yet proactive with outreach as these gigs get snapped up fast!

Remember that sponsorship is a win-win relationship. By demonstrating your value and creativity, you'll increase your chances of landing a sponsored guest experience.

Vasilis Kyritsis, Co-owner of The Clumsies, says, “When my partners and I decided to open The Clumsies, our aim was to create a bar that was both quintessentially Greek and international. To achieve this, we wanted to involve the global bartending community to grow and develop our concept. We began inviting guest bartenders to give them a flavor of Athenian nightlife.”

Quote by Vasilis Kyritsis on Guest Bartending

Expert advice on adaptability

Fitting in is key to crushing it as a guest bartender overseas. Do your research before you touchdown. Check out what bartenders wear at the bars you're eyeing – you don't want to show up in flip-flops when everyone else is rocking suits. Research local traditions, etiquette, and even unspoken communication things like body language. You don’t want to accidentally offend someone while pouring a tequila.

For example, Japanese bartenders may not be overly chatty, but they bring a dedication to their craft that creates a unique experience. In contrast, German bartenders in bier halls project a booming voice to call out orders. Irish pub bartenders weave jokes and stories with regulars like family. These examples highlight the cultural variations in bartending. 

Every city you visit has its own vibe, even if it's practically next door. Take Hong Kong and Singapore, for example – both are Asian metropolises, but with totally different bar scenes. A successful guest shift bartender must adapt to these differences while offering their own unique perspective. 

Learning about the local cocktail culture is essential. Familiarizing with unfamiliar liquor preferences challenges creativity. Touring local cocktail bars and chatting with resident bartenders expands knowledge of indigenous tastes. 

Don't be a robot!  Learning a few key phrases in the local language shows you actually care. It's all about that authentic connection.  And while you're abroad, keep your ego in check – an open mind and a humble attitude go a long way. You'll make awesome friends, have way more fun, and the whole guest shift experience will be even better!

Expert advice on planning

Advanced scheduling aids work-life balance while guesting internationally. Guest shift bartenders can search Facebook groups for a bartending community as well as hashtags like #guestbartender to discover future global events and shifts months in advance. Don't be shy – reach out to bars you love directly with your resume and your free dates. Book those slots way in advance – you snooze, you lose.

Securing multiple confirmed guest shift bartending gigs prevents downtime between stints. This way, you'll maximize your time abroad and keep the cash flowing. Speaking of cash, flights and apartments can eat into your profits. If the hosting bar hasn’t planned or secured accommodation for you, explore options like house-sitting or apartment swaps – free rent for the win!  Do your research and book those gigs well in advance – the earlier you plan, the less you spend. Basically, be a planning pro and watch your bank account thank you.

Financially speaking, guest shift bartenders are usually responsible for covering their own travel expenses (flight, hotel, food, etc.). This is because guest shifts are typically short-term gigs, and the bar isn't expecting to pay a premium for your services beyond the shift wage. However, very prestigious or well-known bars might offer to cover some or all of the travel expenses. The golden rule? Always chat with the bar beforehand to confirm what's what. 

Expert advice on building a guest bartending resume

Build your global guest bartending resume by starting locally. Take on guest bartending shifts at a variety of establishments in your city. This experience will help you showcase your talents and adaptability on social media. Potential international hosts will be looking for bartenders who can thrive in new environments – your local guest bartending gigs will be the perfect proof!

5. Tips for a successful guest bartending experience

Here's how to make your guest shift a success:

  • Learn about the bar's vibe, signature drinks, and typical clientele.
  • Make sure you're confident crafting common cocktails.
  • Plan specific ingredients you need to bring for your signature creations
  • Maintain an open and positive attitude. 
  • Represent yourself and your bartending style positively.
  • Socialize genuinely with local colleagues to build meaningful relationships.
  • Pour shifts with passion, acquiring regional technique knowledge from resident mentors.
  • Share culture insights regularly via portfolio updates to attract future global placements.
  • Tailor resumes highlighting strengths like speed, accuracy, and originality.
  • Learn some basic lines respectfully to connect on a deeper level.
  • Say thank you with small tip-outs to hosts for their hospitality throughout placements.
  • Guesting in the US? Learn about on-duty drinking rights in different states.

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Takeaways

  • Guest shift bartending is an appealing option for those in the industry who enjoy traveling and experiencing new environments.
  • The compensation structure for guest bartenders has shifted towards a performance-based model based on a percentage of the sales.
  • Guest bartenders have the opportunity to immerse themselves in culture, network with industry professionals worldwide, and experience different bar environments and drink menus.
  • Building skills and experience locally, showcasing talents on social media, and reaching out to potential hosts are essential steps in getting sponsored as a guest bartender.
  • Broken Bartender offers stylish clothing and accessories for bartenders, ensuring they look modern and professional behind the bar worldwide.

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