Cocktail Careers: The Truth About Bartender Salaries

Cocktail Careers: The Truth About Bartender Salaries

A great bartender can light up the room and make a dull event exciting, making for a fun and in-demand career choice. Yet, how much do bartenders make these days? 

The average wage per hour for a bartender is at least five times greater than the minimum wage for tipped workers. And if you are highly skilled and experienced, or live in certain states or cities, you can earn far more than that. 

Knowing what bartenders make on average can help you decide if you are making enough money from your current bartending gig or in your state. 

If you are making less than what other bartenders are making, then it’ll help to know the factors that are causing others to earn more and what you need to do to increase your income

That is, it’ll give you a target to aim for. 

In this article, we will unveil how much bartenders make on average and what you can do to increase your earning capacity. We’ll cover:

  1. How much do bartenders make without tips?
  2. How much do bartenders make in tips?
  3. Average bartender salary with tips
  4. How to increase your bartender pay

[Do you want to improve your personal bartender brand and command more value? Visit the the Broken Bartender store to get bartender-themed t-shirts and hats, as well as well-designed pins, stickers, whiskey stones, and cocktail shakers, etc.]

Best Gifts for Bartenders by Broken Bartender

1. How much do bartenders make without tips?

There are many ways to answer this question. For example, we can look at the hourly wage or annual salary. Thankfully, we have enough data on both. 

How much do bartenders make an hour?

The average hourly wage for bartenders in the US is $17.83, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They also provided the following data based on percentile: 

  • 10th percentile: $9.55
  • 20th percentile: $11.47
  • 50th percentile: $15.15
  • 75th percentile: $20.58
  • 90th percentile: $29.43

More recent but unofficial data (based on job openings) from Indeed, a recruitment platform, puts the average hourly wage at $17.19.  They also note that the actual hourly wage varies from a low of $9.05 to a high of $32.66. 

How much do bartenders make? by Broken Bartender

Source: Indeed

ZipRecruiter, another recruitment platform, puts the average hourly wage at $16, with actual hourly wages ranging from $5.29 to $34.13.  

In all cases, the hourly wage of bartenders is greater than the minimum wage of $2.13 per hour for tipped workers. 

How much do bartenders make a year?

The Bureau of Labour Statistics put the average annual salary at $37,090 (for full-time rather than part-time bartenders). The distribution by percentile is as follows:

  • 10th percentile: $19,870
  • 25th percentile: $23,860
  • 50th percentile: $31,510
  • 75th percentile: $42,800
  • 90th percentile: $61,210

Salary estimates from ZipRecruiter put the average annual salary at $33,085, with the salary range going from a low of $11,000 to a high of $71,000. 

How much do bartenders make? by Broken Bartender

Source: ZipRecruiter

What is responsible for the disparity we have noticed between the lowest-earning and highest-earning bartenders (whether based on hourly wage or annual salary)?

“Education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession” are the key determinants, according to Salary.com, a recruitment platform. Whether a bartender gets invited to private events is another factor. 

But one factor often neglected is location. Bartenders with the same skills and experience can earn different salaries if they operate in different states. 

So, where do bartenders make the most money in the US?

Official data provided by BLS shows that these are the 5 best states for bartenders in 2023:

State

Average annual salary ($)

District of Columbia

59,850

Washington

57,710

New York

56,140

Hawaii

52,140

Arizona

50,870

If you are interested in city-level data, Indeed has provided us with one. According to them, below are the top 9 cities for bartenders:

City, State

Average annual salary ($)

Orlando, Florida

72,465

Phoenix, Arizona

61,754

Los Angeles, California

58,379

Chicago, Illinois

55,909

Atlanta, Georgia

54,057

Las Vegas, Nevada

53,582

New York, New York

53,440

Houston, Texas

50,452

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

45,825

The top 5 metropolitan areas for bartenders, according to US News are:

Metropolitan area, state

Average annual salary ($)

Phoenix, Arizona

54,280

New York, New York

52,640

Seattle, Washington

52,190

Flagstaff, Arizona 

51,930

Longview, Washington

49,180

Another important factor is years of experience. Indeed has provided us with data points that show how average salary varies by years of experience: 

Years of experience 

Average Salary ($)

1-2

48,023

3-5

54,688

More than 10

59,763

Best Gifts for Bartenders by Broken Bartender

2. How much do bartenders make in tips?

While the basic salary is important, the bartending business thrives a lot on tips. 

The rule of thumb is that tips make up 75%-85% of the total pay of a bartender, according to Bartender Licensing Service, a platform helping bartenders with the licensure process.  

Therefore, we need to consider how much bartenders make in tips. 

Indeed puts the average amount for tips at $150 per day.

The tips you will earn also depend on location (among other factors) since it turns out that some states are more generous with tips than others. 

While putting the average tipping percentage at 17.94%, USA Today listed the following as the states with the highest tipping percentage:

State

Average tipping percentage

California

22.69%

Missouri

22.05%

Florida

21.68%

Arizona

20.66%

Rhode Island

20.50%

Washington 

20.23%

Colorado

19.85%

Pennsylvania

19.64%

Connecticut 

19.14%

Georgia

19%

3. Average bartender salary with tips

Since tips are not standardised, the amount of tips a bartender will earn per year will vary. Therefore, data about the average bartender salary with tips are sparse. 

Nevertheless, let’s consider the ones we have. 

Glassdoor, a recruitment platform, puts the range of additional pay (cash bonus, commission, tips, and profit sharing) for bartenders at $24,000 - $45,000, taking the total pay range to $62,000 - $142,000. Similarly, the average total pay is $82,000.  

The average total pay is $65,094, according to BinWise, an inventory management software for bars.

They got this number by assuming a 5-day work week, 52 weeks in a year, a base salary of $26,094, and an average tip of $150 per day (per Indeed). 

If we take Indeed’s figure as normative, we can then estimate the average total pay (take home) based on the average annual salaries we have considered above: 

  • BLS: $76,090 = $37,090 + $39,000
  • ZipRecruiter: $72,085 = $33,085 + $39,000 

If the tipping culture is uniform, then we can expect that states with higher basic pay will also have higher total pay. 

However, though $150 per day is standard, we can expect those states with better tipping percentages to offer more to bartenders

Consequently, before choosing a location to offer your bartending services, you need to consider both the average basic salary and the general tipping culture.  

4. How to increase your bartender pay

Now that we have answered the all-important question – how much do bartenders make on average – it is time for some evaluation. 

If you are earning in the lower percentile or your earnings are below the average, it is time to improve your pay. 

Also, if you are among the average earners but want to be among the 90th percentile, it is time to take steps to increase your remuneration. 

How can you achieve this?

Let’s consider 4 things you can do: 

Change location

Both the average basic salary and the tips you can expect to earn all depend on the state (and even city) where you reside. 

Of course, a very good bartender in a lower-paying state can still earn more than an average bartender in a better-paying state. But a very good bartender in a better-paying state will earn more than a very good bartender in a lower-paying state. 

Note that the cost of living is also important. If state A provides 2X the income of state B but also has 3X the cost of living, then it might not make sense to relocate. 

While improving your skills is crucial (more on this later), sometimes what is needed is a change of location. This will of course come with some costs (monetary and otherwise) but you have to weigh the benefits and the costs and do what is best for your career. 

Improve your skills

Wherever you are, becoming better at what you do is a sure path to progress

If you are only adept at serving wine and beer, you need to improve your skills so you can also mix specialty tastings and cocktails. 

Also, don’t ignore soft skills. Enhancing your communication and interpersonal skills can help you earn more tips and even land pay raises or better-paying jobs. As the popular saying goes, “I don't just make drinks, I make spirits soar.”

Your appearance also matters. Donning bartender-themed t-shirts, hats, and cocktail shakers can make you more attractive to your customers (leading to bigger tips). 

Gather more experience

Nothing beats experience. The data from Indeed has shown that you can command better pay when you have more experience

The more time you spend doing the work, the better you become at it.

Don’t ignore the days of little beginnings. Instead, focus on sharpening your skills as you go.

Go for private events

With private events, your hourly wage can shoot up to an average of $30-$90, according to Yelp, the business reviews website. 

Depending on the type of event, the event length, the time of the year,  skills, experience, and tips, your income can skyrocket significantly. 

Getting invites for private events will require that you are good at your job, adept at networking, and excellent at marketing yourself. 

Once you have gotten the first gig and have excelled at it, more opportunities will surely open up. This can even include guest shifts overseas. 

Private events also thrive on appearance. The aesthetics of the pins, stickers, and whiskey stones you use as well as your appearance (and that of the bartenders and barbacks supporting you) can leave a lasting impression on guests and event hosts. 

[Do you want to improve your style and appearance and command more value as a bartender? Visit the Broken Bartender store for bartender-themed t-shirts and hats and quality cocktail shakers, pins, stickers, and whiskey stones. ]

Takeaways

  • Knowing how much a bartender makes on average can help you evaluate your bartending income. 
  • The Bureau of Labour Statistics puts the average hourly wage of bartenders in the United States of America at $17.83 and the average annual salary at $37,090.
  • Indeed puts the average tip at $150 per day.  
  • To increase your bartending income, you may need to change location, improve your skills, gather more experience, and go for private events.

Best Gifts for Bartenders by Broken Bartender

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.