Can You Become a Bartender at 18?

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: March 11, 2024
  • Time to read: 8 min.

The bartending world is often associated with mixing cocktails, creating a vibrant atmosphere, and delivering exceptional customer service. This article will delve into the age to serve alcoholic beverages and opportunities in the bartending industry.

How Old Do You Have To Be to Bartend?

Apart from the laws governing the minimum legal age, specific age restrictions are imposed on individuals working in bars and serving alcohol. The minimum age requirements for bartending positions vary depending on the state jurisdiction and establishment.

While some places require bartenders to be 21, others have lower age limits, typically between 18 and 20. It is crucial to research and understand the bartending age requirements in your area to determine if you meet the criteria to serve liquor.

What American States Can You Start Bartending in at 18 or Below

Can You Become a Bartender at 18?

Yes, in many countries, including the US, Canada and UK, you can become a bartender at the age of 18. However, the minimum age requirement and requirements may vary depending on the state or province and local laws and regulations.

While legal age limits exist, there are avenues for young individuals to pursue a career in bartending, whether through non-alcoholic mixology or working in establishments with lower age requirements for serving alcohol. Let’s explore the possibilities and considerations for aspiring bartenders under the age of 21.

You can start bartending at 18 or below in the US in 28 states as of 2024. Some states do require you to have a supervisor present until you reach 21.

Here are the states: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (17), Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia (16), and Wisconsin.

Why Is There a Minimum Bartending Age?

The minimum bartending age is established for various reasons, including:

  • Ensuring Responsible Alcohol Service: Setting a minimum age requirement ensures bartenders understand the risks associated with serving alcohol and promotes responsible consumption.
  • Legal Considerations: Different jurisdictions have laws governing alcohol service, and adhering to age restrictions helps establishments comply with regulations and avoid legal consequences.
  • Protecting Young Workers: Minimum bartending age safeguards young workers from potential physical and emotional risks associated with the job.
  • Promoting Professionalism and Standards: Help maintain industry standards by ensuring bartenders have the necessary experience, maturity, and professionalism.

Opportunities for Young Aspiring Bartenders

Even if you don’t meet the minimum age to serve alcohol, lucrative career options are still available.

Non-Alcoholic Bartending

While the traditional notion of bartending revolves around alcoholic beverages and spirits, there are emerging opportunities for young bartenders to specialize in non-alcoholic mixology.

The trend of non-alcoholic cocktails is gaining popularity, driven by a growing demand for healthier alternatives and unique flavour experiences. As a young bartender, you can harness your creativity and experiment with various ingredients to craft exciting non-alcoholic beverages that captivate customers and contribute to the evolving mixology scene.

Bartending in Establishments With Lower Minimum Age Requirements

Perhaps surprisingly, many jurisdictions allow staff under the legal age to serve others. Certain establishments, such as restaurants, hotels, and private events, may have different minimum age requirements for bartenders, mainly if you only serve and do not mix drinks.

Some jurisdictions have different rules to serve beer and wine as opposed to sprits, so depending on the estblishment you might be abel to find a bartending position in those.

Working in these environments allows young bartenders to gain valuable experience, develop their skills, and build a foundation for their careers. While the opportunities may differ from working in a traditional bar setting, they provide a platform to showcase your talent, professionalism, and commitment to the craft.

Obtaining Relevant Certifications and Training

Investing in bartending certifications and training can enhance your employability and open doors to opportunities. Certificates such as Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) or Mixology courses provide you with valuable knowledge and demonstrate your dedication to responsible alcohol service and mixology expertise. These certifications can set you apart from other candidates and increase your chances of securing desirable bartending positions.

Overcoming Challenges and Gaining Experience:

Securing Entry-Level Positions

Starting as a young bartender can come with challenges, but you can secure entry-level positions with determination and the right approach. Networking, internships, and apprenticeships are effective strategies for connecting with industry professionals and finding opportunities. Attend industry events, reach out to local bars and restaurants, and showcase your passion and willingness to learn. Building a strong foundation through practical experience is essential for long-term success in the bartending industry.

Developing Skills and Industry Knowledge

Becoming a skilled bartender requires continuous learning and honing of various skills. Mastering mixology techniques, expanding your repertoire of drink recipes, and providing exceptional customer service are crucial aspects of being a bartender.

Actively seek opportunities to develop these skills and expand your industry knowledge. Reading books on mixology, taking online courses, and participating in mentorship programs can significantly contribute to your growth as a bartender.

By continuously improving your skills, you’ll become more confident in your craft and better equipped to handle the demands of a bartending job.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bartender Age

Here are some questions we found people often ask about the laws of working as a younger bartender.

Can I become a bartender at 18 if the legal drinking age in my country is 21?

Depending on the local government, you might be able to serve drinks even if you’re underage, especially in North America.

Also, alternative avenues, such as non-alcoholic bartending or working in establishments with lower age limits, like restaurants or private events, provide opportunities for young bartenders to gain experience and develop their skills.

Can you bartend at 18 in the US?

Yes, in most states you can. There are about 25 states where the minimum age to bartend is 18 at the state level. In fact, West Virginia lets you start 1t 16, while Maine allows 17-year-olds to bartend with a supervisor present.

On the other hand, the state age requirement for North Dakota and South Carolina is 21 to bartend.

What states can you be a bartender at 18?

Some states with a minimum bartending age of 18 include Colorado, Florida, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas. You can find a full list here.

How can I gain bartending experience if I’m underage?

Securing entry-level positions at restaurants, hotels, or catering companies can provide valuable bartending experience even if you are underage. Additionally, volunteering at events or assisting experienced bartenders can help you gain practical knowledge and build a network within the industry.

Depending on the laws of your jurisdiction, getting work as a barback is a great way to work towards becoming a bartender.

Are there any certifications I can obtain as a young bartender?

Absolutely! Certification courses such as Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) or Mixology courses are available for individuals of all ages. Obtaining these certifications showcases your commitment to responsible alcohol service, liquor, and mixology expertise, increasing your employability and demonstrating your dedication to the craft.

How can I improve my skills as a young bartender?

To improve your skills as a young bartender, continuously educate yourself through reading books on mixology, taking online courses or bartending school and participating in mentorship programs. Additionally, practising your craft, experimenting with new recipes, and seeking feedback from experienced bartenders can significantly contribute to your growth and development.

What is Barbacking?

A barback is a support role in a bar or nightclub. They assist bartenders by restocking supplies, cleaning glasses, clearing tables, and ensuring the bar area is well-maintained. They play a crucial role in keeping the bar operations running smoothly.

If you’re starting in the industry or have no experience, starting as a barback is a great way to work towards becoming a bartender.

Are there age restrictions for bartending in other countries?

Yes, the age to serve alcohol varies from country to country. It is crucial to research the specific legal drinking and working age requirements in the country or state/province where you intend to work as a bartender. Understanding these regulations will help you determine your opportunities as a young bartender.

For example, in Canada, most provinces allow you to bartend at 18, and in Australia too, while in England, you can start bartending at 16 or 17 with a supervisor present.

Can you be a bartender at 18 in Canada?

Yes, you can start bartending in all of Canada at 18, except for British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, where the minimum age is 19.

Do bartenders make minimum wage in Canada?

Before 2022, some Canadian provinces had a “server wage” below the minimum wage, with the idea that tips would make up the difference. However, as of 2023, most provinces have eliminated this, so servers make minimum wage plus tips.

Do I need a license to be a Bartender in Ontario?

Yes, you need to obtain a SmartServe certification to bartend in Ontario. The training and the test can be taken online from the website.

If I’m under the legal drinking age, can I bartend at private events or weddings?

In general no, the same rules apply to private events and weddings but the local laws might have more flexibility in setting the age to serve alcohol.

So it is essential to check the specific regulations and licensing requirements of the event venue and local governments to ensure compliance with the law.

Some venues may have their policies regarding age restrictions, so it’s important to communicate and clarify with the event organizers.

How can I showcase my skills and gain recognition as a young bartender?

Building a strong online presence through social media platforms can help you showcase your skills and gain recognition as a young bartender including:

  • Share photos and videos of your creations,
  • Engage with the online mixology community
  • Participate in competitions or challenges.
  • Networking with industry professionals, attending trade shows, and participating in local mixology events

These can all provide valuable exposure and opportunities for recognition.

What are the advantages of starting as a bartender at a younger age?

Starting as a bartender at a younger age offers several advantages. Firstly, it allows you to gain valuable experience and develop your skills earlier, providing a head start in your bartending career. Secondly, it allows you to build a solid professional network and establish connections within the industry. Lastly, starting young enables you to evolve with the industry trends and adapt to customers’ changing demands and preferences.

Can I pursue a career as a professional bartender even after turning 21?

Absolutely! There is no certain age you are too old. The Bartending industry welcomes individuals of all ages. Whether you start as a young bartender or pursue the profession later in life, there are ample opportunities to excel in your career. Improving your skills, seeking advanced certifications, and gaining experience in diverse bartending environments can help you progress and succeed as a professional bartender.

Are there any specific skills or qualities that young bartenders should focus on developing?

Young bartenders should focus on developing a range of skills and qualities. These include mixology techniques, drink preparation and presentation, customer service, communication, time management, and working well under pressure. Additionally, being adaptable, creative, and passionate about the craft will contribute to your success as a bartender.


Navigating age restrictions in the job can be challenging for young individuals aspiring to become bartenders. However, aspiring bartenders can overcome these obstacles by exploring opportunities in non-alcoholic bartending, seeking establishments with lower age requirements, and investing in relevant certifications and training.

Gaining practical experience, continuously improving skills, and building a strong network within the industry is essential for long-term success. Remember, the bartending profession values talent, dedication, and exceptional customer service regardless of age. Cheers to your success!