Slideshow: Ask a Bartender: When Did You Know You Wanted to Be A Bartender?

College, And After
College, And After
"There was never really an 'ah ha!' moment. It started out as a fun and flexible way to pay for my last few semesters of college, but once I discovered the intellectual side of this whole craft cocktail movement, I was hooked. Plus, I can rarely sit still, so getting paid to be physically active and be social the whole time is great." — John Henderson (Scholars, Tavern Road)
Making Cocktails For The Family
Making Cocktails For The Family
"I took a bartending course in college (I know.....so taboo) and I think I realized how much fun and creative the job was when I was home during Thanksgiving break and my family had me whip up drinks all weekend long. I loved impressing them with my new-found skills and that's when it sparked for me." — Pamela Wiznitzer (Dead Rabbit)
Over My Fifth Bourbon
Over My Fifth Bourbon
"I was 27 and working a corporate job that I couldn't stand. One night after work, I was on probably my fifth bourbon when I confided to the bartender, Mike, that my job was driving me to drink. He said, “That's why I do this. If you're going to have a drinking problem, you might as well make it profitable.” Less than a month later I traded my suit and tie for all-black and a bottle-opener." — Chad Musick (Sip Tasting Room and Rooftop Lounge)
After the Army
After the Army
"I think I realized that I wanted to be a bartender after I got out of the Army and started working at a restaurant in Greensboro, NC. I started as a server and picked up the Saturday and Sunday brunch shifts, which were really slow. It started to pick up and then I got some nights behind the bar. This place didn't use the gun for anything other than soda and we juiced grapefruit and orange juice fresh for the guests. It was a great experience and shifted my focus to bartending." — Elizabeth Powell (Liberty Bar)
Couldn't Get A Line Cook Job
Couldn't Get A Line Cook Job
"I walked into a restaurant in Midtown when I first moved to NYC looking for a line cook job. The executive chef asked me if I spoke Spanish, and I said no. He asked me if I'd just graduated from culinary school, and I said no. Then he laughed and turned around, and over his shoulder, said 'Good luck, kid.' So I became a barback."  — John McCarthy (Greenwich Project)
By Building
By Building
"I was 22 when Greg Lindgren and Jon Gasparini (the owners of 15 Romolo and Rosewood at the time [in San Francisco]) approached me to do construction at A16. Shortly after, I was asked to build Range and I realized that I could make a living building bars and working at them and it really just took off from there. 17 years later, here I am." — Carlos Yturria (E&O Asian Kitchen)
Early On
Early On
"I realized I wanted to be a bartender pretty earlier on in my restaurant career—who doesn't want to be the one slinging drinks to adoring patrons, working your way out of the weeds in the service well, all while tossing alcohol drenched bills into your tip jar." — Chino Lee (Departure Restaurant)
Playing To My Strengths
Playing To My Strengths
"I don't know that I ever wanted to be a bartender, but you play to your strengths.  I tried real estate for a very brief period, but very quickly realized that I was awful at it.  As for tending bar, I have just been very comfortable with it.  I love learning new things and with the current "mixology" trend, there is a lot to be learned." — Roger Bailey (Filini Bar and Restaurant)
After Barbacking
After Barbacking
"It was when I was barbacking. The whole thing seemed more than just pouring drinks. There was the service, there were different wines, there were cool people. It felt like I was getting paid to hang out...and lug full kegs up and down the stairs quickly...and getting yelled at." — Michael Lay (Restaurant 1833)
Bartenders Had All The Fun
Bartenders Had All The Fun
"I was waiting tables at a very popular restaurant while in college. The money was good, but all the fun seemed to be had by the bartenders! They also seemed to have a certain amount of control over and appreciation from, both staff and patrons." — Bryan Ranere (Foreign Cinema)
Classic Books
Classic Books
"I realized that I loved the history behind bartending after reading through a couple of classic cocktail books like Jigger, Beaker & Glass and The Savoy Cocktail book. I loved the fact the cocktails could be seasonal and use obscure ingredients. The weirder the better, and I loved that." — Brian Means (Fifth Floor)
Age 15
Age 15
"The first time I made a proper cocktail. My older brother bought a book, bar tools and a few bottles. Next thing you know I'm making drinks at my house for more than 20 people. I was 15 years old..." — Milan Mijatovic (Little Market Brasserie)