How To Become a Bartender In Ontario

So, you’ve got the charisma, a love for mixing drinks, and a passion for creating memorable experiences for others.

 If you’ve been considering a career in bartending, you’re in the right place. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps on how to become a bartender in Ontario, blending practical advice with a touch of insider knowledge.

1. Understanding the Legal Landscape

Before diving into the world of bartending, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the legalities surrounding alcohol service in Ontario. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) oversees the regulations, including the legal drinking age of 19. As a bartender, enforcing this rule strictly is paramount. 

Additionally, understanding the regulations related to alcohol consumption and service hours is essential to stay on the right side of the law.

2. Obtain SmartServe Certification

In Ontario, it’s not just about pouring drinks; it’s about responsible service. The SmartServe certification is a must-have for anyone aspiring to be a bartender. This program covers the ins and outs of responsible alcohol service, ensuring you understand the importance of checking IDs, recognizing intoxication, and handling difficult situations. The certification is recognized across the province and is a key requirement for most establishments.

3. Choose the Right Bartending School

While formal education isn’t mandatory, attending a reputable bartending school can give you a competitive edge. Look for programs that cover the basics of mixology, drink preparation, and customer service. The Bartender Training Institute, for example, offers comprehensive courses to equip you with the skills needed to thrive in the dynamic world of bartending.

Read 11 Bartendending Drinks You Should Know

4. Gain Hands-On Experience

Theory is crucial, but practical experience is where you truly hone your craft. Consider starting as a barback or in an entry-level position to familiarize yourself with the fast-paced environment of a bar. This hands-on experience will not only enhance your skills but also make you more appealing to potential employers.

5. Build Your Bartender Toolkit

Invest in the essential tools of the trade. A good bartender needs more than just a charming personality; having the right equipment is key. Ensure you have a quality shaker, muddler, jigger, and mixing spoons in your arsenal. Familiarize yourself with various glassware and learn the art of garnishing to add that extra flair to your creations.

6. Build Your Bartender Resume/Portfolio

When applying for bartender positions, a well-crafted resume can set you apart. Highlight your SmartServe certification, any relevant training, and your hands-on experience. Emphasize your customer service skills, ability to work under pressure, and your in-depth knowledge of drink recipes.

7. Nail the Bartender Interview

Securing a bartending job often involves showcasing your personality as much as your skills. During interviews, be personable, demonstrate your passion for mixology, and share instances where you handled challenging situations effectively. Confidence, paired with a genuine love for the craft, goes a long way.


Becoming a bartender in Ontario is a journey that combines legal know-how, formal education, hands-on experience, and a dash of personal flair. By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to crafting delightful cocktails and creating memorable experiences for patrons across the province. So, don your bartender cap, shake up those drinks, and embark on a fulfilling career in the vibrant world of Ontario’s bars and pubs!