Do You Need a Bartender's License to Work in New York?

Even though New York state's drinking limit is 21, you can start bartending at 18. You don't need a bartending license because the state doesn't issue them. However, attending bartending school might increase your chances of finding a job in your field.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

There's no licensing requirement to work as a bartender in New York state. Many bars insist on certification of some sort because their liability insurer requires it. You can take online courses to become certified in how to handle alcohol responsibly. Bartending schools can train you in the art of mixing and serving drinks.

NY State: How to Become a Bartender

New York state and New York City don't require a bartending license for you to start work. You don't need a bartending permit, certification or anything along those lines. All you have to do is find a bar, night club or restaurant that you can persuade to give you a job.

Your personality is important. A good bartender needs to be a fluent talker and a good listener with an attitude that makes customers feel they're welcome. Bartenders have to be able to do this whether they're dealing with a lonely, talkative drunk, a bachelorette party, or a rowdy gang of soldiers on leave.

While certification isn't a legal requirement, it might be worth pursuing. Whether you attend bartending school in Queens or bartending school in Buffalo, having a certification — or at least completing some training — has advantages.

  • Certification shows you have the qualifications to be worth hiring.

  • Even though a bartending license isn't a legal requirement, many employers insist on hiring certified bartenders.

  • Your coursework will include learning how to make a variety of drinks. You can practice your craft in a low-pressure situation, rather than in front of impatient customers.

  • Bars, like many businesses, carry liability insurance. Insurers may insist on them employing a bartender with satisfactory certification. 

Alcohol Training Awareness Program

As a path to certification, New York's Alcohol Training Awareness Program (ATAP) is sometimes called a bartending license course. Rather than teaching you about mixing drinks, ATAP trains you to serve alcohol responsibly. That's good for you and good for employers who have to rely on you not to bring trouble into their establishment.

ATAP is an online training course that covers key information for avoiding alcohol-related problems, including:

  • The effects of booze on your customers

  • How to spot when customers are approaching intoxication and intervene to prevent that

  • The art of checking IDs and recognizing minors. You and your employer could be in trouble if you serve anyone under 21

  • How to prevent intoxicated customers from disturbing other patrons

  • Preventing second-party sales, such as when an adult buys a drink to give to someone underage 

  • How to refuse to sell someone more alcohol

  • Protecting yourself and the establishment from legal trouble

  • New York state laws on alcohol sales and service

The course is useful not only for bartenders and bar owners but wine and liquor store cashiers, grocery store cashiers, and servers and waitstaff.

Bartending Courses

If you're a rookie mixologist, attending bartending school in NYC, Albany or somewhere else gives you a grounding in the art of mixing and serving drinks. These courses aren't online as the goal is to provide you with hands-on training working behind a fully stocked bar. A typical bartending course teaches you:

  • The tools used by professional bartenders
  • An introduction to spirits, liqueurs, wine and beer, as well as how to serve them
  • Free pouring, stirring and shaking techniques
  • Best customer service practices
  • Cash register and opening and closing procedures
  • The kind of alcohol awareness training you receive from ATAP