Average Bartender Salary in Major U.S. Cities

Earning his bartender salary, a man in a dark apron is mixing drinks on a bar counter top.

The latest government data cites as many as 613,070 bartender jobs in the United States, with a median salary of $14.12 per hour.

Additionally, employment for U.S. bartenders is projected to grow 3% over the next 10 years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

For the rest of this article, we’ll talk about the average bartender salary in major U.S. cities as well as some of the other factors that can influence a bartender’s pay, like establishment types, soft skills and gratuities.

Total pay range for bartenders in the U.S.
[Source: OysterLink Salary Data]

What Is the Average Bartender Salary in the US?

In 2022, the mean national wage for bartenders was $34,490 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The salary bracket can fluctuate depending on various factors, such as the type and locale of the establishment, such as a restaurant, bar, pub, hotel, etc. A bartender is the second highest–paid profession in hotels and resorts, and one of the best-paid jobs in restaurants.

The bartender’s certifications and years of experience can also significantly influence their pay outcome. Proficiencies and specialties can boost pay as well; for example:

  • Mixologists: Bartenders who use in-depth knowledge of spirits, flavors and ingredients to create unique, creative cocktails are in high demand at upscale bars, restaurants and hotels.
  • Sommeliers: Wine experts who are responsible for creating wine lists, making recommendations and ensuring that wine is served properly can earn higher salaries given their specialized knowledge.
  • Head bartenders: Highly experienced bartenders who have been promoted based on leadership skills are tasked with (and paid more for) team management and overseeing the bar’s operations.
  • Brand ambassadors: Bartenders who work as ambassadors for liquor companies or other beverage brands travel to different locations to showcase the brand and educate bartenders and customers.

Tips are another huge contribution to a bartender’s salary. Keep in mind, though, that the tipping system differs significantly compared to waiters. Instead of counting on percentages, bartenders often receive tips of up to $2.50 per drink.

Top-paying U.S. states for bartenders
[Source: OysterLink Salary Data]
Take a look at the anticipated bartender salary ranges for 2023 in four major cities: New York, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles.

What Is the Average Bartender Salary in New York City?

New York City offers ample opportunity for bartenders to learn and grow in one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes in the world. The city produces signature cocktails of the highest quality, such as the Manhattan, the spirit of NYC.

A bartender in New York City earns an average of $52,640 per year, which is significantly higher than the national average.

What Is the Average Bartender Salary in Miami?

It’s always sunny in Miami, where iconic art deco architecture and sandy beaches inspire bold, vibrant cocktails like the Miami Vice. With hundreds of hotels and thousands of restaurants, this city offers plenty of opportunities for bartenders to showcase their skills and creativity.

A bartender in Miami earns around $33,310 per year, which is about the same as the national average.

What Is the Average Bartender Salary in Chicago?

Chicago boasts some of the most delicious beverages, from the aptly named Chicago cocktail to the Old Fashioned. You can apply for a bartender position at a nightclub, sushi bar, event venue or even a Michelin-starred restaurant.

A bartender in Chicago earns around $33,870 per year.

What Is the Average Bartender Salary in Los Angeles?

A city where movies come to life, Los Angeles has its own cocktail tour and rich history of craft cocktail innovation. Whether you’d rather sip on or serve up a Moscow Mule or a Mulholland Drive, L.A. has you covered.

A bartender in Los Angeles earns approximately $39,220 per year.

What Factors Impact a Bartender’s Salary?

1. Geographic Location

Where you work can affect your salary as a bartender. If you work in a highly populated city with an exciting nightlife, there may be more job opportunities and potential for higher tips.

You’d also learn to work in some of the most competitive bars, nightclubs and restaurants in the world, gaining some valuable work experience.

High-end locations, however, come with a high cost of living, so make sure you weigh the pros and cons first when deciding whether to move to a new city for that bartender job.

2. Establishment Type

The type of bar you work at can also impact your salary. A high-end bar with expensive drinks and a sophisticated clientele may offer higher pay, while a more casual café with humble prices and a laid-back atmosphere may not.

Keep in mind that tips are generally higher in more upscale locations.

3. Your Shifts and Hours

The shifts you work can also affect your earnings as a bartender. Busy hours can mean more customers and higher tips.

Friday and Saturday nights, holidays, special events, brunch and late-night shifts usually bring in more tips than regular weekdays because more people come out to drink and have fun.

4. Your Performance

Performance is a great influence for any salary increase, and bartending positions are no exception.

Being the best bartender isn’t just about crafting the most complex drinks or performing the most impressive tricks.

It also involves creating a welcoming and friendly atmosphere that allows customers to unwind and enjoy themselves to the point where they want to come back for more. (All of this usually leads to better tips, as well.)

5. Your Experience

Bartenders with more experience are usually more skilled at preparing drinks and creating smooth, enjoyable service experiences.

With the right skills and qualifications acquired over your career, you may be able to command higher pay.

Newbie bartenders may earn less until they build up their skills, reputation and mastery of the drink menu.

Earning her bartender salary, a woman is standing at a bar, mixing drinks between two large glasses, one is filled with ice.
Bartenders with more experience are usually more skilled at preparing drinks and creating smooth, enjoyable service experiences

How To Increase Your Bartender Salary

The amount of money a bartender makes is largely dependent on their place of work and their tips. Factors that might help increase the amount you make include:

  • Creating delicious and visually appealing cocktails that guests enjoy
  • Providing excellent customer service by being friendly and engaging with customers
  • Maintaining a clean and organized work area
  • Upselling premium liquor and other high-margin beverages
  • Working at a high-end bar or restaurant where menu items and drinks are priced at a premium
  • Working during busy shifts, especially during peak hours or special events
  • Building relationships with regular customers to encourage repeat business and increase tips

Poll: What key factor do you believe most impacts bartender salaries today?

10 Top-Paying Companies for Bartenders in the US

The highest-paying employers and their reported average salary for a bartender job in the U.S. include:

  1. BJ’s Restaurants, $41,000
  2. Outback Steakhouse, $40,000
  3. The Cheesecake Factory, $40,000
  4. Olive Garden Italian Restaurants, $39,000
  5. Denny’s, $38,000
  6. Nordstrom,$38,000
  7. Chipotle, $38,000
  8. Hyatt, $37,000
  9. Marriott International, $37,000
  10. Hilton, $37,000

Find the Best Bartender Salary Opportunities With OysterLink

If you are looking to build a career as a bartender, or just finding the best bartender for your business, we have you covered.

OysterLink connects candidates with open positions in the restaurant industry, from servers and bartenders to chefs, managers and beyond.

From job descriptions, salaries, interview questions and follow-up calls after an interview, we offer valuable insights into the best-paying jobs in hotels and resorts!

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