Bartender vs Barback

Bartender vs Barback

Barbacks are often mistaken for bartenders by the consumers, simply because both are working at the bar. A barback is essentially someone who “backs-up” or supports the bar and bartender(s). A barback is a bartender’s assistant helping to ensure smooth work flow at the bar so that drinks can be rolled out quickly, forming a team that gives the best experience to the guests.

A barback’s role includes waiting tables, cleaning glasses, preparing ingredients and garnishes, refilling ice, topping up stocks and, sometimes, even to make sure of the bartender’s safety. Every bartender has to work as a barback before they qualify to serve drinks.

Here is how bar operators described barbacks:

“They are the work horses behind the operation. They do the jobs that require strength, foresight precision and willingness to push things forward. They are the back bone, just like a Kitchen Porter Dishwasher is in a kitchen. Life without them would be super hard.” ~ Divyesh Chauhan, Co-Founder of JungleBird KL, a rum-centric bar.

“The barback is a crucial position in our bar, someone who ensures that all the production and preparations are organised down to every detail before, during, and even after the operational hours so as to ease the bar operations.” ~ Andrew Tan, Owner of Hyde at 53M, a creative cocktail bar that serves curated drinks.

The attitude of a barback is very important, especially one who is willing, driven, hardworking and with positive attitude. As speed, anticipation and efficiency are crucial to the role, “Good time management and the belief in achieving results on their own accord helps,” says Andrew. “They must be willing to get involved and get their hands dirty,” added Divyesh.

There is normally no time frame for barbacks to progress into bartenders but they do need to pick up on the foundations of bar operations, necessary skills and knowledge before they are given the chance to make drinks. There is a system in Hyde for monitoring each barback’s progress and the bar manager will promote when the padawan is ready. In JungleBird, the ability to deal with customers’ questions is one of the key aspects, as well as personality when a barback is considered being moved up the chain.

Part of this year’s Bar Awards’ KL program is the Barback Games challenge that will take place at Jack Rose, on 21 October 2017, 12pm – 6pm. The fastest finisher with the least errors wins. The Top 4 will be announced on the same day of the challenge whilst the champion will be crowned during The Bar Awards Night the next day. The challenge is open to anyone to enter (you don’t have to be already a barback to participate but you have to be attached to a bar).


The competition is open to everyone who works at a bar, however, barbacks get priority for the 20 registrations.

Register here for the Barback Games Challenges.

Registration Deadline: 8 October 2017

Competition Format

Two contestants will be competing at the same time using the same station. Each will have 15 minutes to complete all the tasks:

1. Stock count
2. Restock 12 bottles
3. Speed pour the 12 bottles
4. Wash, rinse and dry all bar equipment
5. Make lime cordial (chop, juice, melt sugar and mix)
6. Move beer keg to finish line

*For each failed step, 5 and 15 seconds will be added to barback/non-barback’s finishing time.

The sequence is as follow: 

Barback Games challenge run down rules


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