flickr photo by marniejoyce shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Without fail, every shift I work I come across that one person who asks, “so like, what’s your real job?”

My reply is always something along the lines of, “my real job is serving drinks, crafting cocktails and collecting tips. Let’s talk about your real job next, but first will that be cash or card?”

Normally stunned into silence, the person asking slowly sips on his/her drink and looks in another direction or down at a mobile device.


Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t go around asking people who are in the midst of working what their “real job is.” I can honestly disclose, I have never once taken my trash out while the garbage person was on his/her daily route and asked him/her what his/her real job is. I have never once gone to the grocery store and asked the person bagging my groceries what his/her real job is. I’m sure you get the point. Asking a question like that is assumptive, offensive and degrading. It assumes there is no future nor validity in bartending and that working as a bartender is not a “real job.”

So what makes a job real? Is it defined by hours worked? Is it defined by money earned? Is it defined by passion, purpose and/or necessity? Or is it defined perhaps by what society defines as acceptable?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then never, and I mean never ask your bartender what his/her real job is. Don’t assume you know someone’s schedule. Don’t assume you know their salary and don’t assume you know their motives. Instead, if you are curious about your bartender, a better approach is to ask about hobbies. Perhaps ask, “so what are some of your hobbies?” Or “what are you passionate about?” For all you know the answer might be ‘my passion is crafting cocktails and creating new recipes.’

It’s actually pretty good gig – thanks for asking.

The reality is a lot of people in the service industry make great money and really enjoy their jobs. Often times much more than those whom they serve. As a novice bartender with no experience, I was able to pay off $10,000 of credit card debt in less than six months while working at a club (and no, it wasn’t a strip club). I could still afford my NYC rent and all other associated expenses while getting rid of my debt. On average, I was making $20,000 more than other people my age in “professional positions.” In addition to that, I was working only three nights a week- namely Thursday’s, Friday’s and Saturdays.

When everyone else went out to party and celebrate the weekend I was there serving them. Every cheers, laugh and drunken match-making attempt I overheard or was part of. The only difference is at the end of the night while my patrons paid their tabs, I collected money from them. Every time a customer blurted out, “another one,” my bank account went, “cha-ching”

While my customers are pounding drinks and getting wasted, I am collecting tips and waking up sober, spending every second of my life sharp minded. During the weekends when most people are recovering from hangovers I am working towards getting a Master’s degree from New York University, developing a freelance writing career and raising a baby. So what’s my real job? It depends what time of day you ask me, but right now, I’m your bartender and that’s all you need to know. Now will that be cash or card?

Antasha Durbin

Antasha is a seasoned bartender with more than seven years of bartending and hospitality experience. She is also a spiritual writer at, where she writes free, easy-to-digest and highly actionable advice on spirituality, mindfulness and empowered living. You can follow her on Twitter @cajspirituality for daily inspiration.