“I mean, there are some people who enjoy bartending and making drinks, and do it without drinking, right?”
It’s funny, the people I work with in Tech are far more puzzled over me retiring from bartending than the bartenders I know.
Anyway, there are different classes of not drinking bartenders.
First, there are bartenders who don’t drink while working.
Second, there are bartenders who don’t drink with customers.
Third, there are bartenders who don’t drink.
In the first and second case, sometimes it is easier to say you don’t drink, than to risk offending someone by telling them you don’t want to drink with them or try to explain that you are a professional doing an actual job and don’t want to get wasted while you are at that job. A lot of bartenders have fairly elaborate and complicated methods for appearing to drink that shot you really want to drink with them, while at the same time only taking the tiniest taste. Me, I’ve never been very good at turning down free drinks or resisting the social pressure to drink. We all have our faults.
In the third case, yes, there are some professional bartenders who do not drink at all. Though, to be fair, most of the non-drinking bartenders I know have moved on to be managers, consultants, or owners, and don’t do a lot of actual day-to-day bartending. But, there are a few unicorns among the herds of stallions, mares, and asses.
In fact, when I’ve managed to get away with it, I enjoy bartending without drinking far more than I do bartending while drinking. But, you still have to taste your drinks and the products you’re pouring. So, if you have weak will power, like myself, and enjoy drinking, it is a very slippery slope.
Finally, most of the “good stuff” the bartending life throws at you is pretty firmly in the “free drinks” or “party lifestyle” category of experiences.
As I’ve said before, as a happily married, middle-aged, fairly prudish, (hey, I grew up Lutheran,) now non-drinking male, there’s just not a lot that the drink industry comes up with that is targeted at my demographic.
Pretty much every educational seminar or sponsored event I’ve attended for the booze industry could be summed up as, “free drinks with snacks”. If you’re lucky, there might be entertainment. If you’re not lucky, you’ll have to listen to someone drone on about the intricacies of what supposedly makes the industrial process they use for creating their product unique. But, mostly it is the free drinks, and for most people, this is an excuse to imbibe copiously. Wouldn’t you, if you had to listen to a presentation on the nitty gritty details of industrial gin distillation while hanging out with a bunch of people you don’t know very well?
I am lucky that I have had several different careers in different industries and, if I don’t bartend, I have other jobs I can fall back on.
On the other hand, nothing is certain. Perhaps in 5 years, when the tech industry bubble finally bursts for good, I’ll be back to bartending (or even cooking).