this site is my collection of all things cocktail since 1980 • please give credit if used for media purposes • condensed mobile version coming soon
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A while back, I hurt my right hand and was forced to write a grocery list with my left hand. While writing the list, an analogy came to me about Bartender Schools vs On the Job Training. My right hand is full of training and experience, but my left hand— even though it knows the alphabet— doesn't have the experience to go with it. The proof was in my very elementary writing on the grocery list.
I highly recommend getting into the bar business any way you can to become a really great bartender. The best bartenders I've ever worked with started out as bussers, servers, and barbacks working their way up. This gives you a better sense and understanding of what the F&B business is all about. It also teaches you respect and gives you a foundation to build on. Maybe combine this with some training at a reputable bartending school to tweak your knowledge further, and you're on your way to becoming an extraordinary bartender. But keep in mind that everything learned at a bartender school can be found online.
One day in my first bartender position the bar owner told me that she put an ad in the paper for a bartender and if anyone listed bartender school on his or her resume or application to throw it away. I didn't understand what she meant at the time, but later I understood.
In America, the top names in the bar school game since the 1970s are Jack Tianno, Roger Oldham, Tony Sylvester, John Pifer, and a guy named Jeff in California. The top bar school names are American Bartenders School (Jack Tianno. John and Jeff worked for Jack back in the 1970s then left Jack to start their own bar schools. Jeff in California)National Bartenders School (, and John Pifer)The Bartending College (, Tony Sylvester)ABC Bartending Schools (, Roger Oldham)Professional Bartending Schools of America (, )Their 3 sites all link to one another, but are owned and ran separately. They basically have a monopoly on the bar school game. For the record, I do not have any relationships with any of these schools mentioned. I applaud anyone who wants to learn a new trade, but to attend a bar school for one week with colored water in bottles does not make you a successful bartender. It's just a first step for many.
A rebirth of the appreciation of the cocktail began around the millennium in order to broaden and improve the serious-minded bartender who have chosen bartending as a career.
Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) in New York City is the very first culinary mixology course. It's not a bartender school, but much knowledge can be gained. Its graduates are able to mix a balanced Sidecar, distinguish a Speyside malt from a Lowland malt, explain in detail the difference between Bourbon whiskey and Irish whiskey, recognize when a tequila is overpriced, identify a potato vodka by its nose alone, explain the origin of the Manhattan cocktail and why the bitters are an integral part of the drink, in short, do everything that one expects from an educated professional. to educate, guide, and propagate the healthy, enlightened, and responsible use of beverage alcohol products. The program is hosted by top industry experts.
Cocktails In The Country is headed up by Gary (gaz) Regan. A small class of students learn how distilled spirits, liqueurs, and aromatized wines are made, giving them a firm base from which to understand what they are working with when making cocktails and mixed drinks. Bar, restaurant and hotel professionals who attend Regans' course go back to work with a keen sense of pride in their jobs. They know what to do, how to do it properly, and they also know that they can be proud of their craft.
Bar Smarts is the most innovative mixology and service training certification program available. They offer two levels of online education: BarSmarts and BarStarts. Once registered, participants receive instant access to online videos and reading materials. Participants that complete the program will receive a certificate via email. The program is hosted by Pernod Ricard USA and BAR LLC and top industry experts. You can also attend a class in person.
I don't know anything about this bar school, but they make it look fun! European Bartending School has 24 schools in 17 different countries and 4 continents from Europe over Asia and Australia. It's a 4-week course that costs about $2000.
You don’t need a license, certificate, or any special paper to tend bar, so don't let bar schools tell you that you do. Nurses, Doctors, Attorneys, Architects, etc. need a license, not bartenders. However, states require anyone who works in the F&B business to have an unexpired state certificate in order to work. The class teaches you basics such as proper storage of food, safety, accepted forms of ID's etc. In addition, corporate establishments will require a TIPS certificate because they receive a discount on insurance for their employees.