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Colleen Graham

The Million Dollar Question: Should I Go To Bartending School?

By July 7, 2010

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There are many ways to begin a career and most involve some sort of education at a dedicated program. Professional bartending is a little different. Though there are schools available that will give you a crash course, teaching you the basics of stirring, shaking, pouring, and run you through some memorization of popular cocktails, these are typically not the way to go if you want to be a pro behind the stick.

The question comes up to all of us in the field more often than we'd probably care. Though it is a viable one and I'm glad that it is asked because the majority of bartending schools are not what they're billed as and promises of great job opportunities afterward often go unfulfilled. This is not to say that there are some reputable schools available to learn the basics, but you need to be aware of the ones that are not.

Lance Mayhew took on this question in Is Bartending School Worthwhile? It's very clear that his experience has led to the same conclusion many of us have and he makes some valid points for those contemplating enrollment to consider that will save both time and money. I also have a list of bartending schools and training programs, though I cannot endorse any of them with the exception of training courses such as BAR and BarSmarts developed by mixologists I know. The best advice is to do your homework.

So, what does an aspiring bartender do? Nothing is better in this industry than real world experience and often that means taking the menial job of a bar back and working your way up through the ranks of the establishment. Studying is also helpful: learn drinks and spirits, practice techniques at home, and read as much as you can about the profession. Camper English recently wrote a piece on Alcademics that has more great advice, and there is no shortage of professional bartending discussion all over the internet.

Read more Professional Bartending articles here... including service tips, drinks to know, and advice from experienced bartenders and mixologists.

We'll be continuing the discussion on making this craft a career, but for now I'd like to know how you started bartending and if you have any advice for others.

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April 3, 2012 at 3:03 pm
(1) Morgan says:

I 100% agree with the points above. I struggled with this when I was trying to be a bartender. I actually signed up for bartending school (like $400) – and it was a waste of time. I ended up getting a doing some research (google “busboy to bartender” – they have some sweet stuff) and found out an easy way to get a job by working my way up at a bar – took like 2 months.

It’s not that hard.

June 13, 2013 at 12:40 pm
(2) Dave says:

We have written you concerning both our <a href"http://bartending-school.com&quot; title="bartending school in the Washington DC area" and about the elements to consider when evaluating bartending schools.

Simply in our area we have been able to document grads landing about 1200 bartending jobs per year over the last several years. That has been consistent. Any visitor can see the lists and/or visit our facebook page at http://facebook.com/ProfessionalBartendingSchoolDC On that page you will not only see reference to grads at work but their pictures behind the bar.

Bar schools are not colleges with lots of resources to track graduates over time. They are not payed placement services wherein employers pay them for grads as headhunters or staffing companies get paid. The ability of a low priced bar school to generate deep statistics is limited at best.

We do well in that we have staff devoted to placement, we contact thousands of employers all during the year, we stay in touch with these employers and maintain contact with our grads. Its a relatively big and expensive job.

We generate a strong volume of leads, and we advise on many advanced methods that help grads land jobs. But we cannot guarantee anything…nor do we put out stupid and bs stats that suggest 90-100% placement. And frankly we are located in one of the most robust food and beverage markets in the nation…and we have many employers that continue to come to us for placement.

Our classes get great reviews from students, we have many come back for free refreshers and updated placement etc.

that isn’t the case with all schools. We know.

We suggest a prospective student evaluate hard in his/her market to determine the credibility of a school.


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