I recently had a conversation with a very experienced, smart and savvy account manager with a rich background in wines who had been bit by the cocktail bug. She had the noble ambition to get behind the bar and learn the skill set of a professional bartender, not only because it was alluring, but she believed it would add more dimension and accreditation to her position.
Unfortunately she chose one of the many bartending programs in and around the Los Angeles area that take advantage of the curious and willing, charging high prices in return for a dated skill set built around drinking culture from the 80′s and 90′s.
“How was it?” I asked her. “Terrible!” She replied. She went on to say that it was gross, and she walked away feeling dirty.
We are not yet living in a time where programs like these have become completely obsolete. Many establishments hire bartenders directly upon course completion and are happy that at the very least they can blend a Margarita. But what happens when the ever growing curiosity of the more educated consumer starts asking questions like “tell me about the tequila you used” or “where did the Margarita come from?”
These programs say they will turn you into a professional bartender in just weeks. That shit Cray. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s physically impossible and completely insulting.
One school in particular even offers an at home course. For $29.95 you will receive everything you need in the mail to become an at home pro; a text book, video guide, 11 piece bar kit and a recipe book. Now that’s a good deal! My tempered, seamless, sexy yarai mixing glass that never breaks, alone costs more than that. What a fool I am. I could of had a whole bar kit complete with plastic speed pourers for the same price, plus a recipe book that walks me through the nuances of drinks that nobody orders anymore, like the Hollywood and Pink Squirrel.
For just $20 more you can learn on the level of a “professional bartender”. You won’t have any practical experience though (womp womp), but I’m sure someone will hire you, maybe Applebees or The Olive Garden.
And for just $69.95 learn how to manage and even own your own bar in 6 easy lessons! Sound too good to be true? There’s more. Once you’ve completed the Basic Bar Management program, one month after you’ve opened your own bar, Jon Taffer and Spike TV will break down your door and humiliate you on national television!
Programs like The National Bartenders Bartending School are sensitive to the current economic climate and are offering steep discounts for some of their courses, like the 40 hour certification course on Living Social, nearly a $500 value for $199. “Career on the rocks? Maybe you just need to shake things up.” -most likely written by an unemployed sitcom writer currently working for NBS for trade? Don’t be a judger, it’s hard out there.
I steered my friend in the direction of BarSmarts, a program myself and many of my friends went through when starting out, which provides contemporary and relevant training material for a well rounded, craft minded bartender.
In a time when we are globally experiencing a craft bartender shortage, it saddens me to see young talent wasted in programs like the above mentioned. There’s no quick fix for learning the trade. There’s no pill you can swallow, no micro chip you can install, no crash course you can take. And unfortunately for the graduates who seek out a job in a craft bar, the real pros can smell sour mix and Finest Call from a mile away.