Can online bartending school help me get a job?

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Answered by: Kimberly, An Expert in the Internet Teaching Category
If you know a little about bartending, then you know there's a lot to learn. When there's a lot to learn, school seems like the obvious course of action. The Internet is littered with online bartending schools for aspiring bartenders. For a fee you can read their book. They'll test you on the material and give you a certificate if you pass. Unfortunately, that certificate won't be worth the paper it's printed on to you. Bartending school will not help you get a job in most bars.

Bartending is a craft that can be pursued as a trade and in skilled hands can become an art. It can't be taught straight from a book. For the purposes of getting a job, online bartending school won't help you because it's a lot of information you'll never need to use. If you're interested in the art of the cocktail and the history and quality of spirits, then you're better off approaching it like an apprentice. Either way you'll have to pay your dues in the industry. A lot of bars don't hire bartenders. They hire bar backs or servers and promote to bartending positions.

It's not that the information offered by bartending schools is wrong or useless. It's just an unnecessary expense. You can read books on bartending for free and reap the same benefits. The certificate, itself, means nothing. Every bar is different, so there is always a learning curve. Knowing a list of common drinks won't necessarily help you. Not a lot of people order a "salty dog" by name. They'll ask for vodka and grapefruit juice. If someone does order a drink by name, there's no shame in asking what's in it. People will get what they want from you one way or another.

You also don't need to be versed in a wide variety of drinks for any single bar. The type of bar will determine the types of drinks people order. If you get on at a neighborhood bar, no one is going to ask you for a cosmopolitan. Most likely, you won't even need to know the difference between a pilsner glass and a pint. Regulars drinking at their neighborhood pub after work would probably be content to swill draft out of a mason jar as long as it was cold. In higher volume sports-type bars, too, you can plan on serving a lot of beer, and people generally know what they like to drink. In clubs, people order a wider variety of drinks, but you can take comfort in the fact that no one cares to yell elaborate drink instructions over loud music with 10 people waiting behind them.

If you're thinking of a cocktail bar, you'll need to broaden your knowledge base a bit. The nice thing about cocktail drinkers, in all their picky glory, is that they tend to be very specific. They'll tell you which brand of liquor they want. They'll tell you how much vermouth or brine. What's more, if you ask them questions about exactly how they'd like it, it makes you look like an attentive bartender. That means better tips, so don't sweat being unsure.

As far as experience goes, it may actually be better to apply with a clean slate. Experience infers habits, and habits usually need to be broken. What you learn in one place won't work in another. The rules of thumb taught from a book about proper pour and the glasses used and terminology, among many other things, will not necessarily carry over to all bars. You are better off waiting tables or washing glasses somewhere, finding the groove at that establishment, and waiting in line for an available position. Just be sure your employer knows that you want to eventually tend bar.

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