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May 4, 2013 02:31 PM

Is taking a bartending course worth the money?

For any of you who know bartenders or have been bartenders themselves, I was wondering if it is worth the money to spend $600 for a Bartending course. I've read online that most bartenders learned on the job and that most companies that hire bartenders, prefer to train them "in house". Is that true, or do most places require/want training?

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  1. One friend said that the $500 for his bartending course got him into a job board where he found him a barback position. There, they taught him and brought him up and trained him to be a bartender. Then again, to find similar bar back positions, talking to bar managers or looking on Craigslist food & beverage jobs section is just as good.

    Others have had good success going from bartending course to working banquet/catering type of gigs. Bartending courses often get you TIPS certified, although most restaurants will do that for you, and I did mine through my friend's restaurant -- I think it was $30 for the course, taking the test, and then getting a certification card that's good for several years.

    Hopping from bartender past barback isn't the best route. Knowing the work flow of a bar, listening to how the staff interact with customers, etc. is good to learn before you have to learn everything, deal with customers, the POS machine, etc. One place here in Boston, Drink in Fort Point, starts everyone as a barback -- even if they were a bartender or bar manager elsewhere; the more experienced you are, the quicker they promote you to trainee bartender and then full bartender. But everyone has to know how to prepare fresh juices and syrups for service, how to do glassware, how to run food, etc.

    1. The great majority of bartending schools are horrible. I do bar consulting and bartender training. I would rather train a bartender from scratch, over having to break them of bad habits they "learned" in a course. Also at the bars/restaurants I work with we prefer for a barback to be trained to bartend, than hiring from outside.

      3 Replies
      1. re: JMF

        True. The actual skill set to be a good bartender is perhaps 80% unrelated to making drinks. Hiring from within is an easy way to know if a person is reliable, trustworthy with cash and/or large amounts of booze, efficient, hardworker, team player, trainable, good with customers -- both great regulars and difficult ones, etc.

        Some bar managers prefer coffee baristas since there's a similar mindset and work flow whereas others prefer barbacks and I know of one place that takes a hand-selected server off the floor and trains them.

        Definitely having restaurant experience will help if you haven't been a barback and just want to jump in as a bartender. Although bartending with a caterer requires less of that aspect.

        1. re: JMF

          JMF that's what I've been reading a lot... and it's good to hear it from a professional. Thank you. I think you just saved me $600.

          1. re: JMF

            Thanks for your reply and all the great information. I appreciate it

              1. re: acssss

                Where in NY? Near NYC? If so, Join the NY chapter of the US Bartenders Guild (USBGNY) for $100 a year. Go to every meeting and as many events as you can once you are on the mailing list. See if you can network into a barback and/or bartender position. You can sign up at the national USBG website and set NY as your home chapter and you will be added to the email list for invites and such. USBGNY is the largest and most active chapter in the country. Hundreds of great folks, 70% are bartenders, the rest are barbacks, writers, spirits brand ambassadors, and cocktail geeks.

              2. There is an online course I recommend. BarSmarts Wired. Low fee, $29 right now, self directed study modules. Sponsored by Pernod Ricard. I insist that everyone I train get this certification.

                1. As somebody who took a bartending course years ago, I would echo that taking one of those courses will not get you hired as a bartender anywhere that you are likely to want to work.

                  If you want to learn how to speed pour Long Island Iced Teas, memorize which drinks get an orange flag garnish, and potentially work banquets then it's useful.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nickls

                    Good to know.
                    It seems to be almost unanimous that it is a waste of time and money and better to get a job at a restaurant and work your way up from there and get trained from within.