SDMB Bartenders: Is Bartending School worth the money?

After going through the job motions, the fiance decided that possibly the best job for him is bartending. He likes dealing with people, he likes listening to people’s problems, and he just like socializing in general.

Is bartending school worth the money? Money is tight around here, so we really have to look at all of the options. I don’t think it is likely that he could get hired on personality alone, with no bartending experience.

Any experiences or opinions would be greatly appreciated.

I’ve bartended for almost ten years without ‘school’. However, I’d worked in restaurants in nearly every other capacity before that. If he wants a job bartending, he’s best off trying to find a job as a barback (restocking and busing) and learn on the job. He should be aware, however, that the job takes away many of your days (due to late nights). There are also the depressing alcoholics that sap the energy right out of you. It can be a fun job, and frequently is, but it’s not all daisies.

I know diddly about bartending “school” but to the best of my knowledge, many cities require all bar employees to have BASSET certification. Here’s an excerpt from one city’s regulations:

"B.A.S.S.E.T. is Beverage Alcohol Sellers & Servers Education & Training. B.A.S.S.E.T. is a mandatory 8 hour training course that must be attended by anyone who sells and/or serves alcohol in a (city name deleted) liquor establishment, such as waitresses, waiters, bartenders, and over-the-counter clerks. The management of these establishments must also receive B.A.S.S.E.T. certification.

Basically, B.A.S.S.E.T. is an education and training tool for servers and sellers of alcohol. Topics of discussion during the 8 hour class include the effects of alcohol, the blood alcohol content (BAC) system, DUI, responsible serving of alcohol, checking of ID’s, alcoholism, village ordinances, and refusing or discontinuing liquor service. "

If a bartending class covers drink recipes, that’s a plus. You’d be surprised how many times people order a fancy drink and if you don’t know, and ask them what’s in it, often THEY don’t know either!

Is there a community college nearby that offers a bartending class? The local C.C. where I live offers a 1 semester class that covers everything. Quite a few of the bartenders around here have taken it.

It seems that it would be cheaper there than at a bartending school. He might even be able to get some financial aid too.

Or you just buy a ton of alcohol with the tuition money and a contemporary drink guide. Practice practice practice and toss the drinks down the sink, or have friends come over. Practice the top 20 drinks until you have them down pat, then walk into a bar and lie, er, pad the truth. Get promoted to barman on the spot and continue learning from there. But barback and community college might be worth it.


One of the best ways to get into the business is to be friends with someone who’s already a bartender (preferably at a small neighborhood-y type joint). Offer to help “pull pints” on a busy night like New Years or St. Patrick’s day. While you’re there try to pick up as much knowledge as you can, and eventually if someone quits you might be able to pick up their position. I know 3 people who’ve become bartenders this way and one even ended up bartending in Las Vegas for a few years.

Wow. This is why I dig SDMB.

Taking Community College classes never even entered our minds. That’s a fabulous idea. Thanks, Lady Ice!

We’ll have to look into the B.A.S.S.E.T. regs for our area.

The fiance spoke to a woman he works with & she told him that, in her experience, bars don’t like bartending schools because you get trained to do things a certain way and you’re much less flexible in your bartending. It looks like he’s going to go to the neighborhood bar (where he already knows the owner) & see if he can barback for a bit & get some experience that way. We can always find drink recipes online, so that’s not really too big of a problem.

jehovah68, thanks for the bits of experience. He’s not expecting it to be all sunshine every day (I think I made it seem that way in the OP).

Good for him for not wasting his money, Harleen! I’ve only met a handful of bartenders who actually went to those schools, and they all sucked. Most bartenders work their way up from waiting tables or barbacking; that’s where quality comes from. People think bartending is about drink knowledge, but it isn’t; it’s about attitude.

IOW, you can know all the drinks in the world, and still be a crappy bartender…so my advice for any wannabe bartender is to focus just as much on paying attention and figuring out The Game as on drink recipes. (Which you’ll pick up pretty much effortlessly as you go along.)

Tasty drinks don’t hurt, though. :smiley: And the only reason some bartenders make crappy drinks is because they take no pride in what they do. So tell your fiance not to worry about every drink recipe in the world; it’s not as hard as people think. The hard part is standing back there til last call every night, “on stage.”

Good luck to him! :slight_smile:

It’s actually more important to have knowledge of the potables themselves than of recipes.

Ok, that “on stage” comment just sold me on the fact that this is what he should do. He lives for the stage, whatever stage it may be. He used to juggle, so I told he he sold just do some juggle-y stuff to get those tips rolling in.

Thanks for the advice, Audrey