The 15 elements of a great bar school
Are you trying to find that one great bartending school or academy that is going to help you land a bartending job or improve your overall skills as a bartender, but you have no clue what to look out for when searching for that one bar school that stands above all other? Well, look no further. We have compiled for you a list of 15 elements a great bartender school should have.
1. Professionally certified bar trainers
Bartender schools offer courses and trainings to their potential students that want to learn the ins- and outs of bartending. A great bar school has background info of its trainers on its website. Doesn´t yours mention that? Do your research and google it! Does that one bartender school mention who its trainers are? Can you find anything about those trainers online? Are they well-known people in the industry? A great education starts with great teaching. And if the trainers are not qualified for the job, guaranteed that your training won't be either.
Want to get to know the trainers of the Bols Bartending Academy? Meet them here!
2. Fresh cocktail ingredients and real spirits
Many bartender schools don't work with real ingredients. This is usually done for saving costs and not just for eliminating waste behind the bar. As an up-and-coming bartender, you need to know how to cut your fruits and prepare your garnishes so there's no point in working with cheap plastic or foam garnishes. Besides that, it is important for a bartender to know what the cocktails you make taste like. Even in your speed round, like behind your bar, your cocktails should be well balanced and not over diluted.
3. Look for officially licensed bar schools
Unfortunately bartending is not a profession taught at university. You can't get a state diploma if you complete a bartending course. There are bartending schools though that work together with officially recognized government organizations though. This will guarantee you a good education as well as a good exam. This adds a lot of value to your diploma which will be recognized by your future employer. When you look for your future bartending education that will give you a head start in your career, look for a certified educator!
4. State of the art bartender tools
When working with outdated tools, you will be assured of getting stuck behind a real bar instead of one that works with state-of-the-art tools. Obviously, not all bars have the funds to or are willing to buy great, pleasant-to-work-with tools. Though, a great bar school needs to have a vast assortment of good bar tools that most bars use and in which most bartenders can identify themselves with when practicing the preparation of drinks with certain tools.
5. Cocktail glassware & ice
Plastic cups and small, watery ice cubes. NO GO! Highballs, short drink glasses, coupes, slings, cocktail glasses, hurricane glasses, tiki mugs, shot glasses, wine glasses, mason jars, conceptual cocktail glasses. These are just a few amongst other glassware that a great bar school should have. Training with only plastic cups and the old school long drinks glasses is not done. Bartending and cocktails are constantly developing, so does the glassware world. Make sure the bar school you want to visit is also constantly updating itself.
For the past 10 years, professionals in the industry have started recognizing the importance of ice in cocktails & drinks. Back in the days, around 1980's, it was common to use some small, fast-melting ice cubes in your drinks. Nowadays the importance of ice and its dilution purposes in cocktails is widely recognized. Make sure that the great bar school you want to follow a course from uses large, solid ice cubes, good crushed ice, and perhaps even crystal clear slow-melting ice. The slower the ice melts, the slower the dilution process in your drink.
6. Fully equipped bar system
A proper bar system is essential to simulate the feeling of working behind a real bar. Whether your training with the best booze and the best tools, it will all be in vain if you cannot really work behind a fully equipped bar. Make sure the bar school you got your eyes on has a good bar system where you can properly practice making drinks.
A great bar system to work with is an American bar system. A bar system that is designed for a bartender to make different kinds of concoctions individually while staying as much within one space. Working behind a table bar training is not a proper training, because you will not be working behind a table in a real bar. A bar school without proper bar systems is a bar school that doesn't care about a proper training.
7. Individual cocktail stations
When working behind the bar you will probably have your own working space. From time to time you will exchange positions with your colleagues, but most of the time you have one set place where you prepare your drinks from. This is called a working station. Every bar school needs to offer students their very own working station. Working with more than one student at the same time on one workstation will slow you down, irritate and eventually take away your focus which results in stupid mistakes.
8. A mix of classic and popular contemporary cocktails
Often bartender schools tend to teach their students to memorize hundreds of outdated drinks. You might make these outdated drinks one or twice in your life. It is important to know your classics. These form the base of any modern cocktail. A good bar school focuses on learning these classics as well as twisting them into your signature drinks. Explaining how many of the contemporary cocktails derive from classics is another important part of your bartending course.
9. A good and thorough explanation of spirit knowledge is a must
Not only teaching the skills of working behind a bar and the know-how of mixing drinks but give you some background knowledge on different kinds of spirits & liqueurs. A tasting of the different kinds of consumable alcohol is a must. Explaining how these different spirits are created such as fermentation & distillation is also essential for gaining knowledge. Subjects like these and what to do with these different kinds of spirits will help you in the long run when you are creating your own drinks.
Working behind a real bar is often paired with working in a team. At the end of the day, your guests would want to come back for you, but also for your team, because together with your team you all provided the guests with an amazing experience. A great bar school will pair you up in teams to work on different tasks and solving different problems like in a real-life situation. The training will prepare you for the real deal when working with a team behind the bar. We do have to mention, that at the end of the day your personality is the most important factor in determining if you are a team player or not.
11. Field trips to distilleries and bars.
A bar school that organises field trips to local bars or distilleries will have more acknowledgment from students than a bar school that don't. Field trips to good cocktail bars in the neighborhood are places where you can experience firsthand how bartenders tend the bar, which is not only a lust for the eye but also for the taste.
A field trip to one or more distilleries is an eye-opening experience for students. It's one thing to read and hear about the complex process of making alcohol, it is another to really experience it, seeing the high-proof liquid in a pot still, smelling the air in the room and be lectured by the distillers themselves.
12. Simulate bar atmosphere with music
Have you ever walked into a packed cocktail bar where there is no music? Exactly, music is everywhere in the industry. It does not matter what kind of music it is, what genre of music you like. But it's there. It would make sense to have some background music going on during training as well. It creates a real and pleasant atmosphere in the look and feel.
A great bar school offers a big range of different kinds of music. And nowadays with technology making it easier for us to access the internet for music, it wouldn't be hard to find a suitable song to play during training and courses.
13. A good balance of fun, humor and seriousness
As mentioned in the first element, a great bar school has qualified and certified bar trainers. Its trainers should also have a good balance of seriousness and humor. If the trainer is too serious, the course will be pretty dull and boring, even if he or she provides great information. If the trainer is funny and jokes all the way with no end in sight, no student is going to take him or her too seriously. The right balance between these two is essential.
14. State of the art audio/video equipment
If you had your fair share of presentations in the past and you've experienced technical malfunctions with your equipment, then you know how annoying it can be. Not only for you but also for the people listening to the presentation of your cocktail for example. It is important for a great bar school to have high-end and working equipment. Every second the trainer loses the attention of a student because of a technical malfunction is a second you as a student are robbed of valuable information you can use in your future career as a bartender.
15. Bartending courses for all levels
There are over tens of thousands of different bartenders in the world. Every bartender has his or her very own skillset and profession. A great bar school offers more than one course to its students. Not all students are beginners and not all students are advanced bartenders. Great bar schools that offer more than one type, of course, are usually more experienced in the different levels of bartending than other bar schools.
Do your research and use your common sense
A great bar school offers you as a potential student all of the above-mentioned elements and sometimes even more. The more you can learn, the more it will help you in the future in your career as a bartender. Make sure you do your research before spending your hard-earned money. Search online, look for reviews of old students, and ask bartenders yourself. A healthy dose of common sense is one thing that will help you find that one great bar school that serves your needs to learn and help you in your quest of becoming a great bartender.
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