The 15 elements of a great bar school

09 December 2015Tyron Francisca

The 15 elements of a great bar school

Are you trying to find that one great bartender school 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. Professional certified bar trainers

Bartender schools offer courses and trainings to their potential students that want to learn the in- 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? Great education starts with great teaching. And if the trainers are not qualified for the job, guaranteed that your training won’t be either.

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. Of course it is important not to waste, but then again it’s not wasted as you are learning how not to waste during the rest of your bartending career. Fruit preservation is key when working behind the bar. Furthermore, 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.

3. Tasting cocktails

Also when making cocktails and other drinks you need to taste to know if you’ve made the drinks correctly. How else would you know how a cocktail is supposed to taste like, if you only train with bottles of water? A great barschool walks that extra mile and allows its students to train with real ingredients, fruits, alcohol and make real cocktails and drinks. That is the only correct way to make sure you, as a student, are trained properly and ready to work behind a bar.

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When working with outdated tools, you will be assured of getting stuck behind a real bar instead of one that works with state of the art tools.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 barschool 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 barschool should have. Training with only plastic cups and the old school long drinks glasses is not done till present. Bartending and cocktails are constantly developing, so does the glassware world. Make sure the barschool you want to visit is also constantly updating themselves.

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 barschool 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 barschool 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 barschool without proper bar systems is a barschool 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 barschool 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. Cocktail books

It is important for you as a soon to be bartender to take lots of notes. It is more important for a barschool to offer you as a student great learning material. Depending on the length of the course it is nine out of ten times impossible for a barschool to explain all aspects of bartending within the set period of time. A lot of these aspects can be read up by you in an easy to learn study book. The book should be an extension of what the trainer is teaching his/her students during the course.

A good barschool should also have a vast collection of reading material such as how to guides, bar manuals, cocktail books etc. Grab your chance and read up.

9. A mix of classic and popular contemporary cocktails.

Often bartender schools tend to teach their students to memorize thousands of outdated drinks. These outdated drinks you might only make one or two times in your life. Great bar schools also give you information of other aspects of bartending. Not only teaching the skills of working behind a bar and the knowhow of mixing drinks, but give you some background knowledge on different kinds of spirits & liqueurs as well. 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 on the long run, when you are creating your own drinks.

10. Team work

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 barschool will also 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 bar school that don’t. Field trips to good cocktail bars in the neighbourhood are places where you can experience yourself how bartenders tend the bar, 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 in 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 barschool 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 suiting song to play during training and courses.

13. A good balance of fun, humour and seriousness

As mentioned in the first element, a great barschool has qualified and certified bar trainers. Its trainers should also have a good balance of seriousness and humour. 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 serious. 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 barschool to have high-end and working equipment. Every second the trainer loses the attention of a student because of technical malfunction is a second you as a student are robbed from valuable information you can use in your future career as a bartender.

15. Bartending courses for all levels

There are over tens of thousands different bartenders in the world. Every bartender has his or her very own skillset and profession.

A great barschool offers more than one course to its students. Not all students are beginners and not all students are advanced bartenders.

Great barschools that offer more than one type of course are usually more experienced in the different levels of bartending than other barschools.

Do your research and use your common sense

A great barschool 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 barschool that serves your needs to learn and help you in your quest of becoming a great bartender.

Find out more about our different Cocktail and Bartending Courses, Certified Trainers and Recommended Cocktail Books by clicking the links.

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Tyron Francisca

Tyron Francisca

Tyron is senior trainer at the Bols Academy. He loves genever and brandy and can tell you everything about it.

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