Part 2 of a 5 part series (view Part 1)
By J. Halperin
1. Do you have any bartending certification?
This should go without saying. If you want to be a bartender in any type of professional setting, you’re going to need some kind of training and/or certification.
These come in a variety of forms, but the end result is largely the same: you gain knowledge on the different alcohols you’ll use and the basic drink recipes that you’ll have to know. You know, the kind of stuff you’d be expected to know and work with if you got hired on as a bartender. The trainings come in all shapes and sizes, all depending on the state you live in. I happen to live in a state with a pretty draconian view of bartending and alcohol in general (as shown by over half of the counties in the state still classified as “dry” counties), so the training here is less common than in neighboring states.
I got my certification through a private organization in Tulsa that specialized in one-week or two-week training sessions. I chose the one-week course of training over four days with testing on Friday. That meant four days of 8 hour training sessions over the major categories of mixed drinks, how to prepare each of them, and practice sessions after hours along with recipe memorization. On the testing day, I had to mix a variety of drinks in timed sessions with minimal mistakes, and I was graded like on a test in high school. Anything less than a 90% meant I had to retake the test again with another randomized list of drinks, and until I scored 90 or above I kept retaking the test until I passed (on the fifth time)
Other trainings can take significantly longer than the one I went through. The one in my home state can take up to five weeks, but it also operates like a college course so you won’t have to dedicate nearly as much time to class per day as I did. However, this also means that you’ll have to spend even more time memorizing the different recipes and variations before your final testing date. If you are someone that prefers the cramming method to a casual study period over a longer period, you’d probably get more out of a shorter, more intense process instead of a drawn-out college-style class.
However, since you can’t get something for nothing there’s also cost to consider when you’re looking at certification programs. For the college-style program, you’d be paying close to what you would for a typical college class, but that’s still going to run you several hundred dollars. For an intensive, shorter term class like I did, it cost approximately $700, plus there was the whole situation of traveling out of state and finding lodging for the week (thankfully for me, I had a friend living nearby that I could crash with during the class). This is probably going to be the biggest challenge for most people, so it pays to have some money saved up in advance before you decide to get your official certification.
In the meantime, you can work on the other pre-requisite of a good bartender…