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Categorized | Mixology

Bartending School review

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Texas School of Bartenders review

Do you ever wonder if Bartending Schools really live up to the hype? Our pals at the Austin Outsider recently enrolled in the Texas School of Bartenders and wrote a pretty comprehensive review about life during… and after… Bartending school. We’ve reprinted it here with their permission!

If you listen to Austin radio at all, you’ve no doubt heard commercials promoting the Texas School of Bartenders. The commercials promise a fun career in the always growing Austin hospitality industry where you’ll be easily making $100 per night. Thanks to Texas’ alchohol laws, you can even start working as a bartender at the tender age of 18! To top it all off, they offer career placement and convenient financing plans.

I’ve always enjoyed the art of mixology but have never practiced it professionally. So, when I recently found myself out of work and very sick of starting at a computer monitor all day. I figured bartending would be a good way to make some cash, meet some interesting people and learn even more about the wonderful world of alcoholic beverages.

I checked out the website and called to get some information. The voice coming from the other end of the line sounded like a character from the Dukes of Hazzard, quickly reminding me that even though I live in Austin, I’m still definitely in Texas. But the guy was nice enough and was quick to offer information about how many job leads they had for bartending positions. The tuition for the course was $600, but I could break that down into any type of payments I wanted to. After all, if I was to believe the Texas School of Bartending spiel, I would soon be making $100 – $300 a night!

Although it sounded interesting, I didn’t actually visit the school for a few months. By that time I was getting desperate enough that I wasn’t put off by the ramshackle nature of the school, tucked in the back of an industrial park on North Lamar. The interior of the school is obviously designed to look like some kind of bar – but this isn’t a bar you would actually want to spend much time in. 12 bar stations are set up around the room. The front of each station is equipped with a speed rack, a sink and a gun for spraying water, soda, etc. Behind each station is a pretty comprehensive selection of alcohol bottles filled with a variety of colored water. No actual alcohol is involved in the course.

You can take the course in the morning, afternoons or evenings and it will take about 2 weeks to complete. Or you can go all day and finish in 1 week. Each session focuses on a different type of drink, and the first of the class is devoted to making those drinks before the students actually get behind the bar and start running drills. Drills consist of making the drinks you’ve just learned as fast as humanly possible. The instructor calls out drink orders and the students race to fill them. This is all in preparation for the final exam in which you must properly mix 12 drinks in 7 minutes. It’s a little bit harder than it sounds.

I signed up, paid my cash and was ready to mix some drinks. My instructor was Big Mike, a lumbering bear of a man who is a walking library of mixology. His sessions were funny and informative and easily the best part of the school. Unfortunately, he had to cram a lot of information into a very short amount of time. The school is very focused on following the textbook, even when the recipes included in the book wouldn’t necessarily make for the best tasting drink. I talked to Big Mike a few times after classes and he expressed his frustration about the way the course was set up. He is someone who is genuinely interested in the “science” of mixology and I could tell it was hard to keep everything in line with the course curriculum.

Speed pouring is the foundation of the curriculum and it’s designed to prepare students for “high-volume” bartending jobs. Speed-pouring involves learning how to pour on a counting-based system. For example, the Texas School of Bartenders uses a 4-count system. Count to four and you should have an ounce of booze. It takes a little practice, but once you have it down it seems very natural.

The drink drills were completely overwhelming at first. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what I was doing. I was just grabbing bottles, icing glasses and pouring like crazy. I didn’t think there was any way I would ever be able to make 12 drinks in 7 minutes. I was having enough trouble just memorizing the drink recipes. By the end of each class, I was completely worn out and reeking of the rotten egg smell of whatever they use to make the colored liquids.

There is a written test at the end of the first week. I did okay, but I didn’t take advantage of the open book like the rest of my class mates. I wanted to see if I could really remember all the drink ingredients. I squeaked by with a barely passing grade and knew I was going to have to put more effort into memorizing drinks on the second week.

Week 2 was just like week 1 with different drinks. By this time, it was easier to make drinks quickly because grabbing glasses and speed pouring was almost second nature. But, there were also twice as many drink recipes to remember, so that kind of offset things. By the end of the second week, I was feeling pretty good about my pouring skills and about my knowledge of the different drinks. I did well on the written test and made all 12 drinks in under six minutes. No problem. I got a cheesy looking diploma.

Even though I had “graduated,” I was left with a feeling that there was a LOT of stuff that the school hadn’t prepared me for. After all, we hadn’t actually made a “real” drink, only fake ones. I hadn’t learned how to change kegs or C02 cannisters. We hadn’t even touched on several drinks like Mimosas or Mexican Martinis that I would consider very important to know here in Austin. I voiced my concerns, but they assured me that I would learn that stuff on the job and that I was more than prepared to actually work in a bar. I wasn’t so sure.

Your job placement meeting comes the week after you graduate. Basically, you receive a sheet of paper with the contact information for 6-8 places who are looking for bartenders. Once you have applied to these places along with 15 places you have found yourself, you can come back and get more names. The only real problem with this is that all the students in your class get the same contacts and some of these are out of date, meaning they’ve already been filled by the people who graduated from a previous class.

During my job search, I found that the bartending market in Austin is incredibly hard to break into. Every time I showed up for an interview, there were several other people waiting to interview for the same gig. There are a LOT of bartenders in Austin, even when you don’t consider the dozens of newbie “bartenders” being cranked out every week by Texas School of Bartenders.

Two weeks out of school, I was still unemployed as were all the rest of the people from my class. Except for a girl who got a job as a cocktail waitress at a strip club. We all called each other once a week, checking to see if anybody had gotten lucky or more importantly, had any job leads.

After going on dozens of interviews and applying for even more jobs, the only gig I was able to land was at a little restaurant in Pflugerville. My first nights tips were about $15.00. This wasn’t the glamourous, high paying world of bartending I had heard about at school. I had believed in the dream, and it had let me down. Things did get better moneywise, but I soon learned that I could make more money with less work at a non-bartending job. It was fun while it lasted and I definitely gained a lot of interesting life-experience.

So, if you’re considering attending Texas School of Bartenders, here is an encapsulation of my thoughts about the experience:

The Good:

You will learn how to speed-pour and how to make drinks very fast. This is the best component of the training by far.

The Bad:

You won’t learn much about how to mix drinks that actually look and taste awesome. The focus here is on the speed.

There will be some important gaps in your bartending knowledge that you will have to fill in yourself. Particularly in reference to beer and a few other key drinks.

The job placement aspect of the school is bogus, in my opinion. At the very least, it is very overhyped.

Ultimately…

I had a good time at Texas School of Bartenders and I liked all the people involved. However when it comes to the real world, you are going to need to get your experience on the job. I’m not sure people who are hiring for bartender positions care whether you’ve been through school or not – in fact, it may even be a liability.

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49 Comments For This Post

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  2. Dave Says:

    I’ve been a bartender on weekends for 24 years. I’m actually thinking of starting a one week bartending school during summer vacation.I’m a high school teacher. The real deal on bartending school is it’s a joke. The only way for someone to get a bartending job is as follows. If your a guy, go into the bar and tell them you want a barback job. This is the easiest way to get your foot in the door. Work hard at this suck job and eventually you can land a bartending shift. If your a girl, you have a better shot at getting hired as a bartender. Is that sexist? You bet your ass it is, i’m not going to lie. Females should go in looking for a cocktail waitress job and take it from there. Will the bartending school help you? You could probably buy a five dollar drink book and get your TABC certification online for 22 bucks. If I start the school, it will be low cost, one week, and teach people things that will be helpfull like how to deal with problem customers, bar fights, setting up a bar, cutting fruit, etc. Thinking of charging 250 for a week 3 hours a day. No job placement cause it’s bs. The promise of job placement is nothing but giving people false hope.

  3. NYC GRAD Says:

    I just finished barschool in New York City on 29th street. Four days after graduating, I was hired at Seven Bar and Lounge on 7th Avenue for a Thursday night shift, as well as the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch and happy hour Monday through Friday.

    How’d I get that?

    Answer: I worked as a server for 5 years and headwaiter for 2 at Cheeseburger in Paradise.

    If you are in the food industry and know the ropes of CUSTOMER SERVICE, take the bar class. Most times restaurants or bars will appreciate the fact that you went the extra step to learn how to bartend on your own; restaurants and co-workers of such establishments do not have time to train barbacks, or even walk-in hires from 3 weeks of coming to the same bar. Also, I have never seen a barback even come close to being a bartender in the method shown above; you bareback for at least 2-3 years in a PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT. No one wants to loose money or take the time to teach because then THEY loose money. THEY TEACH YOU THIS AT BAR SCHOOL.

    If you are really serious about bartending, get involved with the indistry by serving first. Learn the drinks as you are serving them. Build your resume, becuase in the REAL world, you don’t slide in that easily by making “friends” with a bartender. If you do, you are working at a bar that doesn’t even come close to volumous bars and restaurants in the city that make you REAL money, like 1,000 to 2,200 dollars a week.

    EXPERIENCE in the industry is KEY. Time spent learning about all aspects of the industry lands you a job as a bartender.

    PS. It helps knowing how to SERVE and BARTEND because you can cover multiple shifts.

    Hope this helps someone in Manhattan reading this.

    Sincerely,

    A Professional Bartender.

  4. Joe Bartender Says:

    I think a 1 week class could be a pretty cool idea. My main problem with Texas School of Bartenders is their promises of job placement and overhyped advertising.

    I think an emphasis on the real world practical stuff that goes above and beyond slamming together a few drinks could be very valuable.

  5. Joe Bartender Says:

    Great advice. If you have service industry experience, you’ve already got your foot in the door and school will only sweeten the deal for a prospective employer. Thanks for posting.

  6. Bartender Says:

    Proper training is rare in bartending schools. Drinkmaster bartending school in Boston, MA has an incredible training program and and even better job coaching program. I taught at this school and the instructor training alone blew me away. The owner is just relentless in improving teaching methods.
    Experienced bartenders who were never properly trained often have years of bad habits. Proper training produces a mechanically qualified bartender who doesn’t bring any bad habits. Proper training is the key and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the DrinkMaster staff, curriculum and facilities. I saw it first hand…graduates got jobs. http://www.drinkmasterbartending.com

  7. Andrew Says:

    LOL
    that doesn’t even make any sense!

  8. TABC Certification Says:

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    Alcohol Safety Institute of America makes getting a TABC license as easy as 1 2 3. Click to enroll, complete the course and print your temporary certificate right away. We will mail you the original permit within 5 business days.

  9. foxslayer21 Says:

    ok first off i am a product of the Texas School of Bartenders. It has gone through a lot of changes and has a new instructor. Big Mike a thing of the past he has rescently opened and closed his own school and is now sittin behind bars for stealing money from his investors. yes the TSOB is about speed but with there new instructor Kevin and his experience from around the world he has done. they have re-wrote the book and deal with a lot more of the drink makeing and proper pouring tech. and i agree that the job placement isn’t always there in this time of need in the econemy but hey face it jobs arn’t easy to come buy period. you may have to start in a small hole in the wall bar to get in to the 6th st scean. it did take me quite a while to find a job but the school stuck with me for almost 2 months and i found a job and got hired. mind you less that its not the most glamours job on the market but its a good place to get your feet wet and a foot in the door. there are a lot of people that will tell you that bartending schools are a joke well if you take the average person in a bar and ask them what are in five random, popular drinks they won’t be able to tell you. so for those of you doubters who have no bartending experience go out and try and get a job in the feild with no training and see how it works for you.

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  11. hollywood locksmith Says:

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  13. Ben Song Says:

    whoa i guess everyone has different experiences at bartending school but sometimes i do wish that i would have attended a bartending school

  14. moin Says:

    i just wan’t to make a career in this!! howz the scope?

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  20. boris Says:

    I have never been in a bartending school!
    Here we are learning with the practice

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  23. MixMaster Says:

    Unfortunately, there are many bartending schools out there giving the good ones a bad name. Like anything else you must do your homework before putting down any of your hard earned money.
    I am the owner of a bartending school in Westchester,NY. Our institute was founded with the objectives of dedication and commitment to our students. And to provide superior training at a price that all can afford.
    Designed and built from the ground up by bartenders for bartending training. A bartending training facility with state-of-the-art equipment and a comfortable, spacious learning atmosphere (designed just like a real working bar environment). We honestly feel we have exceeded our goals! Our bartending classes provide the perfect environment for focused, hands-on learning which helps guarantee your success as a bartender in this profitable, fun and exciting world of bartending! The art of bartending is an occupation that is best learned by hands-on experience with the proper tools and equipment of the trade.
    With a growing dissatisfaction for the level of respect given to bartending school graduates, and with the common vision that a bartender was far more than the graduate of a mixology course, we created our mixology course, featuring the very newest, most relevant and technically accurate training methods in the industry today.
    We’re more than just teaching you how to mix a drink. Our bartending school is comprised of professional, veteran mixologists who are dedicated to teaching YOU the art and craft of creating the perfect cocktail.
    Shop around. The days of on the job training are over. Many a bartender, who has NOT been properly trained can not make the same drink, the same way 2x’s in a row.

  24. The Best Tooth Whiteners Says:

    I’ve been to bartending school. Nothing sucks worse.

  25. Görsel Says:

    Thank you so much for writing such a nice post.

  26. SlingerOfDrinks Says:

    Alright.. So, I will admit to being a product of a bartending school. Went through when I was 18. Got hired at a decent dive the next week (making around $150 a night for four hours of work). Yes, there is a lot that they leave out, but if you find the right bar to give you a chance you’re golden.

    That being said, I moved my way up the ranks and within a couple of years I was working at the biggest nightclub in Dallas. I was pulling between 1000-2000 dollars a week working 12-16 hours. It was a dream. Since then I’ve worked at every major nightclub in the area and eventually went back to teach at the same school I went to. I tried to incorporate the things that I had learned over the six years that I’d been bartending that I didn’t learn there. I saw so many people go through that gave up looking for a job after a few weeks, but I saw some succeed immediately as well.

    Now I’m working on opening my own school that will be completely different than anything else out there. No cookie cutter bs.

    So, it can work for the right person and it honestly changed my life completely and gave me a for real career. I’m at the top of the food chain in the area and I wouldn’t be happier doing anything else.

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  31. Arnold80 Says:

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  33. Denver Restaurant Equipment Says:

    How could I not stop and leave a post on a blog that talks about a bartender’s school with the ‘best restaurant equipment. :)

    I just stayed to post becuase MixMaster is right. Flashy restaurant equipment, and lots of tech’ won’t help you get a job when you finish work.

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  38. justin Says:

    dont go to abc bartending school in jacksonville fl. they took my $650.00 and never placed me at a job there is no job placement dont waste your money like i did

  39. Hot girls doing it Says:

    A sexy bartender will always make more! There should be a reality bar tending show. And the goal should be to score the most one night stands with customers. Lol

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  41. Ripped off Says:

    I have to agree with Justin.

    ABC Bartending School teaches absolutely nothing that can’t be learned on the job and the “job placement assistance” they offer is nothing more than a weekly email with a list of places that might be hiring. One can find the same amount of placement assistance on craigslist or any job website.

    I think ABC Bartending School is just looking for suckers to hand over their money for nothing.

    Unfortunately, I happen to be one of those suckers and am now wondering if I have any legal action I can take against them.

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6 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Joe Bartender » Blog Archive » The truth about Bartending School Says:

    [...] If there’s one thing I get asked about a LOT… it’s bartending school. I’m of the general opinion that there are more productive ways to spend your time. I’m even starting to feel that it can be an actual detriment to landing a good bartending job. We’ve already run a review of a Texas bartending school, which has spawned quite a bit of debate. But seriously, are bartending schools any good? And if not, how do you get a freaking job? [...]

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