A Brief History of Bartending

The perfection of the craft of bartending is the responsibility of the bartender. The bartender mixes and serves alcoholic drinks at a bar, tavern or lounge. The bartender may also be called as barman, barkeeper, tavern keeper, mixologist, barmaid or whiskey slinger. A bartender may actually own a bar or they may simply be an employee. The barkeeper owns the bar which may also be the bartender.

Bartending is a craft as old as history. It started as a trade two thousand years ago. Some historical accounts from the era of Julius Caesar indicate that there are many inns that are situated along major trade and transportation routes. The common customers of these inns are early tradesmen that ply the long roads that interconnect the Roman Empire. Travelling along these trade routes is not an easy feat as danger to property and to the tradesmen themselves is very much a reality on those times. To further protect themselves, the tradesmen prefer to travel only during the daylight. They then sleep on the numerous inns along the road to avoid robbers. The inns not only offer food and bed, but also alcoholic drinks which the tradesmen like very much as a means of relaxation after a long tiring trip. Aside from tradesmen, other people like travellers and soldiers are also welcome customers for these inns. Customers may be served with wine and other provisions that the travellers may require. Aside from trade route inns, there are also neighborhood taverns in Rome where the who’s who of the period come to drink and chat with the latest gossips about the empire.

The Ancient Greeks also have similar places of entertainment for the local population. In these places, sounds and wines are the common theme. These are the places where the important people of the neighborhood meet and dine to discuss current events and business as well. The place can be likened to the taverns of the Roman Empire, and it also served wine and food to its patrons. There are also similar inns set up along major roads within the Greek Empire that serve wine and refreshments to tired travellers and tradesmen.

In England, taverns are called public drinking houses or also called as “Pubs”. These pubs are the favorite place of the people in the neighborhoods all over England to socialize or mingle with fellow drinkers while talking about the latest news or gossip. These pubs are owned by ordinary people that also do the job of a bartender. There also some inns that serve similar drinks offered in pubs. Pub owners and innkeepers are known to brew and produce their own in-house liquor. These kinds of pubs and inns are also common in other parts of Western Europe like France and Germany. In places like these, the business of bartending has become a thriving enterprise. As such the bartenders and bar owners tend to be wealthy and are considered a part of the economic and social elite. The trade of bartending, taverns, inns, and others thrive well because of the endless supply of patrons that could not resist the lure of alcoholic drinks. Bartenders owned property and were considered one of the richest traders during those times. As the European powers spread to the New World, they brought along with them the lucrative business of bartending which also became a common thing to see in the colonies abroad in the Western Hemisphere.

In the present times, bartenders serve as public image of the bar that they tend, and bartending has become more of a craft than a job, with top bartenders bringing home over $100,000 per year. Excellence in the craft of bartending on the part of the bartenders contributes very well on the atmosphere that the bar is trying to present or reflect. In some bars, the bartenders are made as an indispensable part of the entertainment. The bartenders perform some tricks while tending the bars, also called as flair bartending.

Good bartenders help in providing a steady stream of clients by remembering the preferred drinks of regular patrons. Bartenders are also the chosen person to be approached by customers for inquiries about sports, directions, trivia topics, and even the marital status of a charming customer across the bar.

In 1817, the US started to enjoy a long period of increased spirits production. Then in 1832, the US Congress passed the law known as “Pioneer Inn and Tavern Law”. This law allowed the saloons and inns to serve alcoholic drinks to customers without having that customer rent a room for the night.

As the Industrial Age swept the whole world, the US started seeing the influx of many immigrants from Europe that brought with them their many skills in alcoholic drink distillation and brewing. They also brought with them their love for drinking establishments like pubs. Soon, neighborhood bars started to sprout in the poor urban locations of New York where most of the immigrants lived. Some of the political kingpins used tavern owners and barkeepers as power brokers, in exchange or in return for the licenses to operate bars and taverns.

The Prohibition in the US propelled the business of bartending into the underworld of organized crime. The bartenders are perceived with an aura of power and mystery for having connections with the leaders and members of organized crimes. Some gangsters owned social clubs and bartenders are well paid for securing the constant supply of alcoholic drinks. The bartenders during the Prohibition are commonly credited for creating very famous cocktail drinks such as the Highball, Long Island Ice Tea, and Gin and Tonic.

Bartending has been in existence as long as spirits and alcoholic drinks. It has its own share of curious history and past. There are many famous bartenders that appeared in history who were able to invent new drinks or innovated the process and service of bartending. Some notable bartenders are Jerry Thomas, Harry Craddock, Tom Bullock and many more. The craft of bartending has evolved very much through the ages. The bartender now do more than just serve drinks, they are also known as good listeners and perfect buddies to all the regular bar patrons that they serve.

Do You Need Bartending School to be a Bartender?

Many people, especially those who are planning to take their chances in bartending would ask if it is necessary for them to attend a bartending school to become a bartender. Actually the process of having a license and diploma on bartending may depend on the state policies as well as the preferences of the employers, of course. So to address the question, it is pretty impossible to fully determine if there is indeed a necessity to attend a bartending school, perhaps on a case-to-case basis only.

Why there’s No Need to Attend a Bartending School?

Typically, a bartending school usually teaches its students on the basics of liquors – the popular brands, how to mix them and how to serve them. However, though a background such as this can be an edge amongst others, employers would always prefer to hire a person who has years of experience than a newbie with bartending education with no experience. One of the common misconceptions about bartending is that any person can easily walk-in at a random restaurant or a bar and apply for the position. This age-old misconception is definitely not true. Any employer would always prefer people who have experience in the field. A random applicant who by chance tries his/her luck to become a bartender without any experience may hamper the operations of the restaurant/bar. Why? Because it takes time to know the different liquors, the mixes as well as the time to serve the drinks and if bar owners will take a non-experienced aspiring bartender chances are it will cause delay on services and wrong mixing drinks might happen. It’s a risk these owners will take if they hire a person with no-knowledge at all in bartending. But for people, who really want to succeed in this industry, they may do so by trying their luck in applying to small towns or small bars because there is little bulk of bartending work there which can be a good training ground.

Another thing about bartending schools is that some are billing their students more than what they learn from them. You can’t categorize them as scams because they really do provide their students with the knowledge needed for basic bartending, only that they overprice their fees. Overpriced fees may be justified if there’s a guaranteed work after, but if there’s none then that leaves the students paying for nothing but a common knowledge anyone will eventually know just by reading a book or two.

This may sound a bit contrary to the first few paragraphs but it’s worth the discussion anyway. Any person can really be a bartender. It just only takes much more perseverance to learn the ways of bartending. What aspiring bartenders must do is to have them educated through various education mediums like the internet. The internet is a vast area of knowledge and it is next to impossible to not find any information about bartending and how it is done. After knowledge has been gained, learn from the pros. Visiting a bar regularly or at a fixed interval and observed professional bartenders do their thing. They’d be more willing to share their techniques and experiences about bartending if they find out that you are interested to become one. You can also extend that interest to the bar owner as well. Who knows, maybe someday if you have gained the enough knowledge and did a lot of practice, he will allow you to try out small bartending jobs for you to practice on a real-based setting.

Why there’s a Need to Attend Bartending School

A person’s way of learning may vary. Others prefer to learn new things all by themselves, research on a certain topic, watch videos, read articles and books and then practice while there are also those who prefer to learn new things in a classroom setting. The latter group of learners finds it easy for them to understand things if they have a teacher, who will explain the lessons, have someone who will watch carefully the execution to see if there’s a need for improvement, etc. In this case, there is a necessity to attend in a bartending school especially for those who are more than motivated to have bartending as their careers.

Another reason why there’s a need to attend a bartending school is because there are states that require certifications from aspiring bartenders. They need to have sufficient amount of educational background and then take a specific exam intended for bartenders and pass it for them to receive their certification. In these areas where certification is necessary, a person who has had educational background in bartending has more edge than others.

Although there are different types of learning, one of the best ways to gain knowledge on new things is by having insights from the experts themselves, who by many years of experience have already gained a whole lot of related stories to tell. Moreover, a bartending school also gives aspiring bartenders a milieu to meet other people to which they can share each other’s experience during the entire course.

Conclusion

As earlier mentioned in the introduction, attending a bartending school may depend on the situation and how the aspiring bartender wants to learn about bartending. The only key thing here is that regardless of educational background and experience, a bartender must have the attitude of a professional bartender. Not merely a person who is good in mixing drinks and serving them to customers fast but also a person who has the art of listening despite busyness, easy-going personality and patience.

Being a bartender requires you as well to be a confidant since some of your possible customers go to the bars because they have problems. If they tell you something, you should be able to keep it no matter what. You should be a therapist as well, which must go hand-in-hand with you being a confidant. Included as well for a top quality bartender is that you should be able to handle inappropriate behavior. You are the one serving your customers with liquors and it is your moral responsibility to safeguard your customer should there be any signs of trouble.