Bartending Class – Week 2, Day 2

Today was judgment today. Well, perhaps it wasn’t that serious, but our last day of class would consist of a written exam and a live drink making test to determine whether or not we passed the course. I was feeling pretty confident after having reviewed my flash cards extensively and memorizing the drink recipes. I also reviewed our workbook thoroughly to try and pick up as much service and trade knowledge as possible outside of class. The class itself was very good at preparing me and the class for the exam and it was amazing how quickly we as students picked up bartending knowledge throughout this entire experience.
Anthony, another instructor for the school would be the proctor for the exam. We opened up with another round of drink drill to get us loosened up, helping each other along with drink recipes and making last minute service corrections. The pace for the drinks had increased as well as the combinations for and variations of the orders being shouted out. This was starting to feel real. Music was blasting, bottles were pouring and service started to feel like a reflex. I wasn’t struggling for recipes or with marrying the right glass to the drink being ordered and served.
When the drill was over we were given the written portion of our exam, consisting of three pages of detailed questions covering everything we had learned. I was surprised at how familiar all of the information was. Some of the reason for this familiarity would become apparent as I’ll explain shortly. The exam was a breeze and I finished quickly. The live drink exam was next.
When the next portion was set to begin I looked around and realized the class was short many people. Two girls who were there for the first half of the day didn’t come back for the live test. Others were complete no shows for the day. Where were they? Why take the course and not finish it? The reason for this would also become apparent by the end of the day.
With eight students left we were broken up into two groups of four for the evaluation. I was part of the second group and was taken to the back room. Anthony jokingly put on some entertainment for us on the television in the room, and as he left chuckling Coyote Ugly came on during the part where Violet (Piper Perabo) applies for the job. Anyone who has seen this movie knows that all hell breaks looks at this point. What was the message here? This was all too funny. Music started blasting in the other room as the first four students started their evaluation. Before we knew it, our names were called into the room as the other students went into the back room to be subjected to the movie torture we had just experienced. We got behind our respective stations, listened to the instructions Anthony gave us and went to work. He called out drinks and we made them, each person getting assigned different drinks for the test. Looking around the bar was like observing the line at a hectic kitchen. Orders were given out and promptly “fired” and served according to recipe with the appropriate garnish. The test was over in no time at all. The stations were cleaned up and we gathered in the main room. We all awaited the results to see how we did.
We again reviewed some bartending basics as well as tips for applying for a job. We then went over the details of putting together a resume and how to make it sound professional and not like a third grader’s. This was all very elementary stuff, but as I would soon learn, I was the oldest person in the class, or at least of the graduates. There was definitely an experience and maturity gap here. Many were not even 21 yet, and this was one of the first job talks they had experienced. Some didn’t even have resumes, and bartending would be their first or second job. My travel and food experiences made me better equipped for the class as I had learned a lot of the wine information, and I won’t lie, my drink experience in and since college also made me familiar with many brands, types of alcohols and drink combinations. While I never revealed my age to my classmates, it was an interesting revelation.
I passed the exam and was awarded my school certificate. I was so psyched and still am. The culinary school decision is still up in the air and will take considerable more thought, but I feel now I have a better idea of what it’s like to work in the industry under pressure producing consistent results according to a recipe.  The bar has similarities to the kitchen which I continually observed. The bar also to some extent has been de-mystified and I know I will never look at it the same.
Now that I have some bartending training and some recipes under my belt, I don’t want to lose what I have learned. I plan to explore some options which include planning and working some private parties and catering events to gain experience in the operation and execution of them while honing my drink-mixing skills. This is in line with my current thoughts for work after attending culinary school which would add food preparation for these events to my knowledge base and skill set.

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