The Ten Most Absurd Lies I Was Taught in Bartending School.

This isn’t an easy thing for me to admit, but here it goes: I went to Bartending School. Yeah, I know. I’ll come back when you’re done laughing; I’ve got a large Hawaiian pizza and my copy of War and Peace with me, so by all means, take your time.

Finished already? Okay, that was relatively painless.

In my defense, I was only eighteen years old when I enrolled in my local bartending school. I knew that as a starry-eyed punk who couldn’t even legally drink, I had no chance of getting a job at a bar unless I had some fancy certificates to show the owners. So I paid the $500 admission fee, went through the motions for six weeks, and was released back into the wild as a real-life Bartending School Graduate. One trip to the mall for a diploma-sized frame later, and in my mind I was a legitimate bartender – despite having yet to even land an interview at a bar. I’ll pause for you to come up with your own witty, sarcastic retorts.

It took the lethal combination of my newly-acquired pieces of paper with the fact that I was eighteen and therefore knew everything about the universe to make me God’s Gift to Alcohol. It took about five minutes into my first real bartending shift to realize that, hey, this stuff is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

Fast-forward eight years later, I can comfortably say that 90% of what I learned in bartending school was completely worthless. Oh sure, it’s nice to know some basic cocktail recipes before your first shift, but they can be found in a decent recipe book (or for free online). Likewise, my school required me to become TIPS certified, which is a good idea for anyone who serves or sells alcohol; certification only takes two hours. But the overwhelming majority of what I learned was either worthless filler – does one really need to be able to map out Scotland to make a decent Presbyterian? – or outright lies. So it’s in that spirit that I’ll present the ten most absurd lies that my school taught me, in no particular order:


1. Upon graduating from bartending school, you’re now an “expert.”

Photo: Scott Reinhard
Photo: Scott Reinhard

It takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to even qualify as an expert at something. You studied cocktail recipes for six weeks. [sarcasm] Same thing. [/sarcasm]

2. Upon graduating, you’re ready to work in any establishment.


Half of me admires the stugots it takes to teach something so outrageous with a straight face, and half of me is offended by the way this insults the profession they’re trying to convince me necessitates a degree to do properly. Not even while I was studying towards a graduate degree did I hear a professor even imply that I’d be ready for any level of work. “Okay Seth, you wrote some papers about anthropology. OFF TO AFRICA TO STUDY A NEWLY DISCOVERED TRIBE, DAMMIT!” Yet if you honestly think memorizing a few shot recipes makes you qualified to work in a twelve-hundred person capacity nightclub, you’re in for a rude awakening on how difficult this job can be. Especially when…

3. Dealing with rude, obnoxious customers apparently isn’t part of the job.


My bartending school completely ignored the fact that some people – especially after they’ve been drinking – can be total assholes. If anything, they acted like people were going to be even more polite to me, because hey this person is a “real” bartender who knows the magical secrets to making deliciously potent potables. **THIS IS WHAT BARTENDING SCHOOL STUDENTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE**

I don’t care that your bartending school spent an entire session on this (Oh wow, three *whole* hours!). I don’t care if your entire bartending school experience was the equivalent of Private Pyle’s boot camp experience. If you honestly think that you can prepare yourself for dealing with obnoxious drunks without actually dealing with obnoxious drunks, then CHOKE YOURSELF, FATBODY!

4. That anyone still drinks Maui Wauis.


Ever notice that half of the shots and cocktails your bartending school is teaching you how to make are things that you’ve never seen anybody order? I hate to break it to you, but that’s not going to change once you become a “real,” “certified” bartender. Enjoy muddling that Peruvian Toenail with a twist, pal. It’s the only time in your entire career that you’ll be making it.

5. That other bartenders “fear” your knowledge.


I feel like there’s a sarcastic Willy Wonka meme to be made somewhere in this, but am laughing far too hard to be the one to make it.

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