The 5 Best Ways To Find Cocktail Competitions

It’s not very hard to find bartending competitions and cocktail competitions. Here are our five suggestions we tell our students if they want to be competitive bartenders!

The first and easiest way for a beginner bartender to break into the bartending competition scene is to check out They have constant updates and streamline the sign up process a great deal. There’s also a good deal of back and forth communication between the brand hosting the competition and yourself, so it’s fairly easy to keep track of all the rules!

A second way, is to join a local meetup or group of bartenders. Many times these groups will create grassroot contests between them and if the campaign gets big enough, it’s very possible for liquor companies to pay attention to them. These competitions, while not necessarily prestigious, tend to be a good opportunity to break nerves in a casual setting. Also, since it’s not focused on pleasing a brand, but rather pleasing their community, they tend to be a lot of fun for all attendees!

A third option is to join a bartending school. Some bartending schools like our own, are great places for getting information about these local communities and organizers. They can connect you directly with them if they hear something. Many times, speakers from brands or with industry know-how will come in and give lectures about future events that students can apply for or tips on how to be selected for an appearance at one.

A fourth option is to join the USBG, or United States Bartending Guild. Many brands will host small “USBG” exclusive competitions in local communities. These tend to be centralized competitions!

A fifth way, is to be so good at bartending and branding, that brand ambassadors will actively approach you to compete for a contest that they’ll be hosting. While this way has the least amount of red tape, you’ll have to be pretty good at networking to get to this point! By being a damn good bartender, using a combination of the above four points and by engaging with industry contacts, there's no doubt that you will get to this last one!


How Do Restaurants and Bars Find Great Bartenders

How To Hire Bartenders and Service Staff

While high tech recruiting firms an average of $16,000 for a hire, a restaurants and bar ability to be able such an amount for talent is extremely rare. Instead, most restaurants choose to do hiring independently. This usually means placing a "now hiring" ad on the door for onlookers to see--and hopefully apply.

Besides the now hiring ad, the most common way restaurants find bartenders is through a referral or word of mouth. This is when someone puts in a good work, says they know whats expected and will fit into the culture of the bar almost immediately.

Online has also become a very powerful tool for finding bartenders. Many bar owners that post online bartending job ads are in an immediate need for a person fast, or they need to hire a large amount of people. Partially because most bartenders aren't tech savvy, but also because of tradition, many if not all job postings remain on Craigslist. However, this isn't set in stone and does vary greatly based on city.

Recently in Philadelphia, there has been some pretty great competition to Craigslist. One of the more popular ones, especially in Philadelphia, is known as Culinaryagents. This website has given a huge revamp and focused on connecting hospitality professionals around the world to finding a job. The users of this website tend to be younger, but are very eager to learn and excel in their field.

Just because these are solutions that are common, doesn't mean it's safe to say that every city in the world will work the same. In fact, you might be losing on a huge pool of applicants if you aren't proactive with what you do! If you ever get stuck, the solution is to network with others! Talk with other restaurateurs across the country and asking them if they know anyone good looking for a job. You can also ask, if it's a small city, where they post jobs and how they hire, trying to copy there example.

All over the country, there are thousands of network events, many are free, which are hosted by universities like Drexel's philly chef conference or the ncbshow. If there isn't any, you can always start your own on a website like meetup!

Aqua Vitae Institute can also connect to a network of hundreds graduates for free of charge by just filling out the hire a bartender form here. If you have preferences like height, personality type, beer experts or flair bartenders, we can vet our people and match with those we think might be a decent fit for the bar's image for you ahead of time and streamline the process greatly.

If you would like more indepth strategies to finding staff or need help retaining staff, Aqua Vitae Institute also offers a Bar Leadership Course. Contact us for more information!

Related: Bartending School and Cocktail Classes


Ask Aqua Vitae Institute Part 1

By Ori Geshury

I'm having some trouble with my first bartending job.  It's at one of the most popular fine dining bars in Center City Philadelphia and I'm working with some great people. I get along really well with the owners and the senior bartenders but I'm having trouble with one of the junior bartenders.  He insists I make drinks differently from the way I've been taught by the senior staff, limits my customer interaction, orders me around more than the senior staff, and generally gives me a tough time.  I'm trying to think of the best way to resolve the situation.  Should I confront him about it?  Should I go to management?  Should I just grin and bear it?


Even the best bartenders have to work in a team.  If it's a great bar, they'll always start you off at the bottom of the totem pole because there is a lot of information to learn.  Some of that information is written and that's the easy stuff.  But most of what you have to learn isn't written down.  It's how the team works together and their individual personalities, how they handle being under stress and in the weeds.  It's what bathrooms to use, it's the squeaky door that needs to be checked and oiled if need be everyday.  In short, it's the culture of the bar and every person in it. 

In this particular situation, it's a pretty simple answer.  You learn what the junior bartender does and do everything you can to support them in doing the best job possible.  If you have a question about a recipe, or a change in protocol from another bartender, you can ask them politely about it, but always defer to the bartender you are working with.  Some bars are looser than others, no matter how great the reputation is, but all bartenders will have quirks and wrinkles and habits that differentiate them. 

One of the worst things you can do is to go up the chain of command and complain.  New hires are evaluated for their ability to fit into the existing culture first and foremost.  Later, when you are an established and valued part of the staff, you can work on improving communication and cohesion. 

Related: Bartending School