How Aqua Vitae Institute Student Mike Landis Won His First Cocktail Competition And A Trip To Vegas!

I'm taking part in a bartending competition here in Lancaster on June 17th and would love your input on a drink I have designed for the competition.  I'm sorry this request is last minute, as I need to submit my ingredient list by tomorrow Wednesday June 6th.  If you have time, I would love any suggestions.  I'm satisfied with the drink, but still feel it needs work.

Name: Not Determined

Glass: Collins

Mixing Method: Build and short shake before soda is added

Recipe: 2 oz. Faber Rum
.75 oz. mango raspberry shrub
.75 lime juice
3-4 oz. club soda

Garnish: mint sprig

             Shrub:  1:1:1 water, cane sugar, fruit (1/2 mango, 1/2 raspberry)
                          Bring to simmer, cool, strain
                          Add apple cider vinegar - 1/3 the amount of fruit/simple syrup 


I've been using the hot process in practice, but plan on using the cold process for competition.

Through a series of questions, I introduced him to a checklist that competition drinks need to have.  I told him that if he followed all of these principles, he has a very good chance of winning.  A lot of competitive bartending is knowing what to worry about.  


Every drink that went "viral" from a mojito, to a cosmo, to an aviation, has had something visual that sets it apart from other drinks.  It can be the copper mug of a Moscow mule, shredded and layered mint on top of an egg white like in this drink: 


A cocktail has to be simple for another bartender to recreate.  Clear directions, easily sourced ingredients, and simple processes are key here.  Complex cocktails usually don't win, because they are hard to reproduce.


A cocktail needs a story, something significant about what it is, where it's made, something unique about it that inspired you.  For example, Faber is made in Quakertown, and you can say that Quakertown has an Amish market.  You wanted to incorporate the spirit of Quakertown into the cocktail by using a traditional shrub.  


Keep in mind that competitions don't exist in a vacuum.  They are sponsored by brands, and you can show that you care and understand the brand by using their products and avoiding competing brands for your recipe.  Think of the liquor brands like the great houses from Game of Thrones.  You wouldn't walk into a Stark sponsored joust with a Lannister lance.  If you don't like the brand for whatever reason, I would skip that particular competition.  Is your drinks connection to the brand negative (competing product), neutral (using only the products listed), or positive (utilizing another spirit or cordial the aligned with that particular brand, or telling a story that dovetails with the brand's values).


Is this going to be a competition that's judged by a crowd, by a panel, or both?  In the case of crowds, I would err on the side of caution when using astringency.  If a cocktail is too bitter or sour for your audience, or if they're not used to that particular source of astringency, it can reflect poorly on your score.  The judge might love Fernet Branca, but the crowd may be unfamiliar with it.

Working The Crowd.JPG


The event titled Fill Up My Cup was held June 16 in Lancaster, PA, and included six bartenders from great Lancaster restaurants and country clubs.  My cocktail, The Sweet and Sour Mule, won the majority vote of over 150 participants.  The drink essentially is a Jamaican mule with a raspberry shrub.

I just wanted to thank you for your quick response and helpful suggestions!   I did change the name to The Sweet and Sour Mule - which appealed to the local crowd, as sweet-n-sour foods are quite popular here.  Additionally, Bartending Mastery's Chapter 17 section, Fundamental of Drink Design, proved quite helpful in directing me as I developed my first cocktail. 

Finally, I cannot wait to return to Aqua Vitae Institute to complete my exams; I hope to finish by the end of July.  I been bartending seven days a week for a stretch - but I can't complain, as it rarely feels like work!

Since returning to bartending two years ago,  I have been interested in entering competitions.  So when this local competition presented itself, I jumped at the opportunity.  I'm still a little in shock over the win, though I really believed in myself and this cocktail.  The experience has been amazing, allowing me a chance to interact with other industry folks and cocktail enthusiasts.  The award, a trip to Las Vegas, isn't bad either!

Thank you so much for your help.  Here are a few pics from that day.  

Mike Landis

PS... My beautiful girlfriend and helper is Shannon Woolman

Congratulations Mike and have fun in Vegas!

How To Make Up A Bartending Class At Aqua Vitae Institute


In the last 6 months, we've had students from other countries, bar owners, retiring detectives, Ivy League double majors, yoga teachers, college students working three jobs to help pay for school, and everyone in between.

Frequently, we run into situations where the regular 1-5 or 6-10 bartending class just doesn't work for that particular student.  We've even had students who could only come in on one specific day, like a Tuesday, and had to complete the program that way.

If you've ever worked in a very competitive industry, like finance or restaurants, you might know what it's like to work so many hours and feel like it's a real challenge to learn something new, and bring more opportunity into your life.  At Aqua Vitae it is so so important to us that everyone who wants to change their life by learning to bartender is able to, regardless of how tough their scheduling situation first appears, and believe me, we've certainly had some challenges.

Here are three ways to make up a class:


The library and wine tasting room at Aqua Vitae is kept quiet on purpose.  We never blast music here.  It is meant as a quiet place for students to study and hone their skills, and if a student is attending a class they've already had, they can watch a video of a class they need to make up right in the library while other students are getting a lecture. 

After that, they'll go over the lesson briefly with the instructor while the other students take their break, and they'll demonstrate that they understood the knowledge and drinks involved.  And then they'll practice in teams with other students who have had the lesson they were making up, and integrate with the rest of the class.


Instructor office hours are on Friday from 12pm until 3pm, and students can request a time to talk to their instructor about job placement, work on specific skills like stirring, advanced mixology, ingredient creation etc., but the most common use of office hours is to make up any class the student has missed while they are taking the program.  The student will have a one on one class with the instructor, and then they will demonstrate the knowledge they've learned.


Click here to visit our Aqua Vitae schedule.  Day Classes are from 1pm-5pm, and Evening Classes are from 6pm-10pm.  The school opens at 10am for practice.  Saturday classes are from 10am-2pm, and from 2pm-6pm.  Students can always come in, once they're enrolled into the school, and attend any class on the schedule.

A Bartenders Guide to Making Maraschino Cherries

A Brief History of Maraschino Cherries and our Favorite Preserved Cherries

A Short History of These Cherries

For hundreds of years, the only notable candied cherries were made by Croatia and there monopoly of Marasca Cherry Trees. Due to their expense, they were considered a luxury good reserved for the wealthy. However, they were also extremely popular. American counterfeiters from all over came trying to cash in on this industry by using coal tar “aniline”, “full of sugar”, and almond flavoring.  They very rarely had any quality control, but would just add more chemicals in order to replicate their richer European competitors. In 1912, the FDA issued Food Inspection Decision 141, an order stating that Maraschino Cherries had to be made from Marasca cherries and preserved in a Marasca syrup, to prevent the quality.

But it didn’t. And in 1939 a Maraschino cherry was any canned cherry that was “dyed red, impregnated with sugar and flavored with oil of bitter almonds or a similar flavor.”

The counterfeits were wildly successful and whole industries were created to imitate the Marasca cherries. However, there were serious issues. The cherries weren’t as firm. They also didn't preserve shape or look consistent. And of course, the production of cherries weren’t codified as well as it could be.

To improve on the concerns of consumers eating the counterfeits, Ernest Wiegand, a professor in Oregon University, devoted his life in order to make the perfect Maraschino cherry. In 1925 when Ernest Wiegand found a way of keeping firm cherries while making the candied cherries affordable for everyone.

This new version of a Maraschino cherry process started with a Rainier or another yellow tinted cherry. Then those cherries were traditionally brined for forty-five days in a solution of preservatives and would lose most of their red coloring becoming yellow. The point of the brining process was so that they could maintain their texture for years.

While this brining process is the traditional way that gave rise to the popularity of Maraschino cherries, there has been some modernization to them as well. In 1969, a paper was released about the merits of using Sulfur Dioxide as a preservative due to its antimicrobial properties. This process, mixed with calcium salts, bleached cherries white, took days instead of weeks, and created a more consistent product. 

Some Preserved Cherries on the Market That We Love:

1. Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Bartenders praise Luxardo Cherries, but if you asked a hundred bartenders what makes Luxardo Cherries special, most would say they have no idea, just that they are good and a standard of quality.

Luxardo Maraschino cherries are one of the oldest and most brands of preserved cherries on the market today. During World War 2, Croatia was devastated by Nazis and the Luxardo family took a sapling seed in order to keep these trees in Italy. For hundreds of years, they’ve continued to make some of the most delicious Maraschino cherries, and for many, will be the only way to revisit one the greatest delicacies of the late 19th and early 20th century.

The key difference between Luxardo Maraschino Cherries and everyone else is that their brand focuses on having a consistently firm “crunchy” texture that is unique to everything else on the market.  This is due to the fact they are picked as soon as they are ripened, and then quickly candied. After the candying process, they are coated in Maraschino syrup, a syrup which is typically darker and more viscous than most of what is out there on the market, and packaged into a jar. As a result of this production method, these cherries have a ton of crunch! They’re also very expensive with each cherry retailing for around 40 cents a piece.

It doesn't help that we go through a jar of these every week either!

2. Tillen Farm Bada Bing Cherries

Tillen Farm Bada Bing cherries are the perfect cherry for your friend who is on a diet and one of our go to recommendations for those who want to add a little bit of sweetness without breaking their bank of calories. These cherries are a little bit sweet, but not super sweet. They have no artificial dyes and are pitted with the stem on. These amazing cherries have a fresh taste, aren't expensive, and last for around a month. While they are low in sugar, they also still have a huge flavor behind them. 

3. Amarena Fabbri Cherries

Amarena cherries are an amazing alternative to the more expensive Maraschino. They are a little less sweet and less crispy than their Maraschino counterparts, but they are very unique in their own right. These cherries are delicious and the brands Toschi and Fabbri can be found for half the price of their Luxardo counterparts while still having a similar flavor.



Bartending in the Age of Donald Trump


by Ori Geshury

President Donald Trump is everywhere these days and it’s not hard to see why. From the unprecedented campaign, to the most vigorous first weeks of an American Presidency in recent memory, there’s certainly a lot of change going on.  And whether you support him and his policies, disagree completely with everything he stands for and are a safety pin wearing member of the resistance, consider him to be a persuasive genius, or remarkably crass and dangerously ignorant, one this is absolutely certain: You are talking about him and there are huge implications happening across the world--especially for bartenders or people who wish to be bartenders.

We have people at our school that voted and who didn’t vote, who supported Clinton and supported Trump.  I’m not writing to voice an opinion on whether what’s happening is good or bad from a political standpoint, I’m a bartender and I don’t feel qualified to do so.  However, I do want to look at the way Donald Trump is impacting bartending, future job prospects, and how education is affected.

The first part of this article is going to focus on the current dangers you should be aware of that are happening to jobs, bartending or not.  Keep in mind that Donald Trump is not completely responsible for all these factors, they are the result of economic and political trends that have been boiling under the surface for decades.  If reading all of these makes you feel like the walls are closing in, and there is some serious trouble ahead, you’re not alone.  That’s the sentiment shared by the many prospective students we meet and talk to every single day.  I want to share them, not to scare you, but to give you an idea of that challenges that are out there so you can face them head on, and develop a plan to overcome them.

The second part of this article is going to focus on how for so many people, Bartending, and a career in beverage, can be a solution that seems tailor made for problems we seem to all be experiencing. 



Regardless of whether or not you support Trump’s threats to tax Mexican and Chinese products, it’s important to realize that it can greatly impact the purchasing power of the American consumer for years.  This is because our economy is so intertwined with other countries, that it’s impossible that taxes on their goods will not raise the cost of living for all Americans-at least in the short term.


Globalization and computerization are threatening more entry level jobs than at any time in American history since the 1970s when we saw the gradual erosion of our manufacturing.  I’ve never seen so many articles on so many different news sources, that all say the same thing: The job market is going to drastically change, and the technology for this to happen is already available. 

Many of our students drive for Uber and Lyft, and we get our fair share of truck drivers as well, and they all are worried about driverless cars, because the technology is already there for safer, more cost effective transportation.  Columbia Professor Hod Lipson has written an amazing book on the subject and his interview with Tucker Carlson is worth a watch.

In addition to that are the more sophisticated robots used in manufacturing, McKinsey and Company, whom we had the pleasure of hosting an event for, even did some fascinating work explaining that up to 59% of manufacturing work is vulnerable to automation over the next ten years.  You can watch a fascinating PBS piece on this here.

And the more vulnerable ones are the one’s lowest on the totem pole.  This week we enrolled two students that all worked in the service industry, one from McDonald’s and one from Chili’s.  And their jobs are threatened by policies that McDonald’s and Chili’s have introduced in response to raising the minimum wage.

In light of these findings, it shouldn’t be surprising to read the results of an Oxford study that almost half of US jobs are vulnerable to computerized automation.  


I’m 33, and of all the changes that have happened in my lifetime, I really can’t think of any as dramatic as how the cost of college is really creating different classes in our society.  It’s getting more and more expensive relative to the rate of inflation and shows no signs of slowing down.  When I was a kid my mom was able to pay for my private school and my dad’s grad school, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in cash without taking out any loans.  We were new to this country and were unable to get credit.  When I was 18, going to Drexel was pricey, but manageable with loans and working retail and summer jobs. 

It’s so different now.  I see single mothers stagnate and take extra classes at community college because completing their Bachelor’s degree seems so out of reach.  I talk to students from schools that were traditionally affordable, like Temple and Drexel where the plurality of our students come from, and see people in their early 20s well into six figures of debt.  A famous Bloomberg report shows just how high college tuitions have grown in the since 1978, 1225%!!!


We don’t need to look at Trump’s zeal to repeal and replace Obamacare or his threats to defund PBS to know that conservatives traditionally like smaller government, and less support for health care, educational infrastructure, and social services.  The truth is that all Republican administrations invest less in financial, educational, and social support than Democratic ones.  These differences are part and parcel of the lines of contention between the two parties.

I’m mentioning this because of how it relates to my last point.  Under a Republican Administration, if you lose your job or get hurt, you will have less support from the state to help you succeed.  With the rise of automation, and the cost of higher education, this can create a perfect storm that wrecks our notions of economic and social mobility for Americans entering the workforce.


While a chemist would certainly agree that alcohol is a solution, I want to explain what I mean


It’s relatively easy in a major city to be able to make $20-30 an hour as a bartender.  We know dozens of graduates from Aqua Vitae that make over 80k a year.  Jim Meehan talks about this in his groundbreaking presentation about the rise of the career craft cocktail bartender and the importance of health.  He says that bartenders should worry about health because many of them finish college and find that their income opportunities are greater for doing a job they love, than a soulless corporate job their degrees have qualified them for.  He cites a 60k a year figure in New York City, which I would say is even conservative for that area. 


I remember a student of ours in the 90s who worked at the Pyramid Club specifically to get access to the lawyers and firms she wanted to apply for upon finishing law school.  My mom was able to support the family by giving her business cards away at the convention center and decorating people’s houses.  Since then, we’ve had hundreds of personal trainers, hairdressers, musicians, actors, dancers, writers etc. leverage their ability to bartend into developing and maintaining business connections and even romantic relationships.

One topic that isn’t explored enough is how positive reinforcement (getting a higher tip) for charisma, great technique, and persuasion can change someone’s ability to deal with people over months and years.  When I was writing the bar psychology portion of the textbook and researching authors like Cialdini, and the famous Cornell restaurant study  where a woman wearing a flower in her hair made 17% more tips, and teaching them to our students, I found that bartenders who had been in the industry for a year or so did most of these things automatically. 

It’s not hard to see why, people can lie and smile and laugh, but if they come to see you and tip you well it’s a clear sign of appreciation that cannot be faked.  This allows bartenders to more accurately judge how their attitudes and habits affect other people than the rest of us, which give them an advantage in every other area of their life.

There’s something else going on here too.  In the movie Crazy Stupid Love, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell do most of their dating in one swanky bar.  Watch the clip and imagine you are a bartender in a bar like this.  In a year you’d see not just hundreds but thousands of first dates, business meetings, interactions between human beings that go well and go poorly. 

What do you think would happen to your ability to form relationships, and nail an interview for any job you wanted?

(Side note: The Old Fashioned scene in Crazy Stupid Love is one of the few examples of cocktails in movies that really works.)


If you’ve ever seen the movie Cocktail you’ve got a pretty good idea of how bartending worked in the 90s and early 00s.  While there were some great bartenders out there, and David Wondrich was writing for esquire as a voice in the wilderness very early on, there just wasn’t too much innovation going on.  The best bartenders lifted weights, flipped bottles, worked fast, and eventually started their own bars.  Luis Bermudez, our old head instructor and former Head Bartender at Cuba Libre, exemplifies the absolute pinnacle of success here.  He got into bartending after the Navy, won best Bartender in Philadelphia in a competition at the legendary 90s nightclub/palace Egypt, started a bar with Diego from top 40 radio station Q102, became a firefighter, and now owns properties all over Philadelphia, Miami, and Costa Rica. 

But the differences now are incredible.  Never before have there been so many opportunities for bartenders to advance, bar management, brand ambassadorship, competitions, lectures, writing reporters on HARO.  The options for bartenders who want to advance without shelling our half a million dollars and risking everything to open a bar are tremendous.

Luciano Spensierato, who took classes with us when he came over from Italy, and whom we helped get a job at Xfinity Live when they did job fairs before they opened, and currently helms the exceptional bar program at Gran Caffe L’Aquila, is an example of how a bartender can increase his standing.  Jeff Bowell, who moved to Las Vegas, helped open Revel in Atlantic City, and now NOTO in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, is another good example.


I recently read a great article by sfgate on why people go to bars.  San Francisco is considered a first tier city in the bar and restaurant industry, with its higher income residents, emphasis on locally sourcing fresh ingredients, and care in presentation, you’d think the experience of food and drink would be at the forefront of the article, instead the author writes:

"to work, talk, cheat, chat, smoke, investigate, read, stare, eat, fight, study, use free Wi-Fi, listen to music, be the old dude at the bar, ask for directions, meet a friend, make a friend, borrow money, have fun, and sometimes because there is just nothing else to do."

This really goes to the heart of what I’m trying to explain.  We can’t turn into computers, and we don’t have much control of political and economic change.  But we can leverage our own humanity, build our own network of friends and allies, and create opportunities for us to make money now and later, all by embracing a job that let’s us do all of these things simultaneously: Bartending.   

Because of all these reasons, a part time job or career in Bartending has never been more attractive.  However, I do want to end with one more thing:


Unlike traditional education, that balloons in price year after year, you can study at Aqua Vitae Institute for under a thousand dollars. By the end of it you will feel confident enough to work behind any bar.

If you’ve gotten to the end of this article, it’s certain that you’re at least a little bit curious about how we can help you reach your goals through bartending.  I really encourage you to reach out to us here!

Related: Bartending School information

Learn to Make Oleo Saccharum with Nathan Weigert

Oleo Saccharum is one of the most delicious lemon concotions ever. Using the lemon peels, you extract the oil with sugar and get a delicious lemony syrup with very little acidity. This is one of the best ingredients you can use for cocktails and the editor of our textbook and educational consultant, Nathan Weigert will show you how to do it in the video below!

If you like this video, please share it and give it a thumbs up!

Champagne and Sparkling Wine: Understanding What To Buy and Labels

Written by Ori Geshury with help from Nathan Weigert

Bad boy novelist turned wine writer (and Gossip Girl guest star) Jay McInerney once observed:

"Nobody ever said I want you to pour sparkling wine all over my naked body."

Champagne has such an incredible reputation for elegance, luxury, and decadence, but does it deserve it?

First, I want to give a little bit of a background about how sparkling wines and Champagne came to be and how they've been marketed. There are many legends of how sparkling came to be created, but my favorite is the story of Monk Dom Perignon.

The story begins in the 1600s, where the monks were making wine in the Champagne region of France. But Champagne had a problem. The region was too cold and the wine in the cellar would always stop fermenting just a little bit too early--causing still wine to be carbonated. This problem was known as refermentation. Thus, bottled wine from Champagne had a quirky problem that many other regions didn't have. Their beautiful wine, would sometimes, have bubbles, or worse, just magically explode!

Dom Perignon, however, decided that was enough was enough. There was a bright side to Champagne after all and a few exploding bottles wasn't going to stop him from showing the world that. Champagne was absolutely delicious. When winemakers all over threatened the region of having defected wine, Dom Perignon invited all his fellow monks around him. He famously told them, "Come Quickly, I am tasting the stars!"

Champagne may be the first Sparkling Wine and it is full of beautiful history. But it is not the only one. Here is a cheat sheet for your sparkling wine purchases:

  1. CHAMPAGNE The traditional gold standard of sparkling wine. Aged "sur lie" and have tasts which range from chardonnay grapes which are lean/crisp with lemon, to green apple and minerally to rich and full pinot noir champagnes with aromas of brioche, toffee and baked apples.
  2. CREMANT means creamy in French, denoting sparkling wine made in the "Methode Champenoise" in any other region other than Champagne. The quality is often comparable as grapes used are very similar. However, there is still quite a difference in terroir.
  3. PROSECCO Made in Italy in the Charmat method. It is not aged "sur lie" as Champagne is.  As a result, the flavors are simpler and more to the point (like apples and pear), with a little bit of sweetness.
  4. CAVA Spain's sparkling wine which vary greatly in quality. Some are extremely high quality and are comparable to the some of the greatest Champagnes in the world. Others are made more similar to prosecco and are bottled quickly! Knowing brands is extremely important!
  5. FRANCIACORTA is from the Lombardy egion Italy, made in the Methode Champenoise. A lot warmer than northern France, and they tend to be riper and fuller than its French counterpart. In exchange, they lack a lot of the acid and mineral qualities of champagne.
  6. AMERICAN SPARKLING WINE Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most common varietals. Some are made in the Methode Champenoise, but many are not. In general, cooler growing regions are better bets because the acidity in the grapes is preserved.
  7. SEKT Sparkling wine made in Germany.
  8. MOSCATO D’ASTI & BRACHETTO D’ACQUI Sweet sparkling wines from Northern Italy, delicious as an aperitif or with dessert.

Sparkling wine has four levels of sweetness, which will be printed directly on the bottle. Here is a guide to understanding them:

  1. Extra-Brut: Driest kind of sparkling wine, the yeast has eaten absolutely all of the sugar.
  2. Brut: Most popular type of sparkling wine. The wine is dry, but there is just a hint of sweetness. The winemaker stopped the fermentation process just before the yeast ate all of the sugar.
  3. Extra Dry: Dry, but not as dry as Brut or Extra-Brut, noticeably sweeter but not sugary sweet. Prosecco is most often Extra Dry.
  4. Demi-sec: Sweet sparkling wine, usually drink with desert, as there a noticeable sugar.

The Difference between Rose and normal Champagne is either the addition of red wine or the addition of black grape skins in the fermentation process. However, due to the perception of consumers and the market, many Rose champagnes are also sweeter and more full-bodied than their white counterparts!




Top Bartending Classes in Philadelphia

Top Bartending Classes in Philadelphia

Bartending is one of the most recession-proof jobs you can have. Customers drink when they’re happy. They drink when they’re upset. It doesn’t matter if you are old, young, or in between! Many people want to learn bartending to increase their income or to have flexibility in their life. 

Aqua Vitae Institute offers some of the top bartending classes in Philadelphia and aims to train every single student to reach levels of knowledge they never thought of before.

These are some of they ways we do it:

  1. First, our bartending classes are designed to actually teach a class, and not just send you off with a bartending certificate. We focus on streamlining the important points in such a way that you can learn the basics in just three weeks, as well as a few helpful advanced techniques that will put you over the edge when employers are looking to hire.
  2. Secondly, we have a textbook that we update regularly with input from the city’s top bartenders. We also go to firsthand sources like brand ambassadors and liquor companies. When you study bartending at Aqua Vitae Institute, you are studying with the best and are learning from people who are incredibly passionate about the bartending industry.
  3. Third, while most bartending schools and classes rely on baseless memorization, we focus more on our flavor and use recipes as guidelines to be creative and have graduates feel confident to make their own cocktails. Our goal isn’t to teach recipes, it’s to teach independence. It’s to make alcohol enjoyable and to give any graduate of ours the feeling that they can make delicious cocktails anywhere. Moreover, if they don’t know the answer to a question, that they will be put in touch with an expert who can answer that question.
  4. Fourth, Aqua Vitae Institute doesn’t leave you out after you graduate. We offer lifetime job placement assistance and will work with you to help you get a job anywhere. We work with managers across Philadelphia to give their own advice and start from resume building to how to write a cover letter and interview tips. We are a one stop shop for all your job placement needs!
  5. Fifth, we offer flexible scheduling. Whether you want to take weekend, evening, or day bartending classes, we are there for you. 

Related: How to Study for Bartending School

How To Write the Perfect Bartending Resume

 Written by Alexander Johnson and edited by Or Geshury

The Bartending Resume

We call it the bartending resume, because a bartending resume needs to be different from any other resume you've built for any professional job.  If you're going to be a banker, or you're a teacher, or you're a mechanic, and on the side you want to bartend, your resume needs to not be your mechanic resume, your resume needs to not be your teacher resume, because at a bar and restaurant if you've taught middle school for six years, that's not as relevant as if you went to bartending school.  So we need to tailor and cut and paste your old resume, and turn it into a whole new resume.

How The New Resume

That's going to detail relevant job experience, Another thing I see a lot is, people who have been in the industry for a while, have a two page resume, a three page resume.  When a restaurant or bar gets a resume, it's in a stack of resumes as high as a bottle.  They are looking for fun facts, they're looking for bullet points, they're looking for quick snippets.  They're not looking for long paragraphs.  You really need to make it jump and pop.

I was in an office one time with a restaurant manager looking over resumes, she saw a resume that was two pages, without even looking at the name, she said: "Two pages!"  Balled it up and threw it over her shoulder.  Things are so faced paced, my manger doesn't have time to eat or use the bathroom let alone read and look at three pages or two pages of a resume.  

Short and Sweet

So short and sweet, we're going to list the last three places we've been at, three relevant job experiences, we're going to outline what we did there, and we're going to try and use number whenever possible.  If I said something like for Job Placement, I placed 30 jobs a month for Aqua Vitae.  And if I said for the 2nd bullet point is "Passionately finding students jobs, by creating question and answer based content for Aqua Vitae.

Your Bartending School Experience

This is absolutely crucial because it outlines your base of knowledge and your foundation. It also shows that you are willing to invest in yourself in order to improve in this field.

Responsible Service Certifications like RAMP and ServSafe

These show additional training and benefits to the bar in terms of saving money on insurance, reduced risk, upselling ability, and versatility behind the bar.

Showing Extra Individual Knowledge

Things like additional training in wine, beer, coffee etc. Visiting distilleries and breweries, joining the United States Bartenders Guild, and in general moving forward and pursuing your passions in food and beverage go a long way to differentiate yourself from other applicants who show up for tips and a pay check.

MOST IMPORTANTLY Make Sure You Update Your Contact Information

Before my experiences hiring and working with students, I never really thought about this, but it's surprising how many times people forget to update their contact information to reflect their newest cell phone number or the e-mail that they check the most often (most people have an e-mail they started in high school, a more mature e-mail with their first and last name, and an e-mail they use primarily for work, make sure you put one that's professional and that you're actively checking).  It's much more common than you'd think, so do a quick check at the end of updating your resume to make sure all the relevant information is up to date.

Our Three Famous Punch Recipes for Cocktail Events

Punch is a classic drink with five ingredients. It has spirit, citrus, sweet, spice and water. Use our three Punch Recipes to impress for your next cocktail and mixology event!

Opening Punch

Serves 8
8 oz Jamaican Rum
4 oz Triple Sec (or other orange flavored liqueur)
4 oz Lemon Juice
12 oz fresh apple cider
8 oz Ginger Ale
8 cinnamon sticks (optional)

Shake Rum, Triple Sec & Lemon juice with Ice.  Strain into punch bowl.  Add Cider and soda. Chill.
Serve 5oz per guest.  Add cinnamon stick to garnish.

Mulled Wine

Serves 6
1 cup apple cider
1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon wine
2 oz honey
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 orange, zested and juiced
4 whole cloves
3 pieces of star anise
1 oranges, sliced, for garnish

Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves and star anise in a large saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs, add an orange peel to each and serve.


Serves 6
2 large egg yolks
2 oz sugar
1/4 cup half-n-half
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Jamaican rum or cognac or bourbon
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (plus more for serving)
Pinch kosher salt

Add yolks, sugar, and nutmeg in a large shaker.  Stir with a barspoon or whisker and then shake.
Combine dairy, booze and salt to shaker.  Shake.
Add Ice.  Shake until glass is chilled (around a minute of full shaking).
Serve in cups topped with a little extra nutmeg grated right on top.


How To Study for Bartending School Part 2 - Understanding Our Teaching Philosophy

Working in the hospitality industry is very demanding. You are expected to learn flavor and pairings, menu items, customer service scripts, and so much more.  In addition to that, if you want to move up in this industry the amount of information you need to absorb and assimilate keeps going up.

The trick is that none of the programs focus at Aqua Vitae Institute focus on simple memorization-it is furthered by the belief that people are conditioned to learn to pass tests in school and then forget the next day. Instead, the education philosophy at the institute is a three pronged approach.

Aqua Vitae Institute blends theoretical learning, with practical drink making, with advanced techniques.  Because of that, learning how to learn is really important and it's something that most other schools don't focus on and what separates us from any of our competitors.

Here are some of the methods we focus on in class and what you should pay attention to when you study back at home:

1. Say It Out Loud!

Have you ever had to memorize a song?  We've discovered that many people struggle to memorize music without actually attempting to sing the song. Instead, they can listen to a song hundreds of times and only a few phrases--likely the chorus, will be remembered by them.

The major way we simulate this process is by pairing people up into groups of two or three. One person will make the drink and the other two will coach the person making the drink on what they are doing correctly or incorrectly with a answer sheet. After every few minutes, they will switch turns. This allows people to speak out the recipes to other people, while also helping ...

2. Writing It Out!

One of the key components we use to train people is having them flash cards. The reason is that it associates learning with something more practical and artistic--it also helps to internalize some of the mneomonic devices we teach in a concise format. For example, Martinis and Manhattans being a certain type of cocktail and in a certain type of class. It also allows a place for word clues like the phrase "Very Tragic Landing" for the Kamikaze becoming shorthand for:

Vodka, Triple Sec, and Lime Juice

3. Doing It!

Aqua Vitae Institute doesn't have conventional school desks and painful school chairs set up. We have a bar and a lot of equipment.  We also have a library, but after reading theoretical knowledge within a book, instead of it just sitting in your brain as a cool fact and being forgotten, we recommend our students to use our facility in order to see and prove theories. You might find that many of the things even the most popular bartending books have pictures of or create recipes for, just aren't going to work out in practice! Instead of focusing on what is in a book, it's important to understand what actually works in the real world, and focus on memorizing that.

By doing something and making it happen, you'll begin to retain that association as something that is more real than a theoretical book.


How to study for bartending school part one
Learn more about Bartending School and Cocktail Classses

Why Learning Wine Is Important for Bartenders and Bar Owners

Written by Ori Geshury

Why Wine Is Important

Being a great bartender doesn't mean passing the court of sommeliers, and it doesn't mean being able to juggle five bottles at the same time.  It's about being good at a couple dozen key skills, and if you're missing a few of them, you can drastically limit your potential.

A couple months ago, my friend, old fraternity buddy, and impeccable sommelier Erik Segelbaum came by Aqua Vitae.  He rushed in, breathless and excited, very well dressed with a gorgeous Luis Vuitton suitcase in tow.  It's hard to remember that this guy jet setting all around the world and having luxury condos designed and custom built for him used to be an RA in Drexel's Kelly Hall, the most tenement like of residence halls, to save a few bucks. 

It was such an amazing transformation that you couldn't help but be super happy for the guy.

I learned so much from him in the time we spent together, which I'll share with you later, but the part that stood out in my mind the most was when he was talking about the importance of learning more about wine.  Erik had just been named Wine Director for all the restaurants under Steven Starr.  Before then, every restaurant had done it's own thing, so quality, consistency, and regular updates varied quite a bit from place to place.  

Erik's pitch to Steven Starr? This:

"Steven, in a bar like Parc, the cheapest bottle of wine is about twenty five dollars, but the most expensive bottle of wine is one thousand six hundred and fifty dollars.  There isn't anything the restaurant offers that has the potential to make money the way wine does!"

Stop for a second and think about that before reading on. 


Imagine you're a bartender working in a high end bar.  If a couple of guests order extra deserts, or a couple extra cocktails, maybe they'll spend twenty more dollars, and you'll see three or four extra dollars in your tips.  But if you sell a more expensive bottle of wine, and they spend an extra three or four hundred dollars, can you imagine how much of a difference that would make for both you and restaurant?

Since wine has so much money making potential, who do you think is going to get those coveted Friday and Saturday night shifts?

We designed the Aqua Vitae Institute wine seminar to be for beginners and to strip away all the ego, and intimidation that surrounds the wine world, so people can approach it in a simple and easy way and have confidence to talk to your guests in actual English instead of the hard to understand flowery language that people use to sell there product.

This is actually by design.  One of my favorite books, The Renegade Server, talks about how when bartenders and servers use simple, easy to understand language, they end up being better liked and selling more wine.

We go through the different methods of production as well as flavor differences between the old world and the new.  We'll talk about how wine is made, terroir, serving groups of 8 in the traditional style, and also the language of wine.

The point of this seminar isn't just to give you a lot of new words to learn or wines to try, the point is to develop an excitement and passion for wine that will inspire you to try wine yourself and give you a working framework for furthering yourself in the industry.  The wonderful thing with wine is that each bottle can be totally different from the last, even though they are from the same producer!  That means nearly every experience you have can be fresh and new.  Once you understand our framework, you can learn and grow with every bottle you drink! 

When you share your passion and knowledge with your customers and in your job interviews, amazing things can happen!

To purchase our wine seminar call us at 215-567-7100 or fill out our contact form here. We're also offering wine as part of our VIP program which you can purchase here.

Why Every Bar in Pennsylvania Should Require RAMP Certification

One of the most common questions in the industry is as to why do bars require RAMP certification, especially when a bartender may already have been ServSafe or TIPs certified. This is despite many TIPs affiliates altering the truth and claiming to be an approved course in Pennsylvania (the only approved alcohol programs in Pennsylvania are led by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board).

The reason for why every bar in Pennsylvania should only require their bartenders to be RAMP certified can be summed up with the PLCB's own writing:

  • Possible reduction in the fines and penalties issued by an Administrative Law Judge to the licensee for serving a minor or a visibly intoxicated patron, as long as the licensee was in compliance at the time of the violation and had no citations for either of those two violations in the previous four years.
  • Possible liquor liability insurance discount.
  • Knowledgeable, well-trained alcohol service staff and management.
  • Recognition as a responsible licensee in your community.
  • Less likelihood of dram shop liability.

To clarify some of the more confusing items:

While the PLCB can't guarantee a discount, many insurance companies do in fact give one out as long as the bar promises that at least 50% of their alcohol serving staff is certified. For some of the bigger policies, these contracts could be savings of thousands of dollars each year. Another major reason, is that licensees will regularly get charges reduced when they are caught acting out of compliance if they are RAMP certified.

The reason other alcohol server certifications are not endorsed in the state of Pennsylvania is because they are not directly regulated by the PLCB and this could be just as complicated as not having PLCB training for bars or insurance companies. As a result, most managers will ask all of their bartenders to become RAMP certified even if they are already certified in TIPs or ServSafe.