How To Use Alcohol as a Tool For Personal Transformation

By Ori Geshury

This article represents a breakthrough I've had after struggling with these issues for fifteen years.  One of the most challenging elements in a bartender's life is the fact that we work with alcohol.  As our superlatively talented instructor Jeff Bowell once said in conversation:

"Nobody starts a fight over food.  Nobody ends a marriage over food.  Nobody ends a life over food."

In so many different ways, our relationship with alcohol determines the quality of our lives.  I recently read the heartfelt forward of Sasha Petraske's widow.  Sasha was the most prolific legacy builder in the world of craft cocktails, died young in a manner that was-at the very least-exacerbated by prolonged abuse of alcohol. 

Many bartenders have spoken out this.  The three most notable are PDT's Jim Meehan, who talks about the need for balance, exercise, and meditation.  Jack McGarry, who talks about his struggles with depression and alcohol abuse that were treated by therapy, sobriety, and marathon running.  Giuseppe Gonzales, who makes the remarkable case that most people who have been in the industry long enough to really know it, don't drink:

7. All of the old-time bartenders are sober. “Find me a guy who’s been doing this for 20 or 30 years — not a consultant, not a mixologist, but a bartender who’s worked behind the stick everyday, and ask me if he still drinks — you’re not going to find one,” he says. “You realize at some point in your career, sometime in your 40s, ‘you know what? I’ve got a family and I want to be able to do other things.”

At the same time, we know that alcohol is responsible for tremendous good.  We know that alcohol likely played a major role in starting civilization itself!  We know that moderate drinking has the ability to extend life, protect against a host of degenerative diseases (the scariest being heart disease, and stroke), increase sex drive, and even boost immunity

Is Alcohol Good or Evil?

Prolific alcohol journalist Camper English has a mind bending section on his website entitled, good booze/bad booze.  He compiles all of the major studies that say alcohol will help us live forever, with all of the major studies that say it's a poisonous carcinogen, and lumps them all together.  It's wonderful in the cognitive dissonance it invokes as almost everyone has taken a "side."  

What If Alcohol is both Good and Evil?

If we accept both the good and the bad of alcohol as likely true, and decide that we want to keep drinking, as most people in the western world have, how can we we use it as a meditation to transform ourselves?  

What if alcohol is an opportunity for us to stop seeing the world in black in white, in terms of good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, logical and illogical, work and pleasure, joy and suffering?

What if we can create harmony by finding the balance between opposites, and expressing that creatively through the practice of making drinks, and our relationship to alcohol?

If either of these are true, then would that mean for our quality of life?


The Three Ways Juices are Clarified

There is a lot of misinformation about clarifying juices all over the internet. There are countless news articles heralding a new discovery among bartenders like the use of curdled milk (casein is a positively charged fining agent), while others herald agar agar (another positively charged fining agent) as the newest and best way to clarify a liquid. However, rarely do these bartenders mention the science behind it and just tell you to use that ingredient like its some new sensationalist discovery

. While there may be other ways, below is a primer of the three primary ways juices are clarified in a real world scenario.

Using a Centrifuge

The first is to put the liquid through a centrifuge. A centrifuge spins a liquid incredibly quickly and will separate the mass of the liquid by its specific gravity.

However, most people can’t afford a centrifuge, it can greatly affect taste due to the added heat, and they are very easy to break when not used by trained professionals.

The following three clarifying agents are what is most common in the industry:

Using an Enzyme

Pectin is a polysaccharide found in plant cell walls and its where the pulpy fibrous part of juice comes from. It’s not completely digestible and many food companies add pectin as a fiber like cellulose or lignin. As a result of this usage, pectin is extremely colorful and has a very rich texture. But that texture is not always desired in liquid.

Adding a little bit of pectinase will, over time, destroy these walls and get rid of much of the texture.

Because pectinase is an enzyme, the only thing adding more will do is increase the rate of reaction In fact, you will rarely need a couple of drops for a liter of juice. Other ways to speed up the reaction is to increase the temperature to around 55 degrees C. Be cautioned, if you make it too hot, you will kill the enzyme.

Using a Suspension - Positive and Negative Charged Fining Agents

Positively Charged Fining Agents

These fining agents are used to attract negative ions to them. These fining agents have “cations” which means they attract negatively charged molecules to them. Agar Agar, Gelatin are some commonly used positively charged agents.

Negatively Charged Fining Agents

In addition to using a positively charged fining agent, many brewers and fermentors use a negatively charged fining agent. These fining agents have “anions” which means they attract positively charged materials to them. The most common one of these is a material Bentonite. However, others like Silicon Dioxide are becoming extremely affordable in the processing.

You will likely need to use both of these to clarify a liquid. The reason is one fining agent will take the positively charged ones, and the other will be used for negative ions. A more complete list of these agents and there properties can be found here. For more information about Bartending Classes go here.

What Is The Best Job To Have If You're Too Young To Bartend?

By Ori Geshury

I just talked to a girl, who is very serious about bartending, but won't be 18 for almost a year. She was wondering what job would be the best for her to prepare to be successful in the industry

She also happened to be going to school in New York, and surrounded by dozens of high quality, 3rd wave coffee shops.  The answer was obvious:

She also, apparently, happened to be going to school in New York, and surrounded by dozens of high quality, 3rd wave coffee shops. 

The answer seemed obvious to me:

Start as a barista.  

Every city has Thursday night throwdowns where baristas compete with each other to see who can make the best latte art.

Dealing with customers:

Caffeine affects people in a very different way than alcohol does, it stimulates adenosine receptors, promoting alertness, energy, and tension.  Alcohol relaxes inhibitions, and promotes mild euphoria. 

Because of this, many people rely on coffee to kickstart the day, and will be in a worse mood without it.  If you can handle them, the crowd bartenders deal with will seem easy by comparison.

Attention to detail - From weekly cuppings where taste is developed, to technical closing checklists and handling espresso machines that cost more than starter cars, coffee culture rewards the kind of obsessive attention to detail that is essential in a bar.

If you're under 18 and have a passion for the industry, try to get a job in a 3rd wave coffee shop.  The reason 3rd wave coffee is better than national coffee chains is that you'll learn more learning with the owners, than you will following a procedure that is set up by a higher power, or corporate entity, such as what happens within Starbucks. You will also get a larger variety of sampling and be exposed to way more of the culture than you would be if you stayed in a chain.

If you'd like to start bartending school click this link!

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

The Difference Between Liquors and Liqueurs

Or Geshury

Liquor vs. Liqueur

One of the most confusing things to me when I started to bartend was the differences between liquor and liqueur.  It's something that seems pretty simple, so it's easy to gloss over, but actually is a great way to develop your mental model of seeing the world of drinks and how they are constructed.  Here is everything you need to know!

1) Pronunciation:

Because English doesn't use set pronunciations, it's easy to tell how much of a newbie someone is, by whether or not they can say a word correctly.  Therefore, the first thing I like to teach is pronunciation.

Liquor is pronounced Li-Kore and liqueur is pronounced Li-Kerr, like the supermodel whose ex husband punched Justin Bieber.

2) Process:

A liquor is made by distilling alcohol, starting from a mash similar to beer or wine, then making it into a more concentrated form like vodka, brandy, or whisky.

A liqueur is made by adding a sweetener (usually sugar) and some kind of flavor to the alcohol base.  In order to be called a liqueur, the cut off is that the sweetener (sugar, honey etc.) has to make up at least 2.5% of the weight of the finished product.

3) Liqueur vs. Cordial

While the meaning of liqueur is pretty straightforward, the meaning of cordial is a bit more up in the air.  It can either be used in the same way as liqueur (which is common practice nowadays), to differentiate between liqueurs made from herbs, and liqueurs made from fruits and-to a lesser extent-dessert flavors like chocolate and coffee.  It can even mean a really sweet syrup in the UK, where they call something like Rose's lime syrup, rose's lime cordial.

In my opinion, this is a terrible shame, because we should celebrate the wonderful richness of herbal liqueurs and the sweetness of fruit cordials by using those terms to describe them.

One of the drinks that celebrates the interplay between herbal and fruit is the Last Word, a drink that has spawned hundreds of jazz like variations. 

Last Word Recipe:

1 Part Gin (3/4 oz)
1 Part Lemon Juice (3/4 oz.)
1 Part Green Chartreuse (3/4 oz.)
1 Part Maraschino (3/4 oz.)

Shake and Strain, then add a Maraschino cherry garnish!

How To Break Down A Last Word Into Any Other Cocktail

Here's how the recipe breaks down into a ratio that bartenders can use to create an infinite variety of pleasing drinks:

1 Part Liquor- Something strong, which gives the drink character and backbone.
1 Part Sour- Something sour, which gives the drink freshness and astringency (we'll talk more about basic cocktail balance in a future article).
1 Part Liqueur (Herbal) - Something sweet and herbal, which balances out the sourness and adds complexity.
1 Part Cordial (Fruit or Dessert) - Something sweet and usually fruity.

Shake and Strain, try to match the garnish with the cordial to compliment those flavors.

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.

How Much Do Bartenders Make? Understanding the Bartending Industry

One of the biggest reasons people want to start a career bartending is because of the money. And its very good money. Stories of bartenders pulling in six figures are not unheard of, and the median pay is reported to be around $24.00. This article will explain not only how much bartenders actually make, but also cover issues with the current state methodology to calculate bartending income and other issues that new bartenders may not understand about how bartenders make money.

To start, Bartenders working in city hot spots regularly pull in six figures a year. Others who work in neighborhood bars tend to make a little less, but will still pull in $15-20 an hour and have the added plus of not having to drive hours to work everyday. Finally, despite not making as much raw dollars as bartenders in high volume places, some of the most prestigious shifts are working in a hotel or other high end corporate chain. These companies typically not only pay a high base salary and allow tips, but they also give benefits like healthcare and matching 401ks to there employees. 

So why don't all bartenders make a lot of money?

There are other shifts known as training shifts or the dreaded "Sunday shift" that are almost exclusively reserved for new hires. These are dead shifts where there might be a slow influx of customers and is a manager's tool to get new bartenders familiar with all there POS system, back bar, and where inventory is so that when it is busy they will be prepared. Earnings during this type might drop to minimum wage to $11 an hour. Many new bartenders get stuck on these slower nights for a few weeks before they're allowed to move up and the more prepared you are, the less stuck you will be working in these dead shifts.

The Government is telling me that bartenders are making under $12.00 an hour. How are you coming up with these crazy high numbers?

The Bureau of Labor states that the average wage is $11.59 and it is problematic for those trying to understand the hospitality industry. While the methodology is mostly sound for other industries--specifically ones with salaries, in regards to the restaurant industry it is not 100% perfect nor will it ever be. It is not necessary for employers to give hourly rates and they may report employees despite employees not working a full year. When they do not have specific hourly rates, the Buearu of Labor defaults to a base year of 2040 hours and then takes the average of it. This is incredibly problematic as it is very possible that bartender could be working three days a week or 30 hours a week, but be calculated on a forty hour week methodology.

Next, bartenders are not separated from barbacks in this methodology and barbacks are known to take significantly less money until they move up in knowledge and experience to become a barback.

However, perhaps the greatest discrepancy comes from the tip reporting. The Bureau of Labor requires accurate numbers from state agencies and surveys. However, bartenders typically make around 70-90% of there income in tips. More specifically, the minimum wage in Pennsylvania for a hospitality worker is a paltry $2.83. However, very few restaurant and bars have accurate systems to calculate the tips of all there employees and subsequently, report their earnings to the IRS. Moreover, most bartenders aren't accountants nor do most spend each day plugging in there tips in an excel sheet so they can send the IRS accurate data. Instead, bartenders are only required to fill out an IRS 4070 due on the tenth of every month with the amount they made--weeks after they actually made the money.

The reality of what happens is that most bartenders miscount or lose track of there tips when it's split between other workers or after a very busy day of working. Since the infrastructure isn't completely there in most restaurants, many bartenders and bar owners only follow general guidelines based on gross sales. The gross sales require the employer to report just 8% of the gross sales to the IRS (when people on average tip 18% of the gross sale in America!).  Moreover, bars can regularly ask for deductions so that the income recorded in behalf of the employees filed are as low as 6% of the gross receipts!

These huge discrepancies in methodology make it impossible for the government to accurately track the earnings for bartenders!

Rather than looking at bartending through the lens of tax returns, it is easier to understand tips through experience and common sense. For a visual presentation of how bartenders earn money, try using our Prezi!


The History of the Agave Worm

The History of the Agave Worm

 Mezcal and Tequila have long been associated with a worm  (“Gusano” or "Mezcal con Gusano”). There are myths that persist that all tequila and mezcal are made with a worm at the end, and there are other myths that no agave distiller uses the worm, even though the bottle of Mezcal says “con Gusano” orr with worm.

Rather, the Agave Worm is still one of the misunderstood additions to blue agave-based spirits on the market and is a question many if not most bartenders still misunderstand to this day.

 The Agave Worm: “chinicuil” and "meocuiles”


There are two type of worms that infest Agave and are used in Mezcal. The first, are white maguey worms, known as meocuiles. These are caterpillars of a butterfly and they not only deposit their eggs in the leaves of the Agave, but the caterpillars live off the surrounding flesh and leaves from the plant. If they’re particularly hungry and there’s a lot of them, they may eat so much that the plant itself be nothing more than an empty husk.

The second worm that infests agave is the Chinicuil, or the red maguey worm. It is a larvae of a moth and another longstanding parasite of the Blue Agave Plant.  The Chinicuil infest the roots of the fruit and live inside it, living and breeding for years to come. The infestation can become so bad sometimes, that a huge mass of worms can exist inside a single fruit as soon as it is opened up.

Chinicuil is also considered a delicacy in Mexico, it’s flavor is said to be superior to the meocuiles and is regularly eaten fried or baked in a host of dishes: be it pizza, tacos, or in burgers.

The occurrence of both these worms and their proximity to agave have made them synonymous with Mezcal.

 The Marketing Behind the Worm


Jacobo Lozano Paez is credited with inventing the addition of the worm in Mezcal in the 1940s, selling them mostly in the 1950s. He believed that the addition of the worm was a great boost to flavor and sold it as such, however, it didn't end there. Other distillers picked up on the success of his Tequila and as a result a host of urban legends started including, but not limited to:

  1. A mandatory addition to ensure that there’s a substantial amount of alcohol and create trust for the consumer.

  2. A hallucinogenic additive that enhanced the effects of alcohol.

  3. A cultural tradition in Mexico that had been exercised by Aztec priests for centuries.

Whatever the case, the exoticness of drinking worms in a spirit was something that mesmerized tourists from abroad and helped jumpstart the popularity of both Mezcal and Tequila. Partially as a result of this incredible marketing campaign done in Mexico, both Tequila and Mezcal have cemented themselves a place in almost every spirit store across the world.

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.



How old you need to be to become a bartender

This is the age you need to be to become a bartender in every state. This was last updated on December 2016

  • Alabama (AL) is 21
  • Alaska (AK) is 21
  • Arizona (AZ) is 19
  • Arkansas (AR) is 18
  • California (CA) is 21
  • Colorado (CO) is 18
  • Connecticut (CT) is 18
  • Delaware (DE) is 21
  • Washington DC (DC) is 21
  • Florida (FL) is 18
  • Georgia (GA) is 18
  • Hawaii (HI) is 18
  • Idaho (ID) is 19
  • Illinois (IL) is 21
  • Indiana (IN) is 21
  • Iowa (IA) is 18
  • Kansas (KS) is 21
  • Kentucky (KY) is 20
  • Louisiana (LA) is 18
  • Maine (ME) is 18
  • Michigan (MI) is 18
  • Minnesota (MN) is 18
  • Mississippi (MS) is 21
  • Missouri (MO) is 18
  • Montana (MT) is 18
  • Nebraska (NE) is 19
  • Nevada (NV) is 21
  • New Hampshire (NH) is 18
  • New Jersey (NJ) is 18
  • New Mexico (NM) is 19
  • New York (NY) is 18
  • North Carolina (NC) is 21
  • North Dakota (ND) is 19
  • Ohio (OH) is 21
  • Oklahoma (OK) is 21
  • Oregon (OR) is 18
  • Pennsylvania (PA) is 18
  • Rhode Island (RI) is 18
  • South Carolina (SC) is 18
  • South Dakota (SD) is 18
  • Tennessee (TN) is 18
  • Texas (TX) is 18
  • Utah (UT) is 21
  • Vermont (VT) is 18
  • Virginia (VA) is 21
  • Washington (WA) is 18
  • West Virginia (WV) is 18
  • Wisconsin (WI) is 18
  • Wyoming (WY) is 21

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How To Talk About Your Parents About Bartending School

Parent’s don’t always have the easiest time with bartending school. A lot of them can’t stand the idea of their kid serving alcohol. A lot of young adults have preconceptions that they need to follow their parent’s career, go to this college, and get this job. Most of the times, however, there’s a misunderstanding. But everyone is afraid to bring up the conversation.

  1. First don’t be afraid to talk to them about your goals. Getting over that fear is one of the biggest obstacles many of our prospective students face when asking their parents about something they aren’t sure is good or not.
  2. Ask yourself why you are thinking about Bartending School. Do you actually want to learn bartending? Why or why not? Is this going to be a part time job or a career? Do you the idea of creating eye-catching drinks for a living? Asking questions like this will help you articulate the reasons why you wanted to be a bartender and will help you explain yourself to your peers.
  3. Take ownership of the process. Talk to your parents about touring bartending schools. Ask around to see what your friends think. Do your own research and make sure it’s a good fit for you.
  4. You’re not too young to get a job bartending.  One of the biggest myths is that you have to be over 21 to get a job bartending. The legal age to serve alcohol in most states is 18. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are included in this. Most of our students are under 21, and they do in fact, get jobs working as bartenders.
  5. But I am too young to drink alcohol isn’t there something wrong with that? Yes and no. You can’t drink so you can’t know what the cocktails you are taste like, or if they’re even drinkable. However, it’s not that bad. The greatest advantage you have is that you are young and driven. Bars are used to working with experienced people that bring with them terrible habits and who have job hopped a lot for a myriad of reasons that are typically not good.

    Moreover, if you want to work at some of the top bars in the country, they will likely have you start as a bar back. This is typically a unavoidable process for every top bar and these bar back spots are very competitive. Starting young and showing a huge desire to succeed in the industry will give you a huge advantage against people going after the same job. Showing a willingness to learn and attempts to learn about the industry will help even more.

    If barbacking or serving is not something you’d like to start out doing, you can still get a job bartending. Many of our students are under 21 and do, in fact, get jobs bartending. Catering companies, country clubs, and local sport bars are some of the biggest employers for people under 21.
  6. Define success on your terms. Determine what success means to do. Would bartending give you happiness? Would it create the environment you want to live in? Is the money the money you want to make? The point is to define your own life goals, and share them with the people who matter most. Talk to them about your dreams, what you want to accomplish and how or if attending bartending school will help you accomplish that goal.

Being willing to take the risk and talk to your parents about Bartending could open future doors that you've never thought possible.


The Parlor Bar at Aqua Vitae

The Parlor Bar on Aqua Vitae Institute’s third floor is dedicated to learning the craft of cocktails, unique ingredients, tools, and experimentation.

Deconstructed Mise En Place

For our classes and events, we feature a deconstructed mise en place which bridges the gap between home bartending and professional work, and allows our students and guests to experiment and easily take those skills and apply them to making drinks “a la minute” or made to order at home.

Advanced Tools

Here our students and guests will have the opportunity to experiment with a variety of tools including ice picks, lewis mallets, smoking guns, culinary blowtorches, liquid nitrogen, dry ice, molecular, kyoto drip, and sous vide cocktails.