I've always considered the term “bartending school” an oxymoron. The reason I'm a bartender at all is because I didn't give a flying tortoise turd about school when I was in it, so why in the hell would I want to go there now?
But it's easy to see why they exist. Once people started noticing how much money bartenders make at a job that allows you to get drunk with your customers, admire hot babes and rock out to a live band or bitchin' jukebox all night-well, they all want in. So there was an influx of people wanting the job. It started happening in the early '80s and continues today-a sort of bartender gold rush-and so these bartender schools began cropping up all over the place.
The problem is there are very few bar managers who will hire inexperienced bartenders from a bartending academy. This is for two reasons: Thanks to the bartender gold rush, there's an enormous surplus of experienced unemployed bartenders to choose from, and bar schools don't usually produce quality bartenders. Like a regular school, they focus on the wrong things.
Bartender academia is all about teaching drink recipes and how to pour fast and accurately, but they say nothing of the underbelly of the job, never mentioning the seedy workplace where booze blazes through brain cells and sexual predators stalk their prey, where meth is sold out of bathrooms, punches are thrown before questions are asked and idiots rule. In other words, they fail to prepare you for real bartending in the real world.
That's why when the Yearning Annex asked me to teach a bartending course of my own, I vowed that it would not be like the others. My bar school will prepare students for what bartending is truly like. And, trust me, they'll be grateful. Whether they're slinging shots of Jack Daniels in a sweltering biker bar or heating snifters of brandy at the Top of the Hyatt, they'll all eventually have to wipe a pool of vomit off the top of the bar and carry some sot out the door.
Here's the course description as it will appear in the Yearning Annex catalog:
Real Bartending in the Real World
Your instructor, Edwin Decker, is a 12-year veteran of the bar business. His widely acclaimed novel, “Peach Schnapps is for Pussies,” has sold 8 million copies and been translated into 12 languages. Excerpts from his collection of essays, “Big Boobs = Free Drinks (How Breast Implants Pay for Themselves),” have been printed in more than 100 trade magazines.
In Part 1 of the course, Mr. Decker will demonstrate: How to fake laugh at stupid jokes. How to escape talkative bores. How to ignore special requests. And how much saliva is appropriate when spitting into an obnoxious customer's drink. “The amount of spit,” Mr. Decker says, “should be proportionate to the level of the customer's obnoxiousness.”
In Part 2, Mr. Decker will detail: The various types of bar brawls you will encounter and which of the 16 pool balls makes the best weapon. “Use the cue ball,” he suggests, “because it is larger and denser than the others.”
Also in this section, Mr. Decker will demonstrate martial-arts techniques for: Wrestling car keys out of an inebriate's grip, Kung Fu kicking the pool table to get a ball unstuck and dragging drunk women out of the bar without touching their breasts (much).
In Part 3 the instructor will discuss the language of the business in three sections: 1. Bar Jargon-such as “chilled,” “neat,” “straight-up,” “rocks,” “skank,” “stiff” and “bar hag.” 2. Introduction to Drunkspeak-“For example,” says Mr. Decker, “when a drunk says, ‘Phrok sloss grack givill enk,' it means, “Please, sir, direct me to the nearest vomitorium.” 3. Epithets-Mr. Decker will recommend a repertoire of these to use against disrespectful customers, including “crotchpie,” “asswench” and “goddamn stiffing prick.”
As a bonus, Part 4 will feature Mr. Decker's award-winning comebacks to stupid questions such as, “Do you have anything good here?” To which Mr. Decker recommends you answer, “Yeah, pictures of your sister in bed with a donkey.”
Writer's note: Re-reading this column made me think about my first encounter with a bar-school bartender. It was at the Bacchanal. I was working with my old pal Steve Atencio. I was just promoted from bar back to bartender, and Steve was hired to replace me as bar back. They also brought in this new graduate from bartender school to work the other well.
We were slammed one night-I mean, really slammed. Steve and I kicked into high gear, but Bar School Boy froze up; he just stood there, like he was rusted or something. A line formed and people were hollering drink orders, and he didn't know what to do. Steve had to push him out of the well and take over. The guy just walked off-shift and left the two of us to slug it out in the bog. He probably went to the pub across the street and drowned his shame in Peach schnapps. Pussy.
By the way, Steve runs his own bar now, Mr. G's Tavern, a neighborhood bar. It's kinda like that cool basement you and your friends hung out in during high school. Check it out: 7081 University Ave. near SDSU. (mrgstavern.com)