One of the things we are looking at during our preparations for our sailing trip is finding ways to earn money and keep ourselves busy. While we are definitely looking forward to sailing, relaxing, enjoying quiet mornings on the water and watching the sun go down with a rum drink in our hands, we both know that we are not the types to just sit around and do nothing for months on end. Therefore, we’ve been looking into different options for things to do while we’re in the islands to both engage our interest and to potentially earn an income. So it was in this vein that Cindy first suggested that we get trained as bartenders, an idea that I immediately jumped on board with. I’ve always been a foodie and extending that interest to learning mixology is a natural fit, in the right bar environment I would expect it to be fun opportunity to interact with people and it’s definitely a very portable skill that would serve us well in the Caribbean (no pun intended).
I found a bartending school up in Nashville that offers a forty-hour training course that can be done on Saturdays over a period of five weeks. We both signed up and this past Saturday drove up to Nashville for our first class. What a total blast! The class is taught in a room set up like a real bar, complete with a granite-countertopped bar, ice bins, music, soda guns, glasses, sinks and a complete liquor bottle setup on the back bar. And for 8 solid hours, we did nothing but mix up drinks, over and over again, until it became second nature.
In our first class, we learned to mix cream drinks (including the titular Pink Squirrel), sour drinks and after dinner drinks. We learned that most drinks are just minor variations on a basic drink recipe. We learned which drinks went in which glasses, which drinks are shaken, which are stirred, which are blended and which drinks get garnishes and which don’t. We learned how to keep our bar clean and minimize our movements while pouring so we don’t wear ourselves out. And we learned that we really loved bartending!
One interesting thing to note though was that, while the bar setup in the classroom was very real, the liquors we were using were not. Obviously, having half-a-dozen people per class mixing up drinks for several hours at a stretch would mean going through a LOT of expensive liquor. The school gets around this by using colored water to simulate the various types of liquor. The thing is, the color and behavior of these substitutes is spot-on. The sour mix even has a little detergent added to it to make it foam up just like real sour mix does when shaken. Cherries, orange slices and limes are replaced by plastic look-alikes. Whipped cream is replaced by shaving cream, not because it’s cheaper but because real whipped cream draws bugs and ants too easily. All of the liquor bottles, though, were real…this gives you the proper feel when you’re pouring and mixing.
The bottom line is…we were both very impressed by our bartending school and are really looking forward to our upcoming classes! Four more to go (scattered over the next month and a half due to our travel schedule) and we’ll be certified bartenders. Our plan from there is to work private events and parties on an as-desired basis (the school helps in this by maintaining a contact list of folks who want to work these events and coordinating with events that need bartenders) and possibly helping out at a neighbor’s bar just to gain some experience.
Oh and, for the record, a Pink Squirrel does NOT get a whipped (or shaving) cream topper on it.