BareBones Bartending School

A true new kid on the block, BareBones Bartending School cuts everything to basics with a ballsy, no frills attitude which eschews the bloat and attendant costliness of many established programs in the Canadian hospitality training industry. Not for them the month-long courses and multiple packages promising to elevate you to a cocktail artiste: BareBones aims to deliver short, sharp instruction guaranteed to get you serving behind a bar and earning money almost immediately.

Formed in December 2014, BareBones Bartending School (BBS) is owned and run by Nick Peach and Geoff Nichols, two highly experienced individuals who have worked many of Toronto’s premier hotels, restaurants, private members clubs and bars. Supported by a ‘revolving team’ of many of the city’s top bartenders and servers as guest instructors, the company ethos is to deliver uncomplicated, value for money training in as short a time as possible, in an environment where egos are left at the door. They are at pains, however, to stress that BareBones does not mean less, or that the school is cheap or easy – they simply do not believe that calling yourself a ‘certified mixologist’ or being able to spin bottles on your arm means that you are adept at keeping thirsty people happy when tending bar.

With a curriculum created using the knowledge gained from numerous hospitality professionals from a broad range of disciplines and venues – with an emphasis on teaching students what really matters when tending bar – the school mainly works out of the Madison Avenue Pub in downtown Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, and evening cocktail classes see them in residence at the city’s ultra-hip creative co-working space of East Room.

Its two main courses are simple, streamlined and extremely affordable, with the aforementioned $59 evening class designed as a fun introductory learning experience for friends, colleagues and small groups who want to spend a few interesting hours together, creating and serving cocktails, researching beer and how it is made, and brushing up on wine selection skills. The BBS main ‘Bartender Program’ ($199) takes place over two days on a weekend, and is an intensive, hands-on ‘crash course’ designed to train absolute beginners to become complete bartenders, leaving them equipped with everything they will need to start serving. Topics covered include wine knowledge, pouring lessons for craft and specialty beers, making syrups and using herbs, as well as instruction on all the bar tools you will use and achieving a professional shake, stir and strain with mixes. On top of this, BBS will show you how to succeed at a working interview and provide tips on surviving your first week in a busy bar environment.

The school also offers a ‘Corporate’ deal, essentially a hybrid of private event and interactive cocktail training, where for $499 groups of up to eight people – work colleagues, friends, holiday groups and so forth – will receive a bespoke party where two staff from the school come to you with all the drinks and equipment you will need – and you will even get to make and drink your own cocktails.

BareBones affiliate BYOB Cocktail Emporium, located on Toronto’s Queen Street, offers exclusive discounts to students and graduates and offers a huge amount of bartending equipment, while for those who enrol the school itself provides full support via its private Instagram feed – updated weekly with industry events, new cocktail recipes and job opportunities – and complementary monthly follow up classes, free of charge to graduates who want to learn the new tricks of the trade to stay ahead of the competition.

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