Chicago Institute of Bartending

Opening April 2015

With more than 20,000 graduates from its training programs, the Institute of Bartending has come a very long way since its inception in 2001.

Founded by industry past master Len Fragomeni, the organisation first opened its doors in Toronto, Canada with the Toronto Institute of Bartending (or TIB to those in the know). Fragomeni’s background as a corporate trainer and district manager for one of Ontario’s biggest bar and restaurant chains allowed him to see a gap in the training requirements for nascent bartenders, servers and frontline hospitality workers. With his extensive background in the industry and huge knowledge of what it takes to be a success ‘behind the wood’ serving customers, he devised the training courses which would become the backbone of The Institute.

In just fourteen years, and now boasting a dedicated team of highly experienced industry instructors, it proclaims itself to be the top bartender and server training centre in North America, and more popular than many similar courses which have been around for decades. Such is its stratospheric rise, The Institute recently opened a program and training site – managed by Fragomeni’s business partner, industry pioneer Chris Natale – at their SpiritHouse cocktail bar in Old Montreal in January 2015, while April 2015 saw a branch open its doors at the SpiritHouse in the windy city of Chicago in the United States.

The Institute’s courses are exhaustive, with the Toronto branch – which is a Smart Serve approved training centre – offering several main programs along with supplementary workshops. The biggie is the Bartender Certification program, which for $399 comprises an intensive 26 hours of instruction split over 1, 2 or 4 weeks, depending on the course students opt for. The program is divided into four classes, covering everything from product tasting, stocking the bar, shooter skills training and cocktail garnishing, to handling glassware and champagne service. Nothing, but nothing, is missed out and graduates will walk away with all the skills they need to get working.

Smart Serve Certification, a compulsory government requirement for all people working with or around alcohol, is $65 and comes with Smart Serve Workbook, Testing and Certification Card, while Wine of Ontario Certification – also $65 – is a self-study at home package with a final test at the centre, and the price includes a Wines of Ontario Workbook, Testing and Certification. The ‘Job Ready Package’ offered by TIB to get graduates into work as fast as possible includes the aforementioned Bartender Certification, Smart Serve Certification and Wines of Ontario Certification combined, along with a 10 Piece Pro Bartenders Tool Kit for $429.

A handful of fun group workshops add yet more broad appeal to The Institute, with Team Building Cocktail Workshops, Bachelorette Martini Workshops for girls’ parties where groups can enjoy over twelve freshly made Martinis, and On-Site Group Workshops where Institute staff come to your location to teach you the art of drinks mixology. While Toronto offers all of these courses, Montreal runs the main Bartender Certification package and the group workshops only.

Along with Industry Services for corporate clients which include bar consulting, recipe and bar menu development and PR/media representation, The Institute provides students and graduates free use of the HospitalityServe Job Centre, which contains useful contacts, tips and employment possibilities accessible via a website. As further support, it offers a complete online bar store via affiliate BarProducts.com, where myriad items – from custom bar towels to glitter bottle openers – are available to purchase.

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