The Cocktail Camp

In recent years the Mission District of San Francisco has been gentrified, morphing into something of a cultural and entrepreneurial hub as new companies shift further north from Silicon Valley. The California city’s Bay area now boasts a huge startup scene which nestles comfortably alongside the established tech giants such as Twitter, Airbnb and Pinterest.

One such new kid on the block is The Cocktail Camp, the brainchild of bartending school vet and self-styled ‘cocktail queen’ Rohini Moradi. Already experienced with establishing and working for similar companies – she was founding partner of San Francisco Bartending Academy and an instructor for San Francisco School of Bartending, as well as working behind bars, editing magazines and setting up a herbal mixology enterprise – Moradi opened up The Cocktail Camp (TCC) in June of 2015, teaming with celebrated mixologist Daniel Hyatt to ‘put the heart back into the art of bartending’. Hyatt himself is a multi-talented and massively experienced bar guy, having worked and managed some of SF’s most well-known establishments; together with Moradi he has set up what the duo describe as ‘San Francisco's premier bartending school offering the best hands-on certification program.’

The Cocktail Camp is based out of Mission’s renowned Slate Bar on 16th Street, a sleek, modern lounge and dance club where students will learn the ropes amongst the real world surroundings of huge couches, pool tables and a lengthy bar filled with equipment. The hands-on courses are taught by professional instructors (including Moradi and Hyatt themselves), all of whom have a minimum of ten years’ experience plus BarSmarts accreditation, and classes are deliberately kept small so students receive equal supervision at all times. The school’s ultimate aim is to produce high class professional bartenders who have the wherewithal to shine behind the bar – or indeed anywhere in the hospitality industry.

Whereas many bartending schools offer numerous courses and can often spread themselves too thinly, TCC focuses on streamlined quality over quantity with one main training program and a cluster of short workshops. Their carefully-curated main curriculum involves students spending time behind the Slate’s bar during opening hours and the use of real ingredients, plus all students receive a free bartender’s tool kit. Post-course care is of a similar standard, utilising TCC’s well-developed industry connections, apprenticeship programs, and résumé consultations in order to get graduates working as quickly as possible.

The Camp’s ‘Certification Course’ (typically $425 but frequently offered for $325) is an immersive twenty-five hour program of intensive modules designed to get even the greenest of wannabe bar keeps quickly flying solo. Students will learn the very basics via ‘orientation’, the procedures for opening and closing bar (plus what all those odd-looking instruments actually do), customer service, garnish prep, glassware and even how to pop and swap a beer keg. On top of these, lessons will cover the background and processes that go into distillation and barrel aging, the fundamentals to creating any cocktail, and the history of – plus tasting sessions with – vodka, gin, tequila and rum. Courses are weekly (Monday through Friday, 10am to 3pm) or consecutive weekends (full Saturdays or Sundays) for four weeks.

For those looking to taste the life of a bartender, or if you already work behind the stick and fancy learning some new skills, TCC’s ‘Mixology Sessions’ are fun two hours spots for $95. Moradi and co will give you the opportunity to learn the fundamentals – such as drinks history and cocktail recipes – before getting behind the bar and using real tools to create delicious drinks – which you can then enjoy yourself.

The aforementioned bartender’s tool kits – $49, and hand crafted by Stagger Lee Goods – as well as Stagger Lee denim aprons ($110) are available through the school’s online store, while it also offers a bespoke bartender hire service for anybody seeking to staff their own private party or event.

For alumni, the program doesn’t end when you walk out of the school with your certification: ex-students can return for free to sit in on classes in order to brush up on their knowledge, while the ‘Mixology Sessions’ are available at a discount. Graduates and students can take advantage of TCC’s private ‘Student Center’ which contains numerous helpful topics, including suggested reading lists and customer service tips, while The Camp’s ‘Employment Center’ offers résumé consultations and an apprenticeship program which consists of free one hour sessions where you will learn even more alongside cocktail wizard Daniel Hyatt.

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