Harvard Bartending Course

Situated within the hallowed campus of the United States’ oldest institution of higher learning, the Harvard Bartending Course is – in terms of bartending schools – almost as prestigious as the Ivy League research university itself.

Established in 1963, the course is an historic part of the university and just one component of parent company Harvard Student Agencies, the biggest student-run enterprise in the world which employs over five hundred current students and alumni each and every year. Five decades of teaching have seen more than fifty thousand people pass through the school’s various training programs, designed by the original course founders to provide a platform for Harvard students to find work tending bar in order to see them through their studies. Little has changed from that original aim, other than today the Harvard Bartending Course (HBC) is open to both students and the wider Boston community – a small change introduced in 1972 which allows any and all to join the ever-growing number of graduates from the esteemed school.

The course is managed by high-flying Harvard sophomore Armand Hassan, who oversees all aspects of HBC alongside his role as manager of HSA Bar Services (of which more later), with day-to-day instruction in all classes provided by hospitality veteran Benjamin Stoller. Stoller has been the primary teacher for Harvard for more than ten years, and his trade and teaching experience stretches back over two decades, making him the perfect person to pass on the knowledge and skills required to make it in the real world of tending bar.

While Harvard Bartending’s offices are based just south of the main cluster of university buildings, its courses are actually held in two other locations within the Cambridge city’s sprawling campus: the student’s favourite watering hole of John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House, and the Cambridge Queen’s Head pub which is tucked in the bowels of the Memorial Hall monument. Classes are taught at both venues with the location dictated by whatever workshop you choose.

There are five different courses on offer at HBC, the first being ‘Intro to Mixology’, a fun class where you can learn the basics of prepping and presenting drinks, all overseen by experienced student teachers and supervised by Stoller. The next step up is ‘The Art of Mixology’ ($149.99), a hands-on four hour afternoon session run out of the Queen’s Head public house. With this course you will be taught all about mixing (or ‘mixology’), going into micro detail about the fundamentals of preparing any alcoholic drink – such as cocktails, daiquiris, shots and frozen drinks – to perfection, coupled with input on setting up bar, equipment use and knowledge, and learning about alcohols and mixers. Upon successful completion you will receive Harvard’s ‘Art of Mixology’ certification to use when applying for jobs in the bartending world.

If you are looking for an enjoyable evening with a group of friends, HBC’s exclusive ‘Beer and Food Tasting’ workshop is hard to beat. $89.99 gets you a two hour course stuffed with content – specifically drinking and tasting various beers, eating copious amounts of food (dinner is included) which you will pair with the best beer, and full tuition on the history and production processes of beers themselves. The private dining room at the John Harvard hosts these classes, and instruction is given by a beer expert.

For those thinking of working with or around alcohol, for $149.99 the Harvard company also offers TIPS Certification. TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedure) provides full training in responsible alcohol sales, customer service and gives instruction on your legal and personal responsibilities as a bar worker; while not mandatory in Boston many establishments do require prospective staff to hold a TIPS qualification. This Queen’s Head course is four hours in length with a final examination and certification card for successful candidates.

Finally, HBC’s most popular course is its ‘Deluxe Package’. $289.99 gets you both the ‘Art of Mixology’ program and TIPS certification in one package for a slightly reduced price; these intensive courses run out of the Queen’s Head and last a full day (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), with graduates receiving their TIPS certificates and Harvard Bartending Course Diploma at the culmination of the nine hour class.

One of the perks of enrolling with or graduating from Harvard Bartending is you automatically become eligible to work as a member of employable staff at their ‘Hire a Bartender’ company, operated by the aforementioned HSA Bar Services. Private events are frequently looking for professionally trained, TIPS certified bar staff to provide service, and Harvard hires out students and alumni just for this role. The business also sells various items via its website, such as complete Bartender’s Tool Kits ($25) containing cocktail strainers, speed pourers and a corkscrew, Bartending course tee shirts ($10), and the ‘Bartender’s Black Book’ ($15), a pocket-sized bible of drinks-making which includes thousands of recipes.

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