National Bartenders School New Jersey

Independent and proud of it, the popular National Bartenders School has a thoroughly inviting ‘mom and pop’ feel due to its warm and welcoming owners Lambert and Laura Epperly. They are the very definition of hands-on, and take pride in guiding students through their school’s training programs and into work – and have been doing so successfully for over three decades.

Founded in 1984 – it recently celebrated its thirtieth anniversary – National Bartenders School (NBS) has spent its entire life in the busy, upmarket Woodbridge Township right at the heart of New Jersey. New York City is just a short hop away, and the school is ideally placed for not just New Jersey itself but Staten Island, where hundreds of graduates have originated from.

The Epperlys have many years of bartending and hospitality experience between them and put it to good use: over fourteen thousand people have graduated and gone on to find work in the trade since the school’s inception, after being taught by the couple and their staff of bartending gurus. Even thirty-one years down the line, Lambert and Laura still maintain a full day-to-day role in the running of the business and training, personally helping all students and offering the necessary guidance.

The NBS is the oldest state-certified bartending school in central New Jersey, being licensed by the Department of Education – every single one of its professional instructors have passed all the mandatory background checks as required by the department – and is also approved by Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The Better Business Bureau has awarded it an A Plus rating and accreditation for the services it provides, and its classes are available in both English and Spanish, while in 2012 the PBSA (Professional Bartending Schools of America) presented it with the Contribution Award for Outstanding Achievement.

The school’s Woodbridge HQ is reminiscent of your favourite watering hole or cocktail bar: their lounge classroom boasts a fully equipped, forty foot long bar stocked with all the bottles, glassware, tools and soda guns students will need, in an environment carefully designed to recreate a real working establishment. Pupils study the instructors in full drink-making flow in order to learn the basics, then practise for themselves with close supervision, carrying out modules such as ‘Happy Hour Drills’ to improve speed and dealing with customers while under pressure.

NBS has a main program called the ‘Professional Mixology Course’ ($300). During forty hours of tuition across ten four-hour modules – spread over one or two weeks, or a bespoke schedule agreed with the student – you will study everything you need to take your first steps into the hospitality industry as a bar keep. From setting up and ‘breaking down’ a bar at the end of a shift to the preparation of over one hundred drinks (where you will learn every single recipe by heart), Lambert and Laura’s staff will guide you. Martinis and Manhattans will be mixed and served, the history of wine and beer will be investigated, and your customer service responsibilities as a provider of alcoholic beverages will be relayed to you via TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) certification. At the end of the program you should walk away confident in the knowledge that you know how to work a jigger, pour the perfect pint of Guinness and speed-pour shots for a group of twenty end-of-the-week-thirsty business people.

A more compact version of the ‘Professional Mixology’ course is available as a sixteen hour ‘Hands On Bartending Class’. Fun, intensive and packed full of information, its current price of $99 (it has dropped from $220) allows you to take part in various modules including mixology practice where you will create cream drinks and highballs or Collins and sours, all the while working behind the school’s mock bar under the watchful eye of the Epperlys and their team. National Bartenders also runs several short four hour ‘Mixology’ workshops – costing $59 for one person and $99 for two people – where students can choose from a selection of classes, such as ‘Party Shots’, ‘Rocks Drinks’ or ‘Wines’. Interested military veterans should contact the school direct, as it offers significant discount to armed forces vets.

Graduates of the NBS receive lifetime ‘job placement assistance’ from Lambert and Laura, and from the school’s website which has a student portal where local – and national, thanks to its affiliation with the PBSA – employment opportunities are posted. Alumni from the school have gone on to work, run and even own establishment across the region, while ex-students have found places at airports – such as LaGuardia and Newark – baseball stadiums and arts centres. Refresher courses and mixing practice are free for life to graduates who can turn up any time to brush up on new drinks, while for those interested in the school it operates an ‘Open Door’ policy where the Epperlys welcome anyone who wishes to sit in and watch a class in action, or speak to students and instructors before signing up for any of its classes.

Since its first year the National Bartenders School has offered a professional bartending service. Fully-qualified staff and graduates are available for hire at any public or private event – weddings, concerts, corporate parties, for example – or for seasonal work, and the school has provided people for many of New Jersey’s major staffing agencies.

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