A-List Startenders

Located at the busy junction of Milwaukee and Montrose in Chicago’s lively Portage Park neighbourhood, A-List Startenders is hard to miss: its façade is bold, bright and inviting, and the theme is carried into the building itself, with a hi tech interior of cutting edge, ultra-modern décor and equipment designed to dazzle and energize students from the outset.

The effect is deliberate – co-owners and founder Greg Tatavosian want budding bartenders to experience a unique, energetic and immersive vibe, and to impart their extensive bartending knowledge and work ethic to everyone who walks through the school’s front doors. After all, when they founded the business in 2008 they built everything – bar the plumbing – by hand themselves, which lends considerable weight to their mantra that ‘No one works harder or does it better’ when it comes to teaching you the art of tending bar.

With glowing reviews across social media and from industry professionals, A-List Startenders describes itself as ‘top tier school with hi tech teaching aids’ and boasts innovative training methods designed to produce bartenders who are confident and comfortable working the bars and clubs of Chicago. Within the confines of their lengthy mock bar – its rear wall emblazoned with the motivational slogan ‘Creating Ultimate Bartenders’ – Greg uses a combination of smart boards, LCD flat screens and a fully operational POS (Point of Sale) computerized touchscreen system, coupled with instruction on the skills and tricks of the trade to teach pupils all they need to know. Students are worked hard, with a fast-paced yet – via the funny, helpful and knowledgeable instructors – incredibly enjoyable program where, as one graduate put it, ‘you’re gonna sweat, but you're gonna feel driven every second.’

A List offers a comprehensive, forty hour ‘Professional Certification Course’ for $350, which consists of four hours of tuition a day (either afternoon or evening sessions) spread over a ten day period. All course materials are provided, as well as the all-important BASSETT (Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training) certification which is now mandatory in the City of Chicago – this certificate is state accredited and essential for anyone seeking employment where they will sell or serve alcohol. The training program consists of numerous modules where students will learn about opening and closing procedures, wine basics, trade lingo, pouring techniques and the history of spirits and liquor, amongst many other skills and abilities. Add to this some important input on legal and personal responsibilities, mixing cocktails and memorising more than fifty recipes for drinks, and the course is a comprehensive test of your bartending credentials – all of which will be properly tested in an assessment on the final day, where only a pass will see you receive your certification.

At the other end of the spectrum, A List offers a fun Essential Mixology mini-workshop for $60, where you can attend on a weekend – the course is four hours long and runs on a Saturday or Sunday – and enjoy time behind the bar as you learn to create stunning cocktails and pair garnishes and fruits with unique spirits to wow your family and friends. The school also offers bespoke private lessons and refresher courses which can be arranged via the company website.

A List alumni are not left in the cold once they have completed the school’s Professional Certification Course, either – graduates are assisted with improving their résumés in order to help them secure that first interview, coupled with an aggressive job search and placement program.

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