In the United States: The United States Bartenders Guild
Quite possibly the most well known in the United States is the United States Bartenders Guilds, or USBG for short. The USBG started back in 1948 and currently operates in over 50 cities and continues to grow as an organization. The main goal of the USBG is to “empower bartenders to take charge of their careers,” and they do this a few different ways:
- The USBG provides educational resources to all of their members through a few different channels. First, many chapters of the USBG conducts monthly meetings. These meetings are usually held in one of the members’ bars and the focus of each meeting can be anything from learning about vermouth, rare whiskies from the actual owners/distillers, or information about upcoming events.
- There is also a strong online education component called USBG Pulse. Every member has access to this educational resource which includes a user driven forum for sharing stories, advice and experience on cutting edge techniques behind the bar. This is a great resource for people to collaborate and build their networks both within their own markets and on a national level.
- Another great feature of this organization is access to what the USBG is calling “Featured Programs.” These featured programs are a great way for bartenders from all over the country to increase their knowledge of certain spirits by traveling to the distilleries and learning from the people that actually make the products. Currently there are 3 of these featured programs running, Academia Patron, Behind The Barrel (Wild Turkey) and Bombay Sapphire’s “Most Imaginative Bartender.” Bombay Sapphire’s program is more of a contest, but there may be an educational component to it as well.
- The last feature of the USBG that I’ll highlight is the Master Accreditation Program, or MA. This accreditation is the bartending world’s equivalent of the Court of Masters Sommelier certification process, or the Cicerone certification. There are currently 3 tiers to the program: Spirits Professional, Advanced Bartender, and finally the Master Mixologist certification. To progress through each level, there are different tests and practical exams. The final step to Master Mixologist requires the candidate to successfully defend a thesis as well as a practical exam.
Outside the United States: The International Bartenders Association
For those bartenders that are located outside of the United States, there is the International Bartenders Association, or IBA. The organization seems to have a very strong presence throughout Europe and Asia, and also emphasizes education and career growth for its members. From my understanding, the USBG does have a “relationship” with the IBA, but I’m not exactly sure what that means. Unfortunately, as I’m located in the USA, I don’t have as much experience with this organization, but it seems to be a really great resources for non-US based bartenders..
The IBA also has a certification component focusing on a few different areas from their US counterparts. Currently the IBA has certificates in the following areas :
- Bar Management
- The Elite Bartender Course
- Certificate in Bartending
- Foundation Course in Bartending
- Barista for Bartenders
- Social Responsibility
- IBA Trainer Certificate
One of the major focuses of the IBA is the standardization of classic and contemporary cocktail recipes. This is a great resource for any new bartender or enthusiast as it provides all of the important information you need in order to make the drink, such as the recipe, the directions on how to build the drink, the glassware and the garnish for each cocktail.
For Flair Bartenders:
I’ve also heard that the Flair Bartenders Association is a great resource for bartenders who flair or want to start. I can’t speak to its quality personally, as unfortunately I am far too uncoordinated to attempt flair bartending myself! If this is a field and skillset you are interested in, I’d say it’s worth a try.
On the Web
Another professional resource that may come as a surprise is actually … Facebook. If you can get past all of the pictures of people’s pets and Aunt Gertrude’s political rants, Facebook can be a great resource for professional development. Every day bartenders are having conversations about products, techniques, cocktail trends, management skills and upcoming events. Most of these posts are within bartending groups, closed groups and secret groups within Facebook.
To find these groups, search in the main Facebook “search” bar for “bartender” or “bartending”. I found dozens of groups accepting new members. Once you join one bartending group, Facebook will begin to make suggestions on other bartending groups in the right hand column. This may take some time to find the right groups, but this resource has definitely helped me over the years.
Finally, I’ve learned a lot – and met some really interesting people – in the Bartenders Subreddit on Reddit. This is a very large community of more than 10,000 readers that are a part of the community there and discussions arise covering everything from “What’s the best way to keep Mint fresh” to rants about awful customers and questions about unscrupulous management practices. I’ve found posting questions in this community can be a bit hit-or-miss: some conversations are extremely helpful, and others not as much as I’d hoped.
What did we miss?
These are only a handful of the professional bartending organizations available to us, and I’m hoping to hear about other organizations that exist. If you belong to a bartending organization that I didn’t mention, or have experience in any of the organizations that I mentioned, I’d love to hear about it. I will do my best to update this post with your suggestions.