The San Francisco School of Bartending (SF SOB) is one of many bartending schools in the city. But this one’s special… I went there!
So in the real world (misnoming SF as the ‘real world’) maybe 1 out of 4 bartenders went to bartending school. Maybe. Most start working as barbacks or waiters, learn the drinks over time, and then slowly move up to bartender. F-that! I want to be a bartender, not a grunt. The bartending schools advertise that with 40 hours of class time you’ll effectively skip 1-2 years of barback time. Word. Prices run around 300-400 dollars, the SF SOB was $395 but I hear is going up to $495 starting in 2008.
Based on my buddy’s experience with a competing school, the SF SOB’s layout is pretty standard. Each student has a full but compact bar to work with. The bottles are filled with water and food coloring to simulate each particular alcohol. Each day in class we learned a different class of drinks – martinis, teas, shots, beer and wine, coffee drinks… etc. We also went over basic bartender skills like handling drunk people, how to speed up a slow customer, or how to give change so you’ll get a fat tip,
The class is about 40 hours of instruction total. You can do that in two weeks at 4 hours a day or one week 8 hours a day. I opted for the two week version, and I’m glad I did, because 4 hours of pouring was plenty to wear me out. I did have a completely awesome instructor for those 4 hours a day. Jake went to college where I grew up, the land where beer and alcohol are a way of life. Jake’s got more than a dozen years experience in all kinds of bars and has a very solid understanding of the alcohol world, and does a great job communicating it. If you do go to the SF SOB, ask which class Jake is teaching. This is Jake:
At the end of the class, there’s a written final and a live final (kinda like the oral defense of your PhD thesis… yeah). For the live final, you have 7 minutes to make 12 drinks. The drinks come from the list of some ~120 drinks you learned over the past week. Not easy. I crammed like a mofo the night before and day of, and managed to know and correctly pour 11 of my 12 drinks in exactly 7 minutes, which tied for the top of my class. You have to get at least 9 of the 12 correct to pass.
The real reason the SF SOB is the best bartending school in the city is their job placement program. They’ve got more local listings in a private online database than anyone else, and someone there full time to help you get a job. Right away once you graduate you can get on their catering list, and get that key first line on your bartending resume. And once you get two or three lines on there, you may want to take the SF SOB off your resume completely, depending on who you’re trying to get a job with.