The Tradition of Apprenticeship
Apprenticeship is a tradition that stretches back centuries and across cultures, well before the sound of the first cocktail shaker graced the ears of thirsty bar patrons. In many ways, it’s a more formalized Mentor-Mentee relationship. The original structures created centuries ago by tradespeople and guilds the world over are still the framework for training in any skilled profession today. Actors have understudies, priests have their novitiates, Journeymen butchers have their apprentices.
The craft of tending bar is no exception. You would no more hand the keys to a bar to a teenage barback any more than you would ask a pre-med student to conduct surgery. Whether it was a stretch in the trenches of barbacking or learning from a wizened master, senior bartenders will all attest to the importance of their own humble beginnings. The finest aged spirits take skill and a good bit of time to reach full maturity. It is only after years of dedicated work that bartenders find themselves at the top of their field or local market.
In another era, becoming an apprentice was as easy as having your parent essentially hand you over as a child to the local craftsperson for a term of 3 to 7 years. The roadmap to apprenticeship may be a little different today from its medieval roots, but it’s still there for those that want to learn a trade, and no less important. Tending bar is a skilled profession, and if your goal in the world of bartending is to succeed, your primary goal is to become skilled.