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Bartending may seem like an in-situ skill: Indeed, it's difficult to translate the energy and instruction of an in-person bartending class to a virtual experience. Still, a spate of schools can do just that, offering online bartending classes for home-bound drinkers.
This list includes classes hosted by award-winning mixologists and classes that focus on service skills. Some lessons dive into cocktail history, while others teach students how to build their own drinks.
It has never been easier to learn a new skill or dive into an unknown category of spirits—and most of the below classes are offered at the learner's own pace, so students can be as noncommital as they want. Plus, all of these courses are offered completely online, with easy-to-digest instructions and interactive quizzes to test students' knowledge.
The 7 Best Online Bartending Schools of 2020
Best Overall: BarSmarts
Created and sponsored by Pernod Ricard, the world's second-largest wine and spirits distillery in the world, BarSmarts provides starter bar knowledge for industry members and cocktail aficionados, covering spirits, classic cocktails, cocktail history, and service management.
Originally an in-person class, Pernod Ricard built a comprehensive online learning platform that can be accessed by any bartending enthusiast, anywhere.
This program kicks off with profiles of every spirits category, covering the history of the spirit, cocktail applications, and guided video tastings. It moves through a compendium of cocktail recipes and a variety of serving techniques, as well as important moments in the history of cocktails, taught by the class's resident historian and correspondent for Esquire Magazine, David Wondrich.
The course ends with the DrinkBuilder exam. To ace it, bartenders must make seven different classic cocktails pulled from previous readings. Participants have two chances to pass each module’s test and 60 days to finish up the full program. If they pass, graduates walk away with a certificate and the opportunity to level up to the advanced course, which has famous bartender Dale DeGroff and wine and spirits expert Steve Olson as educators.
The course costs $29 and is recommended for anyone from professionals to enthusiasts.
Best Expert Instructors: Masterclass With Ryan Chetiyawardana
The founder of boundary-pushing cocktail bar Dandelyan and a former titleholder of Tales of the Cocktail's International Bartender of the Year, Ryan Chetiyawardana has teamed up with MasterClass for a virtual cocktail course. To add even more expertise, he called in his friend Lynnette Marrero, of New York’s Llama San and founder of female-only bartending competition Speedrack, to help.
The two take turns bouncing through topics, covering everything from practical tips for cocktail making to insights on the industry to stories of their own experience. For example, in one lesson, Marrero covers the history of the craft cocktail movement and the importance of mentorship. In another, Chetiyawardana speaks through his views on why students don’t need fancy ingredients to create a world-class cocktail program.
Through a series of 17 hands-on lessons, Masterclass members learn how to stock a home bar, create a range of party-ready cocktails, and curate a drink menu for any and every occasion.
The lesson plan includes dedicated classes for egg white sours, Old Fashioneds, Martinis, and more, as well as a full lesson on exploring drinkers' palates.
Students can get access to this and every course on the site for $15 a month (which is billed annually), and perhaps fill their spare time with a cooking class by American chef Alice Waters, a wine class with critic James Suckling, or a creativity class by film director David Lynch.
Best for Bar Owners: Jerry
Spirits distributor and bar consultancy firm Proof & Company built the Jerry program for its clients who were looking for more knowledge for their own bars but couldn’t find a cohesive education program. This program is their answer—an easy-to-use online training tool for beverage professionals.
They have since expanded beyond their client base, and now the platform is used by bars like Employees Only and spirits producers like Maison Ferrand. Made up of 24 online courses at 30 minutes each, Jerry provides intel on everything a working bar professional will need, running the gamut of preparation, beverage types, operations basics, ethics, and leadership.
The course is named after the godfather of cocktails and author of the oldest surviving cocktail recipe book, Jerry Thomas, and the class carries on that legacy by imparting his creativity and flair on students.
A range of courses covers niche categories: Think styles of herbal liqueurs, how to host events, the basics of beverage retail, and more. Courses are taught by star bartenders from around the world like Monica Berg, Chris Lowder, and James Goggin.
The service is structured as a subscription in which, for $10 a month, members get access to all off Jerry's 125+ courses. Although it's marketed as a course for bar professionals, the low cost means that anyone can pick the class up and learn. Alternatively, learners can pay $30 for access to use just one of Jerry's five courses.
Best Deep-Dives: Ananas
One part learning platform, one part comprehensive training program, Ananas is a particularly great tool for owners and managers because it brings the skills to automate team onboarding and synchronize training. It doesn’t disclude mixologists, though, since bartenders can use the program to add a certified selection of skills to a resume.
There are two levels to the program: Basics is an excellent place to start, while more experienced students can skip directly to Intermediate. Basic courses cover everything wine to beer to cocktail, bar, and customer service. The cocktail class, for example, provides 52 cocktail recipes and how to mix them, while the customer service course covers hosting and how to prepare for guests.
The intermediate program is broken into focused modules—it lets users pick seminars based on areas they want to improve in, and several of the courses are taught by industry leaders. An example is the History of Gin class, taught by Ford’s Gin founder Simon Ford. The class is broken into eight lessons, eight videos, and three recipes. Students will take a deep dive into gin, how it's made, where it comes from, and how to use it. There's also an intermediate course in the ever-intimidating topic of wine, led by certified sommelier Ben Moechtar that covers reds, whites, and rosés over 12 lessons and videos.
Ananas offers the usual slate of industry knowledge and history, but there’s also a selection of videos on quirkier topics like how to use liquid nitrogen in cocktails or how to balance plates on one arm to keep things interesting.
Best for Working Bartenders: A Bar Above Mixology
Owner and founder Chris Tunstall created A Bar Above with the intention of bringing an advanced cocktail program to bartenders. This isn’t a program for someone with a passing interest in bartending, as it’s designed to take current skills and careers to the next level, with advice on cocktail design and techniques.
However, for newer bartenders or people who want to hone their skills before taking the Mixology certification, A Bar Above has a basics seminar that talks drinkers through making cocktails at home, using bartending tools, and proper mixology technique.
Step one of the mixology program focuses on ingredients, covering everything from what products to use behind the bar to how to get the most out of them in cocktails. Step two takes students through how to balance cocktails and plan out a cocktail on paper. Step three is the two-part certification exam, consisting of a multiple-choice quiz and a practical exam that has participants making an original cocktail using the framework taught in the course.
All materials are taught via HD videos and interactive quizzes. One of the best parts of the program is that it provides virtual community and mentorship opportunities, all via the online platform and chat boards.
The cost of programs is $147, but with that comes lifetime access to the assets, so students can come back anytime to refresh skills, learn tricks from the community, or network.
Best Budget: Diageo Bar Academy
Founded and curated by one of the world’s largest spirits companies, Diageo Bar Academy maps out everything one needs to start a bar. The academy was kickstarted as Diageo’s initiative of improving the quality of bar staff. To do this, they tapped industry influencers and experts to bring training programs and drink inspirations to Diageo’s network of bartenders and brand fans.
To date, they have trained tens of thousands of bar staff across the globe, and this large community is one of the biggest draws of the program. Training modules are led by industry leaders, and the academy doubles as a networking hub, connecting bartenders around the globe.
Bar Academy’s modules and courses are designed to cater to a broad audience, and information is useful to different bar styles and staff, as well as people looking to broaden their bar knowledge. It’s one of the most comprehensive training programs available—there are courses on high-skill techniques, service skills, product knowledge, and business operations.
Their offerings also include well-being and physical health modules that are useful for anyone working in the notoriously hectic and stressful service industry.
There’s a reason members are loyal to the platform—Bar Academy keeps members up to date on news and trends in the industry, which means the service is an invaluable resource for any industry professional. The best part? It's completely free.
Best Beginner: Udemy Bartending
Udemy has over 100,000 courses available on the website, from cooking to winemaking to bartending and spirits courses. The bartending selection alone is vast. Bartender Paul Martin—a two-time Guinness World Record holder for speed mixing—offers a crash course in home bartending for $30, complete with sections on garnishes, mixing, and classic cocktail mastery. Carlos Batista, a certified sommelier and spirit specialist, leads a master class on gin for $50. Participants need no prior experience, and the sommelier-author walks viewers through gin types, brands to know, flavors, origins, and cocktails. Batista also leads courses on cordials, vodka, tequila, and more rarefied options.
There are also courses on designing bottle labels and courses on managing bars. There’s even a course on the chemistry of alcoholic beverages. All graduates walk away with a certificate, and courses offer open and direct communication with instructors.
One should note that Udemy’s courses are aimed at those looking for casual courses in the bar world. Most are a few hours long, and they tend to be aimed at the new or home bartender looking to expand their skills, or beginners just looking to get their feet wet.
Udemy offers courses for free but with those free courses, graduates won’t come out of the course with a certificate or have access to an instructor like in the paid options.
How We Choose the Best Bartending Classes
The offerings on this list teach a range of skills to bartenders of all levels and with varying budgets. Courses cover everything from practical skills to the history to recipes. It was important that each course on this list touch on most, if not all, aspects of bartending—not just making drinks.
We also wanted to target a wide range of skills and technical knowledge that bartenders need to thrive, so we included courses that cover topics like beginner wine knowledge or more advanced techniques like working with dry ice.
We also wanted to diversify the options based on price and level of commitment. Some courses dive deep into bartending over several hours of classes, while others are free services that can be picked up and dropped at will.
Although burgeoning bartenders will get more or less out of some of these courses depending on their skill level, each one is backed up by industry experts and esteemed organizations in the world of spirits.