Master's in mixology is the degree at this school

  • By Ashley Johnson
  • Medill News Service
  • August 09, 2007 @ 6:37 AM

Harsh Singh didn't mind when his student grabbed four vodka bottles and poured a drink.

After all, that's what class is for-and the bottles contained water.

Under Singh's guidance, a small group of students spend 40 hours, over one or two weeks, studying the finer points of bartending at ABC Bartending, 1034 W. Belmont Ave.

ABC, a nationwide chain of schools, teaches students how to pour, check identification, cut off someone who has had too much to drink-and of course, mix a mean margarita.

"You can look up recipes on the Web," Singh said. "Unless you've been behind a bar, then you won't know what you're doing."

Although a bartending certificate is not required in Illinois, Singh, 37, a former bar manager, recommends taking the class to build confidence and develop an arsenal of drink knowledge.

The state also offers the Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training, a program that covers the legal ramifications of serving alcohol.

ABC makes sure students are prepared for the real world-and then some.

Singh said most of a bartender's business consists of 10 drinks, including a martini, cosmopolitan and vodka and Red Bull. But ABC students must master 40 drinks, pass a written test and be able to make 12 drinks in seven minutes.

To learn the drinks, Ken Mizuhara, 18, relies on a technique students of all disciplines use to memorize facts: note cards.

"It's like when you study your vocab words," he said while holding a set of pink note cards with drink titles on the front and ingredients on the back.

For Mizuhara, who plans to study medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, bartending will probably be a summer job -- although Illinois law requires those serving alcohol to be 21, there are some exceptions.

He's banking on making from $10 to $30 an hour, including tips, based on Singh's salary projections.

Graduate student Jeanette Drake, 23, signed up for ABC so she can work as a bartender at night while attending class at Columbia College in the daytime.

She has learned to watch for customers who need to put the bottle down.

"Apparently, drunken females are the worst to cut off," she said. "Guys are like, 'OK' and move on to the next bar; girls it's personal-in most cases."

Amateurs who don't want to take a class should consider buying a kit and practicing at home, Singh suggested.

The most important thing is attitude.

As Mizuhara said, "You just need confidence. If you see a guy behind the bar who's grabbing things, moving pretty smoothly, even if he makes a mistake, you won't notice."