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Bartender Question: How do I Cut a Customer Off?

In the bartending industry, certified bartenders may find themselves facing rowdy customers who have had a little too much to drink. Knowing the signs of over-intoxication, and when to say no are part of responsible server training. America’s Alcohol Certified Education Association asked bartending pro Jeffrey Morgenthaler how to cut someone off - on the subject, he says, "Telling someone “No more” can lead to an uncomfortable situation. So that’s why I now try to approach the denial of alcohol from a hospitality-centric perspective: I’m the one who helped get you into this mess, and now I’m going to be the one who helps you get out of it – a bartender in every sense of the word." Some of the best methods for cutting unruly customers fall into the category of simply caring for your customer. You want them to continue to come back for a long time to come, which means that in no condition should they get in their car while inebriated. Jeffrey suggests simply explaining this to them - and then by suggesting food, soft drinks, water or coffee to over-inebriated guests, you keep them in a safe place, while giving them a little bit more time to sober up. The next step after diffusing the situation is to alert the rest of your crew, so that nobody continues to over-serve your guest. Bartenders who seem caring, who de-escalate the situation, and who offer to help clients seem to have the best results when cutting off customers. Many of Jeffrey's very smart readers also provided insight on this bartending conundrum. One reader mentioned "actively managing" your clientele. Heath says: "When I probably have had too much, bartenders often take far longer to come back to ask for my next drink than they usually do, or they forget the drinks I’ve ordered, or introduce me to someone who’s about to go have a cigarette. I appreciate these measures that let me save face (and sometimes not even notice that it’s happening), while having the same effect of keeping me from having far too much more to drink." One clever commenter mentioned a game she created to cut off inebriated customers. Cheryl says: "I had to come up with something creative. It’s my bartender nature to always bring humor into as much of life as possible, so I went out and bought an Operation game. I used the game for guests I felt should be cut-off. I’d pull it out with a big smile and tell the drunken soul that I would strike a deal with them. The rules were simple. Get all the bones out without the red buzzer nose going off and I’d serve them another drink. The game on the bartop was a magnet of fun and as you might have guessed, a big hit. The people that loved it the best were the local cops. They called it my sobriety test." By keeping your cool and being discrete about cutting someone off, you encourage your customers to continue returning to your establishment. Not only that - you diffuse potentially unsafe situations. AACEA's certified bartenders gain valuable experience like cutting off inebriated customers at our mandatory alcohol server training classes. We provide online alcohol server training, while promoting responsible service and sales of alcohol. To get your servers permit, visit www.aacea.com.

Bartending Icons: Reggie St. Paul

As time passes, drinks change, styles change, tastes change, but one thing that never changes is the service that bartenders give their customers. Licensed bartenders through the ages - such as Reggie St. Paul - have always had to focus on responsible alcohol service. A bartender for more than 40 years, Reggie St. Paul of Cambridge, MA has poured drinks for celebrities like Miles Davis and St. Louis Cardinals Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson.

St. Paul has watched people change, times change, and consumer tastes change over his bartending career. A former school teacher, who's served tens of thousands of customers, St. Paul says he still enjoys coming to work at The Blue Room’s ash bar in Kendall Square.

“I know every day is going to be different,’’ says St. Paul, “And I like it because I work with people who are young.’’

An article on Boston.com notes:

Through the decades, he has watched drinkers rediscover cocktails and seen smoke-filled rooms consigned to the ashtray of history.

... He remembers when drinking was serious stuff, when tastes were dramatically different, and a bar could go through eight to 10 bottles of whiskey and bourbon a night, compared with only one bottle of gin and one bottle of vodka.

Drinking habits have changed dramatically since then, often circling back to decades-old tendencies. Cocktails are popular once more, wine is nearly a given, and bartenders must learn or reacquaint themselves with the mechanics of an intricately mixed drink.

“We’re doing cocktails of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s,’’ St. Paul says. “It’s become exciting.’’ One big difference, he says, is that “to some people now, the glass is more important than what’s in it.’’

But some things never change for bartenders, including their interaction with customers, the social psychology they develop, and their ability to defuse potential confrontations. And then there are the physical demands.

At America's Alcohol Certified Education Association, we tip our hats to certified bartenders like Reggie St. Paul, who continue to provide responsible alcohol sales and excellent customer service.

AACEA provides alcohol server training that promotes responsible alcohol sales and service. For more information on Washington alcohol certification and bartender licensing, or to take your class from the comfort of your home visit www.aacea.com.

Be the Best Server You Can Be and Provide Responsible Alcohol Service

Responsible service of alcohol is just one aspect of the job in the hospitality industry. What does it take to be a really good server? In order to be a successful server, you have to have a good memory and be able to think fast. Having a positive attitude is key in dealing with the ups and downs of the restaurant business. Dealing with the kitchen and sometimes impatient guests, requires you to be engaging, accommodating and professional. But first things first, learn the menu and learn it fast! When guests ask questions you want to have a knowledgeable answer ready. By knowing your menu you will quickly be able to identify opportunities to up sell and therefore increase your check average.
  • Learn your guests’ names and use them
  • Anticipate their needs and be there when you are needed
  • Remove plates, glasses and other used items promptly
  • Learn your wines and know what to offer with each menu item
Most importantly, know the signs of intoxication and how to deal with kindly and properly cutting a guest off. Get your manager involved and stay cool. AACEA provides alcohol server training that promotes responsible alcohol sales and service. Get your Washington alcohol permit online. For more information on Washington alcohol certification and to take your class from the comfort of your home visit www.aacea.com.

Extra Dry or Brut? A Primer on Champagne, Part I

"Come quickly, I am tasting stars..." Dom Perignon, after his first taste of Champagne,
Do you know the difference between an extra dry and a brut champagne? Can you tell a Cava from a Prosecco? Do you know what bubbles from Napa are called, or what makes it bubbly in the first place? If the answer to any of these questions is NO, you're not alone. The confusion may stem from the bubbly elixr's ubiquitos misrepresentation (not all sparkling wines are champagnes), and the confusion between the name, and the taste. Champagne Campaign! Champagne is a sparkling wine that comes ONLY from the region of Champagne, France. Champagne, France courtesy of Drinknectar.comAny other bubbles calling themselves champagne that do not hail from the region north of Paris are not. They're generally considered "sparkling wines". As Drinknectar.com notes, "While it might sound like French snobbery to some, they developed the process, so I think they deserve to lay claim to the name." We agree. For sparkling wines that come from outside the Champagne region, the French have reserved the terms "Mousseux", "Crémant" and sometimes "Blanquette". Blanquette is generally a white from Limoux and the sparkling Blanquette actually pre-dates champagne. When buying, look for the words "méthode champenoise", which means the wine has a second-fermentation in the bottle. This extra fermentation is where the bubbles come in. This is in opposition to the charmat method (and most any other kind of fermentation), which actually requires a large tank. Here, the carbon dioxide is injected while the wine is in stainless steel tanks (rather than fermented in its' own bottle), and is bottled under pressure in a continuous process. Dry or Brut? These terms often confuse bubble-buyers. Many would think of a dry wine as being just that - not sweet. However, when it comes to champagne and other sparkling whites, this option is often the sweetest. When looking for a drier bottle, keep this in mind:
  • Extra Brut (The driest - Pucker up! Many enjoy this extra dry sparkling wine)
  • Brut (Highly recommended)
  • Extra Dry (Which is not as dry as Brut)
  • Dry/Sec (Much sweeter than Brut)
  • Demi-Sec (A great dessert wine)
  • Doux (Maximum sugar)
Most champagne is made as a "cuvée" - a blend of 3 types of grapes, typically 2 white and one red. A Blanc de Blancs will be made entirely of white grapes, and is generally more delicate, while a Blanc de Noirs is a white wine made of red/black grapes. The Blanc de Noirs is generally more robust, with a golden color. You may also see bottles of Rosé Cuvée which means just a touch of red wine is added to give it the pink color. Rosé Cuvée is not to be confused with rosé wines. Serving Recommendations Champagne is best served cold - between 43 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit. To get your champagne to this temperature, leave it in the fridge for a few days before opening. Never put champagne in the freezer, since contents are under pressure and bottles have a tendency to explode in freezers. We've also read that the quick chill can ruin the aromatics. If you need to chill champagne quickly, put it in an ice bucket filled with half ice and half water for about a half hour. When pouring, always pour the glass 3/4 full, in tall champagne flutes. America's Alcohol Certified Education Association provides online alcohol server training - to get your alcohol server's permit or to take alcohol server training classes in Washington and Oregon from the comfort of your own home, visit www.aacea.com.

From Cava to Prosecco; A Primer on Champagne, Part 2

You may have read our first champagne primer and wondered, "Well what about all the OTHER types of sparkling wine." You've asked a great question. There are many types of sparkling wines hailing from around the globe that are often more affordable than champagnes, and just as delicious. wikipedia.org Like champagne, these sparkling wines carry a carbon dioxide content that make them fizzy. Like champagne, carbon dioxide can be added through a methode champenoise- a second in-bottle fermentation that gives the drink its bubbles. It can also be added during a second fermentation in large tanks that will withstand pressures (Charmat method) or by carbon dioxide injection. Some of the most popular alternatives to champagne are Cava, Prosecco, Asti, Spumante, or just plain, "sparkling wine". A white Italian sparkler, Asti is often made from the Moscato grape, and is a low-alcohol, sweeter, dessert-style sparkling wine. Asti often has a peach-flavor, a floral aroma, and just enough acidity to balance out the sweetness of the wine. It's great as an apertif, but can also be paired with hors d'oeuvres or salads. Lambrusco is another type of sparkling Italian wine, produced from a red wine grape. Traditional Lambrusco is almost entirely a dry (secco) red wine, however there are varieties of amabile (slightly sweet) and dolce (sweet) that are imported to the US. It's mostly made through the Charmat method. Prosecco is another Italian sparkling wine, generally produced as a Dry or Extra Dry sparkling white. It has recently become one of the most popular substitutions for champagne in the US, and is one of the main ingredients in Bellinis. Prosecco is also an ingredient of the Italian mixed drink Sgroppino, in which it is mixed with vodka and lemon sorbet. This Italian sparkling wine is made using the Charmat method of secondary fermentation (which takes place in stainless steel tanks) making the wine less expensive to produce. Prosecco should be consumed "as young as possible" - within three years of it's vintage. It's said to be aromatic and crisp (yellow apple, pear, white peach and apricot). Yet it still has a rich taste and complex secondary aromas. Prosecco is fresh, light and comparatively simple, making it an anytime wine in Italy. Spumante is often just a general term for Italian sparkling wines, though in the US many popular varieties of Spumante are the sweeter Asti Spumante (aka Moscato Spumante). Cava is the name for a Spanish sparkling wine, mainly produced around Catalonia. Cava generally uses the methode champenoise as a means of secondary fermentation (adding the bubbles), and is produced in several levels of dryness: brut nature, brut (extra dry), sec (dry), semisec (semi-dry), and dulce (sweet). It may either be white or rosé depending on the grapes used. Born in the USA! The US produces its fair share of sparkling wines as well - often using the methode champenoise, or the Charmat method. Many higher-end sparkling wines from the US are made using the former, while the lower-cost bottles use the Charmat method. Most now use the traditional champagne grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, plus Pinot Blanc. Most US sparkling wine producers tend to follow European standards with Brut wine having less than 1.5% sugar up to Doux having more than 5%. Still, there are distinct differences in their techniques, and the production of grapes that can have an effect on the taste of the sparkling wine produced. For example, cuvées produced in the US use fewer vintages (years) of grapes than their european counterparts. The sparklers in the US may age from 8 months to six years, with no minimum aging time - in contrast to standards in Europe. Not only that, the climate in grape-producing regions (especially California) will produce a vintage every year, while European producers may have to wait longer to produce a vintage (a year) of their bubbles. Currently the US has banned the use of the term "Champagne" on any wines not produced in Champagne, except if the label was in use before 2006. Those labels that are 'grandfathered-in' are required to also state their region of production on their label next to the term "Champagne". In addition to Domaine Chandon, there are a few French champagne producers who have set up shop in the US, including Domaine Chandon and Tattinger in Napa Valley, and Roederer in Mendocino. America’s Alcohol Certified Education Association provides online alcohol server training – to get your alcohol server’s permit or to take alcohol server training classes in Washington and Oregon from the comfort of your own home, visit www.aacea.com.

Glass Shapes Confuse Even Experienced Bartenders

According to a recently published study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), many people misjudge volume based on the shape of the container into which it is poured. This phenomenon, often referred to as "portion distortion," specifically relates to the unintentional pouring of more alcohol into a short, wide glass than into a tall, thin glass. In some instances a cocktail in a short, wide glass contained as much as a quarter more alcohol than the pourer intended. The BMJ study investigated whether training and experience could correct this tendency by comparing the pouring habits of a group of students and a group of experienced bartenders. All participants were asked to pour 11/2-ounce shots from a bottle into one of two types of glasses: short and wide and tall and slender. The students poured 30 percent more into the short glasses than the tall glasses. The experienced bartenders also overpoured, placing 20 percent more alcohol into the short glasses than the tall glasses. AACEAprovides alcohol server training which promotes responsible service and sales of alcohol. To get your alcohol servers permit in Washington visit www.aacea.com

Holiday Cocktails!

With the holiday season in full swing, we're sure our readers - bartenders and would-be bartenders alike - could use a little cocktail inspiration for their holiday themed parties. At AACEA, we love a good holiday party just as much as the next - but we want to emphasize how important it is to drink responsibly. If you're drinking at holiday parties, be sure to arrange a designated driver, and have a safe holiday season. Though wine at a party is always a safe bet, we thought we'd give you a list of a few great cocktails you can make that will delight your guests... Classic Christmas Cocktails:These mixes are the perfect, traditional, winter drinks. 1. For a traditional approach, add 1 oz brandy, bourbon, rum, or whiskey to a highball glass of ice and Eggnog. If you're looking for that little extra something, try a float of Kahlua or amaretto. 2. Try your hand at Rum Cider! This drink, best served warm and easy to make for parties, combines approximately 6-8oz Spiced Apple Cider with about 1 oz spiced rum. You can use store-bought apple cider, or if you like your cider a bit tangier, we recommend organic apple juice. Add proportions of cider and rum in a pot on the stove, on low. Add a half teaspoon of nutmeg and allspice, add a cinnamon stick and 2-4 cloves. Remember, in large batches, your apple cider will reduce a bit, but your rum will also cook off a bit. Be careful how much you add because this drink packs a punch! 3. Hot Buttered Rum is always a treat - combine 2 oz of rum and a small pat of butter in a mug. Add boiling water to top it off. Garnish with lemon peel and cinnamon for stirring. 4. Everyone loves a Poinsettia - and it's hard to find someone who won't like this drink! Combine 1/2 oz of Cointreau with 3 oz Cranberry juice. Top with champagne in a flute. For extra effect, garnish with a few frozen cranberries or raspberries for a delicious treat. 5. Mulled Wine is a traditional winter drink, usually made in large batches. Combine 1 bottle red wine, 1 cup of cognac, 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, 3 whole cloves, 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg, 1 vanilla bean, 1 star anise, 1 sliced orange and 1 sliced lemon. Simmer for 25 minutes while stirring, then strain and serve warm. This drink also ages well - let it sit out overnight (or in the 'fridge) the day before your party for better flavor. 6. Here we come a-wassailing... with a warm mug of this traditional English Christmas punch. For this one, you'll need a little bit of time.
  • 1 Gallon apple cider
  • 2 C. cranberry juice
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 oranges
  • Whole cloves
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • Allspice
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (or 3 Tbs. ground cinnamon)
  • 1/2 C - 1 C brandy (optional)
Put all ingredients (besides the brandy) in your crock pot on high until the mix starts to bubble. Then turn to low and simmer for 2-4 hours. 1/2 hour before serving, add the brandy. It makes your house smell delicious, and it tastes fantastic too. What's your favorite Holiday Cocktail? Leave a comment below! America's Alcohol Certified Education Association provides online alcohol server and online mandatory server training. To get your bartending certification from the comfort of your own home, visit www.aacea.com.

Tips to Look Like a Bartending Pro!

Straight from getting your MAST certification, you might still feel a little wet behind the ears in the world of bartending. Here's a few tips on how you can look like a pro from the start: Keep a smile on your face No matter how busy it gets, or how many customers are trying to get your attention, you can only serve one person at a time. Keep smiling, and try to crack a few jokes. Remember that people are there to have a good time, so they'll be appreciative of you keeping things light. Learn how to rim a drink properly You want the salt or sugar to be on the outside of the rim; nobody wants it falling into the drink. For a bit of dash, take a slice of lemon or lime and slick it around the edge, then tilt the glass and rotate it around in the sugar or salt. Let other bartenders know where you are Always, always let other bartenders know when you are behind them, especially if they're known for trying fancy tricks with bottles. See how everyone else is doing it, but just saying 'behind you' or tapping them on the shoulder ought to do it. Equally, try to be aware of who is coming and going behind you, too. Don't cry over spilt milk! You will spill something, and probably break something too. This happens, so just apologise, tidy up and carry on. It's not the end of your career. You might be the butt of a few jokes for the rest of the night, but don't take it personally. Head to AACEA.com to get your bartending certification and enter into the fast-paced world of bartending.

When Enough is Enough

We've lost so many lives recently to addictions - especially alcohol addictions. With headlines decrying car crashes and binge drinking, and newspapers talking about the dangers of mixing drinks with medication, some may start to ask how to prevent these type of events. And accusations start flying at the bartenders that continue to serve and over-serve these clientele, who quickly become a danger to themselves and others. At AACEA we educate alcohol servers on how to serve alcohol responsibly and how to become a better bartender. We feel it's important to look at these cases of driving under the influence, and assess where we can do better. Our students at AACEA are the first line of defense against drunk driving. As an article on the Ryan Dunn incident suggests,
Bartenders across the country face the same challenges all the time. Whenever a person is in a car accident, especially a fatal one, it is natural for family and friends to want to point fingers, and police typically investigate the bartender to see if anyone was selling to an openly drunk customer. “We often get the question of what should bartenders do,” Sgt. Wayne Bush of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement says. “First, don’t serve a person to that point — shut them off. If they slur their words, stand and are wobbly, hold on to the bar, are nodding off or have trouble getting money out of their wallet, they’ve had enough. Don’t wait for them to puke on the floor or to pick a fight. That’s too late.” In the case of more experienced drinkers however, it isn’t that easy. “The bartender and wait staff have the obligation not to serve someone who is visibly intoxicated,” Bush said. “What they have to realize is that someone can be drinking and not appear to be intoxicated because the last drinks haven’t hit his system. It all depends on the person; someone who is a regular drinker will be able to drink more.” To make things more difficult, some people won’t take no for an answer. Someone who is cut off from a bartender can easily go to a table of strangers and beg a drink from them.
When dealing with experienced drinkers, it can be difficult to tell when to stop serving. You might be tipped off by either excessively loud or excessively withdrawn behavior. Your customer may not be able to completely focus on the task at hand, or may lose a little hand-eye coordination. You may be able to tell by rambling conversation or offensive language. Part of being a good bartender is knowing your clientele and being able to quickly spot those who may be under the influence. AACEAprovides alcohol server training which promotes responsible service and sales of alcohol. AACEAis hosting a raffle for students enrolled in our alcohol server training classes – sign up today and you’re eligible to win $100 from AACEA and Len Riggs. To get your alcohol servers permit in Washington visit www.aacea.com.

Woodinville Driver Breaks State Blood Alcohol Content Record

A former Seattle police officer, Deana F. Jarrett, of Woodinville, was charged last month with driving under the influence with the highest blood-alcohol reading ever recorded by a Washington state driver. Jarrett's blood alcohol level was 0.47 percent, which is almost 6 times higher than the legal .08 percent blood alcohol level limit. A blood-alcohol level above 0.40 percent is potentially lethal - "Most people black out at between 0.35 and higher," said Detective Tim Gately of the Redmond Police Department. Jarrett is approximately 5 feet 5 inches and 130 to 140 pounds — it would take about a fifth of liquor, 25.6 ounces, in a short period of time, to reach that blood-alcohol level. Five empty four-ounce plastic bottles of vodka and two empty 12-ounce cans of beer were found on the front passenger seat, according to a trooper's report. Washington State Patrol maintains records on all individuals who submit to a breath test in Washington. According to state records, thirty-five of the approximately 356,000 breath tests given since 1998 have registered above 0.40 percent. An average of 42,000 to 45,000 breathalyzer tests are given each year by all law-enforcement agencies in the state. Until now, no one had registered over 0.45 percent on a breath test in Washington. In our Alcohol Server Training we teach our students how to look for signs of intoxication – one of the basics of responsible alcohol service and sales. AACEA promotes responsible alcohol service and sales and offers online alcohol server training in Washington. For more information about your alcohol permit visit www.aaccea.com. If you're working in the Hospitality industry and are currently enrolled or enrolling in college, tell us what it means to you to be the first line of defense in drunk driving and you may win a scholarship for $500 through the Len Riggs and AACEA Scholarship to Save Lives Contest. Entries will be accepted until July 1st.

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