The 7 Best Mixology and Bartending Courses 2021

The 7 Best Mixology and Bartending Courses 2021

Manhattan. Old Fashioned. Martini. Daiquiri. How many mixed drinks can you name? What’s your favorite? What’s your opinion on the best gin to use for a G&T? What do you serve when you entertain your friends? What would your signature drink be as a bartender?

If you have ever desired to know more about cocktails, spirits, and liquors, these courses are for you. Mixology is the skill and finesse behind making mixed drinks. It’s an essential part of bartending and a great way to have fun while impressing guests.

We’ll talk about why you’d take a course, shake and serve some great options, and roll the rim in a final sprinkling of extra info.

Orientation

Mixology is dependent on taste, and that makes mixology classes more like art classes than science classes. It’s a subjective thing. That’s good news because it makes finding a course easier. You don’t have to worry about finding a teacher with an advanced degree in microbiology; you just need one that can make a damn good margarita.

It makes reviewing classes a bit harder, though, so we focused on two main areas to help you figure out which class is best for your situation.

Scope

Chances are you are trying to learn these new skills because you want to be a world-class bartender or at least want your friends to think you are on Friday nights. That means the course has to be more than a list of recipes; it has to teach you how to present and converse about the cocktails.

Some of the courses go way beyond mixing drinks and delve deep into the service industry as a whole, while others are focused on ingredients, processes, and how to serve the perfect drink. You’ll have to decide how deep into the bartending world you want to travel.

Certificates

If you are already a bartender or plan on becoming one, there are a couple classes that offer a certificate on completion. Most classes that offer certificates are geared more towards the working professional. These classes will focus more on serving and bar practices, and may be less about recipes or entertaining friends.

Approachability

Approachability is more than a required skill level. Some classes claim to be for beginners. If you’re not sure what the difference between an old fashioned and a Manhattan is, then an entire wall of text explaining the finer differences in the taste of specific bitters is probably really intimidating. It doesn’t matter if it is technically a beginner subject.

We tried to look at it from the perspective of three different groups: absolute beginners, cocktail beginners, and hardcore hobbyists/professionals.

  • Absolute beginners are the ones that might know they like ordering a gin and tonic at a bar but are a little unsure what’s actually in one.
  • Cocktail beginners probably know most of the classic cocktails and their ingredients but have never tried making them and will probably need to go buy a muddler.
  • Seasoned drinkers who have years of bartending experience are probably in it to fine-tune their own recipes.

Time and Price

Inside the bubble of approachability are the time and price of the course. In general, mixology courses tend to be short and inexpensive, or even free. You can get a very good course for $30. The longest course on our list has about 6 hours of content total, although most are much shorter.

Cheat Sheet

Use the following list to just jump right to the review of the course you think might fit you best. Our goal was to cover all the bases, so chances are you’ll fit into one or two of the following categories and it will help narrow down your choices.

  1. If you are just a drink enthusiast who wants to know how to make drinks, entertain people, and be entertained while taking the course, the Udemy Mix World-Class Cocktails class is chilled and mixed for you.
  2. If you want to be a bartender, are a bartender who wants to make more money, or are considering owning a bar, then the BarSmarts programs are top-shelf.
  3. If you have heard about mixed drinks all your life but aren’t really sure what they are or how they are made, SkillShare serves up a variety of great introductory courses.
  4. If you love cooking shows, love cocktails, and love the idea of making drinks along with some very entertaining hosts, open a bottle of MasterClass.
  5. If you are already familiar with most drinks and want to really dive deep into the lore or make your own signature cocktails, A Bar Above served neat is perfect.
  6. If you are on a tight budget and want to learn everything there is to know about bars and bartending, then a premixed jug of Diageo Bar Academy would fit your tastes.
  7. If you are a beginner who wants their learning experience to include drinks for designated drivers or other non-alcoholic types, then brew up Udemy’s Ultimate Home Bartending course.

Top 7 Best Mixology and Bartending Courses 2021


1. Best Course for General Mixology: Udemy’s Mix World-Class Cocktails

  • 3h $30 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Fast-paced with clear lesson plans
  • Specialty: General Mixology
  • Best For: Everyone

Why we like it

This Udemy course has a very likable instructor, a very fast-paced but easy to follow lesson plan, and a very reasonable price. That makes it perfect for anyone looking to up their mixed drink game ranging from home enthusiasts to professional bartenders.

Our Review

Anyone interested in mixing drinks will enjoy this class. It’s inexpensive, the professor is very charismatic, and the number of recipes he walks you through is gigantic. He talks about the history of the drinks but doesn’t dwell or drone.

It’s also one of the very few courses that will go into some of the fun presentation techniques, like fanning an apple or garnishing a martini. In short, it’s a perfectly distilled course that covers everything you could want to know about mixing drinks.

The only complaints we have are minor. The camera work is sometimes awful. It doesn’t hurt the content, but there are a few lessons where the instructor is horribly backlit and washed out. Also, sometimes he gets a little sidetracked and will start talking about variations on a drink in the middle of making it. Again, it doesn’t hurt the content at all, but it does break the pacing a few times.

Best Suited For

Every other course on our list is specialized. Some courses are meant for beginners, some are meant for seasoned pros, and some are meant for people that want to know the business side of things. Udemy’s course here isn’t specialized. It’s just a brilliant walk through the recipes and concepts that make mixology fun, and anyone interested in mixed drinks will have a good time.

Pros

  • Teacher is very engaging
  • Great recipes
  • Very approachable by anyone

Cons

  • Videography could be better
  • Sometimes the pacing is erratic


2. Best Course for Aspiring Bartenders: BarSmarts

  • 6-8 Hours $29 Per Course Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Offers certification upon completion
  • Specialty: Mixing and Service
  • Best For: Professionals

Why we like it

BarSmarts has two programs. The introductory BarSmarts course and the in-depth BarSmarts course. You can learn everything you need to know about the history, operation, and management of a bar between the two of them.

Our Review

Out of all the courses on our list, BarSmarts feels the most like going to a prestigious series of college lectures. They dive deep into not just how to mix a drink but also the cultural significance and history of that drink.

Then, once you know the drink, they follow-up with the best serving practices and bar operation tips. You even get to take a test at the end and receive a diploma in the form of a certificate you can print out and hang up.

It’s important to note that BarSmarts has two separate courses, both cost about $30. The first course, BarSmarts, is aimed at beginners. It deals more with the fundamentals and will teach you about what different spirits and liqueurs are and how to maintain a bar.

The second course is more advanced. It goes into things like how to taste different spirits and comprehensive cocktail histories. It’s very in-depth and can be a very fun course for anyone interested in the background and history of mixed drinks.

We just have one complaint. This course is dense and hard to get through sometimes. There’s just a lot of reading and test-taking, and that can sometimes make it hard to stay motivated.

Best Suited For

The BarSmarts courses are best suited for people who already have a decent understanding of mixology and want to expand into bartending or who really want to know as much as possible about the subject. People who just want to know about the drinks and still want a certificate would be better served by the A Bar Above course.

On the flip side, people with shorter attention spans or who prefer video may like the Udemy Mix World-Class Cocktails course instead.

Pros

  • Very in-depth
  • Awards a certificate upon completion
  • Teaches about service in addition to mixing

Cons

  • Very information dense
  • Can be unfriendly for beginners


3. Best Course for Complete Beginners: Skillshare’s Intro to Mixology

  • 30 min $99 per year Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Provides a quick primer on mixing drinks
  • Specialty: An Introduction to Mixology
  • Best For: Absolute Beginners

Why we like it

Skillshare’s Intro to Mixology course is perfect for anyone who would just like a quick primer on mixing drinks. What can make it a very appealing course is once you have Skillshare, other related courses are included in the subscription.

Our Review

SkillShare classes are always easy to recommend because buying a subscription to SkillShare gives you access to all of their content. The linked course is for a really fantastic introductory course. It’s a little slow, but the instructor actually takes time to explain the different bar tools and why you might be ok with a cheaper version.

If you get the subscription to SkillShare and find out that the slow beginner course isn’t your cup of tea, you can simply click over to the more advanced Cocktail Secrets course. If you don’t want to be treated like a beginner, aren’t really into learning flavor profiles, and just want to make something with coffee, you can do that too.

The downside is that this leads to a “jack of all trades master of none” scenario. Even the in-depth courses are less than an hour long and aimed at beginners, so there’s not much opportunity to really get into the details.

Also, some courses can be lower quality than others. It can be frustrating to find a topic you really want to learn about and have to stop watching because the production quality is so low.

Best Suited For

What makes SkillShare awesome is that you can use it to find out what you want to know. If you are a beginner who has very little experience drinking or mixing drinks, it can be difficult to know what you even want out of a course. With SkillShare, you get access to a lot of courses that you can browse through.

People who are already bartending or familiar with most practices already, though, will prefer a faster-paced course like the one from MasterClass or a more complete course like the Udemy Mix World-Class Cocktails series.

Pros

  • Large variety of parallel content
  • Very beginner-friendly
  • Good for more than just learning to mix drinks

Cons

  • Many courses lack in-depth content
  • Some videos are poorly made


4. Best Course for Entertainers: Mixology MasterClass

  • 4.5 Hours $15 per Month Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Explores entertainment as well as the art of mixing
  • Specialty: Drink Pairings
  • Best For: Cocktail Beginners

Why we like it

MasterClass courses often blur the line between learning material and entertainment, which is perfect for a course about entertaining people. This class will not only teach you how to make drinks, but how to flourish and pair those drinks.

Our Review

It’s hard not to love MasterClass. Their production quality is so high that the videos are a pleasure to watch even if you don’t care at all about the subject.

This Mixology course is no exception, and they have two (sometimes three) world-class bartenders and entertainers at the helm. Lynnette Marrero and Ryan Chetiyawardana are prolific mixologists, and they really make you feel like you are sitting in their speakeasy being shown some mixing secrets.

The course itself is very trim. They teach you how to mix some of the most iconic drinks, why they are iconic, and some common variations. There’s very little fluff, and almost no time is taken explaining what you need or what tools you’ll have to buy. That can be good if you are already into mixing your own drinks, but beginners might find it a little hard to follow.

The biggest drawback to the MasterClass courses is that they are just a series of videos. There’s no further interaction or extra lessons, and the only material you get is the material outlined in the scope of the course’s description. They have a higher price than other dedicated courses, so the value doesn’t seem as high by comparison.

Best Suited For

The casual alchemist, the weekend home bartender, and the person who just loves watching charismatic people explain things they are interested in are the perfect audience for this MasterClass. If you love watching The Great British Bakeoff, even though you’ll probably never make a mirror glaze, you’ll probably enjoy this course.

If you don’t really need the high production value or are more of a neophyte when it comes to drinking, you’d probably enjoy the slower-paced SkillShare classes or the still entertaining but less expensive Udemy Mix World-Class Cocktails course.

Pros

  • High production value
  • Very entertaining
  • Presenters have great qualifications

Cons

  • On the expensive side for a single course
  • Isn’t the friendliest for beginners


5. Best for Mixology Careers: A Bar Above

  • 3-5 Modules, suggested 3-6 weeks to finish the program $147 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Offers certification upon completion
  • Specialty: Career-focused Mixology
  • Best For: Professionals

Why we like it

A Bar Above teaches you everything you need to know about mixing drinks and nothing you don’t. You’ll be certified at the end, and you’ll have access to their great learning tools for the rest of your life.

Our Review

To say the program offered by A Bar Above is comprehensive feels like an understatement. If you already know how to make an old fashion, but want to explore what specific flavor profiles using a sugar cube vs. simple syrup can add, then this is the course for you. You just have to be prepared to then take a quiz on those tasting notes, discuss it with others, and refer back to it years later.

This course is also one of the few that will give you a certificate in mixology after completion. That certificate can give you an edge over other candidates when applying for a bartending job or promotion, which is a nice bonus.

It is a bit expensive at nearly $150. That could buy you a year and a half of SkillShare or every class that BarSmarts offers. However, you do get access to the materials for the rest of your life. If you reference videos or engage with the community every year, by year 5, it’s one of the cheapest resources ($30 per year compared to SkillShare’s $99).

Best Suited For

This course is best suited for the hardcore mixed drink enthusiast or professional. They won’t teach you how to source a good mezcal or what mezcal is. You need to know that going in.

If you don’t, take a look at SkillShare instead. The cost per course is lower, and you can play around a bit and find out what you really want to focus on.

Pros

  • Very comprehensive
  • Includes a lifetime membership
  • Gives a certificate upon completion

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not beginner-friendly


6. Best Course on a Budget: Diageo Bar Academy

  • Individual Videos Range From 15-75 Minutes Free Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Explores all aspects of mixology
  • Specialty: Simple Cocktail Service
  • Best For: Cocktail Beginners, Professionals

Why we like it

Inside the Diageo Bar Academy, you can find courses, forums, and articles delving into every aspect of bartending, drink making, and the service industry as a whole. It’s a bit of a tidal wave of information, but it is high quality and free.

Our Review

Usually, when you see the word “free”, it is attached to a course that sacrifices quality and value in order to upsell you to a different course. That’s not the case here, and it’s as refreshing as their beautiful photos of beer suggest. Items like “The Perfect Serve With Simple Cocktails” are particularly great. They are flash-game like mini-lessons that teach you about mixing drinks.

However, that style of learning isn’t for everyone. It can be downright difficult to find a specific lesson, and most of the content is geared towards serving in a professional setting and not about making drinks.

It also takes a lot more time to complete the “lessons,” if you can even call them that. The quizzes and detailed breakdowns are great, but what would be a 2-minute video in any other class becomes a 20-minute interactive adventure.

Best Suited For

This website is best suited for anyone that wants to take a deep dive into the actual business of bartending and mixing drinks and who loves interactive lessons. It’s also perfect for anyone on a serious budget. The lessons are free, and as long as you are willing to put in the extra work to navigate the website, you can get a very comprehensive education.

That being said, if you like videos and mixing drinks but don’t really care about how much money you’d save doing 50ml pours instead of 52ml pours, just take the Udemy Mix World-Class Cocktails course instead.

Pros

  • Very comprehensive
  • Includes a variety of different course tools and teaching styles
  • Free

Cons

  • Website can be hard to navigate
  • More focused on the business side than the actual mixing of drinks


7. Best Course for Drink Variety, Including Non-Alcoholic: Udemy Ultimate Home Bartending

  • 5.5 Hours $19.99 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Teaches mixing for the widest variety of drinks
  • Specialty: Home Bartending
  • Best For: Absolute Beginners

Why we like it

If you have a group of friends over or are running a small bar, chances are good that there will be one or two patrons who don’t imbibe spirits. It’s good to know how to make other things well, like coffee drinks or sodas, and this class will teach you those things in addition to the classic cocktails.

Our Review

This Udemy course offers a unique section among mixology courses: a non-alcoholic section. If you were ever curious about making really great coffee just to drink, they have a module for that. They also have a module on sodas and teas, so you will be able to make something for you and the non-drinkers in your life.

The problem is that the class itself is a bit dry and not in a martini kind of way. The teacher can’t seem to decide if the course is for beginners or people who want to go deep into the spirit lore. What that leads to is some ingredients getting grossly oversimplified while some simple ingredients receive an entire 5-minute dissertation.

That alone wouldn’t be too bad since the occasional deep dive into a drink makes for great small talk. What makes it difficult is that there are often large dead spots in the lessons where you just get to watch some b-roll. There’s no music, narration, or interesting camera work - just a hand pouring a shot into a shaker.

Best Suited For

To really benefit from this class, you need to fit into one of two categories, preferably both.

First, you’ll need to want to learn how to make coffee from a French press (or tea or other non-alcoholic drinks). If you don’t really care about that, take Udemy’s Mix World-Class Cocktails class that we recommended above. It’s faster-paced, livelier, and only costs a bit more.

The second category of people you should belong in to really take advantage of this class is the category of casual bartenders. The type of people that might fashion a drink for themselves and their partner on a Saturday, assuming they didn’t just go out instead.

If you plan on making a career out of bartending or regularly entertaining guests, you would probably get more from BarSmarts or Masterclass, respectively.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Great list of recipes
  • Includes non-alcoholic drinks

Cons

  • Some segments are boring
  • The camera work could be better


FAQ

bartender pouring alcohol into martini glass

Yes, you can. There are no requirements for an entry-level service position, and the licenses required to serve alcohol only require a small fee and a short test. However, many restaurants will require you to have some service experience before they consider you for a position as a bartender.

It depends entirely on what you want out of the course. Do you want to learn about making mixed drinks or have an edge over your competition when applying for a bartending job? Then yes, they are worth it. If your only goal is to make more money, though, then your efforts are probably better spent elsewhere.

There is no minimum time requirement to be a licensed bartender. You may have to pass the test required by your local government. A certificate is something awarded by a bartending or mixology course and usually requires 40hrs of coursework. Certificates are not a requirement for serving alcohol, though.

The short answer is that the two terms are used interchangeably in modern language. However, technically, a bartender serves drinks and creates an atmosphere. In contrast, a mixologist is specifically someone that specializes in making cocktails. A great bartender is both.

It depends on where you are working, but the average salary is between 17,000 and 35,000 per year. The median salary is 22,000, with experience in the industry being the largest contributor to a higher salary.



Extra Credit

This section will look at how you can get the most out of the courses listed above. There isn’t any difficult homework, but there are a handful of things to keep in mind.

What You Need

To make every single drink in each course, you probably need thousands of dollars in alcohol. The better thing to do is focus on a couple of drinks to make and add in bottles over time to expand your bar.

However, there are some tools that most courses suggest having at your disposal.

  • A small chef’s knife
  • A cutting board
  • A variety of glasses
  • A citrus press
  • Mixing spoons
  • Strainer
  • Shaker
  • Muddler
  • Measuring Cup

You can often find most of these items sold as bar tool sets, like this set on Amazon that comes in a variety of nice finishes.

A Note About Ingredients

There are three or four non-alcoholic ingredients you should have in your bar kit. Most of the time, your collection of spirits will grow and deplete over time; the average person does not have a stocked bar at home.

However, having bitters, simple syrup, vermouth, and tonic on hand will allow you to make a drink with just about anything. Throw in some fresh citrus, and after taking one of the courses, you’ll be able to make do with whatever else you have on hand.

Bartending vs. Mixology

We use these two terms a lot throughout this guide, and we often use them a bit interchangeably. That’s because, in practice, there is very little difference between someone who is a bartender and someone who is a mixologist. They will both be expected to make and serve a drink.

This is especially true in the home or small social group settings. If you are serving drinks to your friends, you will be host, bartender, mixologist, and head of the kitchen all at once.

However, technically, there is a difference. A mixologist is specifically someone who knows ingredients and can make mixed drinks, while a bartender serves drinks and interacts with the customer. A bartender that just pours beer and chats with the people on the stools is not a mixologist. A head chef who invents cocktails to serve with their food probably isn’t a bartender.

Generally, great bartenders are both social creatures and mixologists. That way, they can mix a fine drink, serve it, and reel people in for the big tips.

Becoming a Bartender or Professional Mixologist

You do not need to take a course to become a paid mixologist. In fact, in most areas, there are no qualifications; it’s simply a service job that you can apply for.

Usually, there is a standard process.

  1. Be old enough in your state to serve alcohol. You can check here.
  2. Get a license to serve alcohol if your city requires one. You can check here.
  3. Get an entry-level job at a bar or restaurant. A barback is usually a bartender in training; think of it as a mixology internship.
  4. Continue to grow your skills and knowledge. Consider taking an online course like the ones we list.
  5. Get promoted to bartender, or apply for open positions in other places.

Licenses and Certifications

We mentioned a license to serve alcohol above. It’s important to note that the certificates offered by bartending and mixology courses are not a license to serve alcohol.

A license to serve alcohol is usually nothing more than acknowledging that you won’t intentionally harm someone with alcoholic drinks. It requires paying a small fee and passing a test. Some states don’t require them at all.

A certificate from a bartending or mixology school is just a diploma from that school. It’s a slip of paper that says, “I took this course.” Is it an awesome thing to display above the kegerator you just had installed in your game room? We think it will. It won’t count in court, though.

Benefits of a Certificate

A certificate of completion from a prestigious course is more than just an art piece, though. In 2018, there were 644,100 bartenders in the US, and the median income is about 22k a year.

That’s a lot of competition, and there’s not much room to work for lower pay to be more desirable. Having a certificate can give you an advantage over someone that only has a small amount of experience.

Remember, Shaken, Not Stirred

Sorry about that, but if we are going to talk about mixed drinks, it’s a rule that we have to end on a cliche. The mixology world is deep, robust, and has a fascinating history. It’s a worthy pursuit. If nothing else, being able to fan an apple to accent your new blueberry-tini will make your patron smile. Even if it’s just a simple pour for yourself.