When I had decided to go to bartending school over two years ago, I thought I might be able to learn the secrets of good bartending, was I wrong. I was taught a lot of short cuts using things such as sweet and sour, speed guns and not even learning how to make a classic martini.
I remember the two weeks was very rushed with a brief descriptions of base spirits and was told a good bartender could crank out 10 drinks in five minutes. I also brought in orange bitters and some of my own bartending books I had collected such as the Craft of the Cocktail, Hollywood cocktails and Vintage cocktails and the teachers looked at the books and especially Regan's orange bitters and told me they had never seen them. One of the instructors even tried to convince me that classic martinis don't take orange bitters and he finally looked it up in a bartending book not from the school and told me "oh, I guess you're right" and this guy is supposed to be teaching me? I was also told that most high volume bars such as the corporate chains like Elephant bar, TGI Fridays or BJ's would hire a hot looking 20 something year old girl then a good looking guy so where does that leave a lot of the bartending students. Other options were to either work at a dive bar or a gay bar. That's why I started Daddy-O's martinis and have no regrets because I care what I create for clients and friends alike and want to use fresh fruits, herbs, top shelf spirits and proper balance and flavors rather than high fructose syrups and cheep liquor.
If all someone wants to do is pour vodka and Red bull, Jager bombs and serve cheep beer all night long, great there's plenty of places like that to find some work . On the other hand if one cares about bartending as a craft or an art then bartending schools are not the way to go. You're best off buying some recommended books and learn from find a bartender that is creating cocktails they way they were intended to be made. I recommend looking for prohibition style bars and talking with the bartenders or there are a lot of online forums and groups you can join to learn more about classic cocktails, punches, juleps, sours, smashes and crustas. I'll list a few resources to get started but you can always ask me and find an answer for you.
Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff
Vintage Spirits and forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh AKA Dr. Cocktail
Classic Cocktails by Salvatore Calabrese
How's your Drink? by Eric Felten
Vintage Cocktails by Susan Waggoner and Robert Markel
Imbibe by David Wondrich